National Parks to close, but BLM and National Forests open — Barker

Rocky Barker has a blog today about the upcoming status of public lands in the government shutdown.

National forests and BLM lands will remain open but national parks close. By Rocky Barker. Idaho Statesman

Update. Looks like some deal was worked out late Friday night. Government remains open

If gov’t shuts down, what happens to visitors in the national parks?

Shutdown is likely. National Parks will be closed. Other public lands?

It looks more and more like a government shutdown of uncertain duration. Dept of Interior just made it clear that national parks and monuments will be closed down and “secured.”  I have to wonder what will happen come Saturday to all those currently inside of big parks like Yellowstone?

DOI said national wildlife refuges and BLM visitor facilities will be closed. I don’t know how they can bar entry to the hundreds of millions of acres of scattered BLM lands, but a lot of NWRs could have the access gates of major roads locked shut. National forests? That is the USDA. I haven’t read a statement from them.

We were on our way to some national parks, so I guess a lot of plans are being disrupted and people angry at the buffons in Congress. While others will no doubt disagree with me, I blame the tea party Republicans foremost for this totally avoidable problem of uncertain, but probably severe magnitude.

Oil industry demand for more drilling permits to lower oil prices is phoney

The argument that more drilling, fewer regulations will bring down oil price spikes is a tired old story-

The oil industry recycles it for every international crisis, nevertheless; and the media take it seriously (sort of). Once again they are exposed, although simple logic tells us that a strategy that takes years to implement will not impact a short term price jump.

Oil and Gas Industry sitting on 7,200 drilling permits. By Environment & Energy and Environment Daily on March 29, 2011

Cows, What a many Splendored Thing

Click to view in Google Maps

Last week I went out with a co-worker to check out what was going on in the Jarbidge Field Office where Western Watersheds Project has won a court victory that ends corporate ranching on 450,000 acres of public land. When we arrived we found cattle on several of the allotments even though the injunction is in place.

The ranchers are asking the judge to stay the injunction and say that they have met all of the terms of the stipulated settlement agreement (SSA) which has expired. They argue that utilization monitoring has shown that they have not exceeded the terms and conditions of their permits or the SSA and, because of this, sage grouse habitat has improved. Even if they have met the terms and conditions of their permits and the SSA, which I won’t say one way or the other, the BLM’s Analysis of the Management Situation (AMS) notes that the Jarbidge suffered the cumulative loss of 800,000 acres of sagebrush-steppe habitat from 1982 through 2006, such that 46% of the JFO is no longer sage-steppe habitat. This doesn’t even account for the massive fires which have burned since 2007 such as the Murphy Complex of 2007 and the Long Butte Fire in 2010. Sage grouse and other sage steppe dependent species are in dire straits in the Jarbidge and as the WWP press release says:

“Recent data from the Idaho Department of Fish and Game shows that sage-grouse populations in the Jarbidge Field Office are in a free fall, with declines of over 90% since 2006 alone. For example, in the Browns Bench area of the Field Office, total male sage-grouse lek counts are down from 185 in 2006 to 29 in 2010, and some areas are in an even steeper decline.”

Jarbidge FO Pastures.  Click for larger view.

Jarbidge FO Pastures. Click for larger view.

While my biggest concerns lie with the plight of the wildlife there, I also find it startling that the Jarbidge Field Office has essentially turned into a livestock feedlot. Even recreation values have been totally eliminated here. The whole Field Office has been fenced into small pastures with what amounts to a weeping sore in each caused by cattle that congregate at water troughs surrounded by feeding tubs with some kind of molasses slurry, salt blocks, and even oat hay. On top of that is the droning of military jets overhead, some of them containing training pilots from Singapore.

I guess this is what they mean by “multiple use”.  I call it a cowpocalypse.

Federal firefighting promotes building in the wildland interface

So then, maybe it should stop?

Economist Ray Rasker spoke the obvious at University of Montana’s Conservation and Climate Change lecture series. He also talked a little politics. If there is no guarantee of the feeds throwing money to the wind to save houses along the national forest boundaries the counties might be a lot less willing to grant building permits there because the costs would fall on them.

Speaker: Rethink who pays costs of fighting fires to protect homes in woods. By Rob Chaney. Missoulian.

It would be nice to see this building reduced because of its impact on water quality, scenery, wildlife habitat. A lot of the nasty “remove or shot the deer, elk, bears, cougars, wolves” complaints come from people who live in the woods and their pooch gets got or their shrubbery eaten.

Natural gas drilling proposal in Wyoming Range gets 40,000 comments!!

Wyoming folks love the Wyoming Range and fear fracking-

An unprecedented number of comments came in on the Plains Exploration & Production Co.’s (PXP) plan for up to 136 gas wells south of Bondurant near Noble Basin. Most of the Wyoming and adjacent Salt River Range has been withdrawn from oil and gas leasing/drilling by act of Congress, but the PXP leases slipped through before the leasing was shut down by the Wyoming Range Legacy Act.

My experience in the Noble Basin and adjacent area is of some of the finest elk and moose country in Wyoming.  A domestic sheep beleagered bighorn sheep herd is nearby. The huge number of comments seem to have strengthened the views of new Wyoming governor Matt Mead on the subject of drilling, after maybe fracking the area.

Wyoming Range drilling project garners 40,000 comments. By Environment & Energy Daily in WyoFile.

New planning regs by Forest Service

Obama offers not-so-friendly to wildlife provisions?

After 40 public meetings that drew 3,000 participants and 25,000 comments, the Forest Services has issued new draft rules governing the entire national forest system. Conservation groups are focusing on what they consider to be changes to the wildlife portion that would give too much discretion to local forest supervisors about conserving and improving wildlife habitat.

National forests plan would expand local discretion over wildlife management. By Darryl Fears. Washington Post.

The fact that conservation groups are comparing the new rules unfavorably to the old rules from Ronald Reagan would seem to be telling as Reagan was no favorite of conservation groups. On the other hand as the Missoulian points out, “Forest Service looks to add recreation, wildlife, water to management principles. By Rob Chaney. Missoulian.

Maybe, the best initial comment was “The devil, or the angel, is in the details.” We will have to look more closely.

Here are the FS draft regulations. pdf