Big Polluters Freed from Environmental Oversight by Stimulus

Big Energy companies with criminal records given billions in stimulus funds to wreak havoc on our public lands and wildlife.

The Center for Public Integrity has issued a stinging report on how the Obama Administration has bypassed the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) when issuing permits for energy and other projects which involve federal lands or funds. Over and over we have seen that projects are rushed through without any public oversight and in areas where they have severe environmental impacts. Wind farms on public lands without analysis of their impacts on bats, sage grouse, pygmy rabbits, and other wildlife; solar plants on public lands without sufficient analysis on endangered desert tortoise and other imperiled wildlife; power lines and other utilities permitted outside of established corridors without analysis of impacts on wildlife; offshore oil rigs in deep water without proper understanding of how to deal with catastrophic failures. All of these uses are being given a pass under NEPA.

Salazar = Extractive Industries' 'BFF'

What is the problem with this you might ask. Well, I’m sure you remember what happened in the Gulf of Mexico this summer. The Deepwater Horizon was permitted under a categorical exclusion.

In contrast livestock grazing permits are not even renewed under categorical exclusions, they require at least an Environmental Assessment that must undergo public review and can be appealed, in fact I do it all of the time.

These projects also only benefit those with existing power and money while projects, such as rooftop solar and energy efficiency improvements on existing structures which would benefit real people and not come at the expense of irreplaceable wildlife and land resources, are being forgone. It’s all about keeping the wealthy in control of our resources at the public expense.

What is next? Well in Nevada, the scourge of ranchers and water mining entities like the Southern Nevada Water Authority, ancient forests made up of old growth pinyon pine and junipers are being eyed by the energy companies as a source of biomass to fuel turbines. More on that later.

Big Polluters Freed from Environmental Oversight by Stimulus
The Center for Public Integrity

Ivanpah Power Plant – Not Clean Not Green

Michael J. Connor, Ph.D.
California Director
Western Watersheds Project

Ancient Mojave yuccas on the Ivanpah power plant site. (2009) © Michael J. Connor, Ph.D.

Ancient Mojave yuccas on the Ivanpah power plant site. (2009) © Michael J. Connor, Ph.D.

Secretary of the Interior Salazar is about to initial a series of major giveaways of public lands in California to industrial-scale solar power producers. These “fast-tracked” power plant projects have had truncated environmental reviews in the current administration’s rush to place huge chunks of public land in the hands of developers to build on them at public expense.

The Ivanpah Solar Power Plant project is a prime example. The project’s proponent, BrightSource Energy, will build an experimental “power tower” solar power plant on over five and a half square miles of high quality desert tortoise habitat in California’s Ivanpah Valley. The 1.7 billion dollar project will be primed with $1.3 billion in public “economic stimulus” funds provided by the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act.

The project is the first of a number of power plants proposed for public lands in the Ivanpah Valley. A photovoltaic plant is planned right next door to the Ivanpah power plant. Just down the valley over the Nevada border is the proposed Silver State power plant. These and other projects will block off the Ivanpah Valley, turn the North Ivanpah Valley into an industrial zone, and will have major consequences for rare and endangered wildlife. Although the ESA-listed desert tortoise population is declining, the Ivanpah power plant will split the North Ivanpah Valley, eliminate desert tortoise habitat, require that resident tortoises be relocated placing them and any resident tortoises at the relocation site in danger, and will severely compromise connectivity and gene flow between important desert tortoise populations. It will also impact foraging for bighorn sheep and other wildlife, a number of rare plants, and an assemblage of barrel cactus unrivaled elsewhere in the Golden State. Native Americans cultural remains including unusual stone structures will be stranded in a sea of mirrors. The agencies don’t know what these structures are, so how can they be important? No matter that the local Chemehuevi Indians don’t share that view.

Read the rest of this entry »

Anthrax again detected on Turner’s ranch, outbreak not expected

Ranch near Green Ranch which holds quarantined Yellowstone bison.

A yearling bison on Ted Turner’s Flying D Ranch has been found to have died from anthrax. The bison is not one of the quarantined Yellowstone bison transferred to Turner but this is nearby Turner’s Green Ranch where the quarantined bison are being held. This concern was brought up by those who opposed the transfer that will result in the privatization of 75% of the bison progeny after 5 years.

There was an outbreak on the Flying D Ranch in 2008 which killed more than 200 domestic bison. The Montana State veterinarian Dr. Martin Zaluski doesn’t expect there to be a further outbreak because Turner’s bison have been vaccinated for anthrax.

Anthrax again detected on Turner’s ranch, outbreak not expected.
By DANIEL PERSON, Bozeman Daily Chronicle Staff Writer

Posted in Bison, disease, privatization. Tags: , . Comments Off on Anthrax again detected on Turner’s ranch, outbreak not expected

A Valles Caldera National Park At Long Last?

Famed former Baca Ranch could emerge as national park after failed “free market” experiment-

I have never been to this famous New Mexico supervolcano area with its scenic, but degraded grasslands and forests.  The area is notable for its elk, but the herd is much smaller than it could be due to the competition with livestock.

In 2000 this former ranch was purchased by the U.S. government to become a national preserve, but under the rules of right wing ideology.  The former ranch, as a preserve, was to be managed by the Valles Caldera Trust.  It was supposed to be run much like a ranch — generate its own income by grazing, logging, oil and gas, and maybe geothermal development, and expensive visitor fees. These are hardly the rules the public expects for land it bought for scenic and environmental protection.

At the time, I wrote the whole thing off as a waste of money doomed to fail, and I forgot about it.  I was right. The area could not support itself financially without destroying its amenities. Today it is overgrazed and too expensive to use, and the local public wants it transferred to the National Park Service to restore it and allow affordable public access.

There is a bill before Congress (S.3452) by Senators Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) and Tom Udall (D-NM) to transfer it to the Park Service.  If it becomes a national park, or some other public land unit, it will have to be rehabilitated.

RLMiller at Daily Kos has written a number of articles about it. Here is his latest. Hike On: A Valles Caldera National Park At Long Last? July 3, 2010

Energy chief stuns environmentalists with renewable energy approach

Nevada’s energy chief wants to take Federal Lands and hand them over to energy companies.

Jim Groth, an appointee of Governor Jim Gibbons, published a declaration which calls for turning the State of Nevada into an energy colony and he doesn’t think it should be subject to National Environmental Policy Act requirements.

“The greatest thing holding Nevada back from achieving economic success right now is the need to satisfy onerous policies or laws and have the ‘right’ paperwork in order,” Groth writes in his “declaration.”

Nevada has become the latest target of energy producers and transmitters of all stripes. Gigantic solar and wind plants as well as geothermal plants have been proposed on public lands. El Paso Corp’s Ruby Pipeline has received preliminary permission to pass through northern Nevada’s most pristine sage grouse and pygmy rabbit habitat. There are also a number of proposed transmission lines to support these developments.

Public lands are not a renewable resource and the kind of development proposed in Nevada will have devastating impacts on wildlife there. It is time to make a major push towards rooftop solar and conservation rather than these centralized power plants on public lands which require transmission lines that lose power getting the electricity to where it is used.

Energy chief stuns environmentalists with renewable energy approach.
Las Vegas Sun

Agency mulls selling public land for mine

1,142 acres of BLM Land in southeast Idaho could be sold to Simplot for phosphate mining

This would be a precedent setting decision that would eliminate access to this land and limit input into how it is managed.

Agency mulls selling public land for mine
TODD DVORAK – Associated Press

The Privatization of Wildlife

How Ted Turner Scored Yellowstone’s Bison Herd

A good overview of the buffalo issue and how they continue to be persecuted by Montana’s livestock industry and how the buffalo from the quarantine feasibility study ended up going to Ted Turner.

The Privatization of Wildlife: How Ted Turner Scored Yellowstone’s Bison Herd
AlterNet / By Joshua Frank

Groups File Suit to Protect Quarantined Bison & Public Trust

Lawsuit Seeks to Secure Public Access to Bison and Prevent Privatization of Calves

Stephany Seay, Buffalo Field Campaign 406-646-0070,
Summer Nelson, Western Watersheds Project, 406-830-3099,
Glenn Hockett, Gallatin Wildlife Association, 406-586-1729,

Buffalo in quarantine - Kim Acheson

Buffalo in quarantine - Kim Acheson

GALLATIN COUNTY, MONTANA: Four conservation organizations filed a legal challenge today against the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks’ (FWP) decision to complete one phase of its Quarantine Feasibility Study on a private ranch of Turner Enterprises, Inc. (TEI), and to give TEI a percentage of the public’s bison at the end of the study. The groups assert that this action violates the state’s public trust responsibilities to protect and manage wildlife for public and not private benefit. The decision privatizes a full 75% of any offspring born to the 86 bison now held on TEI’s Green Ranch. Throughout earlier phases of the study, FWP indicated all bison, including offspring, would be managed as public wildlife and could never be privatized. The plaintiffs assert FWP’s final decision goes against these promises, and against FWP’s public trust duties.
Read the rest of this entry »

Return of the Sagebrush Rebellion

Fake outrage over memo on national monuments being used to gin up grab of our public lands-

I’ve been meaning to write something about this because it is as plain as day that they are up to this. However, RLMiller did it first on the Daily Kos, so here it is.

Return of the Sagebrush Rebellion. by RLMiller. Daily Kos.

Kos is a Democratic Party oriented web site, but you don’t have to be a Democrat to see this same old crap argument coming up again after putting it back in its grave (again) in 2006.

Yes, they mean to steal our lands and sell them off under the guise of state management. They are peddling a version of the same old talking points they have used since the 1940s. They say they will keep the “important lands” in federal ownership. They always say this. They assume we are bunch of damn retards who think the national parks are the only public lands with anything of interest on them.

Giving bison to Turner isn’t legal

Buffalo Field Campaign and Gallatin Wildlife Association speak

Stephany Seay, media coordinator for the Buffalo Field Campaign, writes a letter in response to the Casper Star Tribune’s poorly researched op-ed of December 30th titled “Turner ranch plan is the best way to save bison“.

Giving bison to Turner isn’t legal
Stephany Seay – Buffalo Field Campaign

It’s not legal: according to the permit from Yellowstone National Park (Permit #YELL-2007-SCI-5506) “Yellowstone National Park bison transferred to quarantine shall not be used for commercial or revenue-generating purposes.”

The Gallatin Wildlife Association speaks out as well.

Wildlife group explains position
JIM BAILEY, Belgrade, Mont.
Gallatin Wildlife Association

Activists call for bison on state land

State of Montana wants to give them to Ted Turner

Buffalo in quarantine - Kim Acheson

Buffalo in quarantine - Kim Acheson

As is typical with this issue, the State of Montana has set up a false dichotomy with the bison in the quarantine program. They say that the bison need to be given to billionaire Ted Turner or slaughtered because they have no other options. This is nonsense.

As I have discussed before, there are other options including working with the Fort Belknap Reservation to locate the quarantined buffalo there, placing them back into the Park, or placing them on a state wildlife refuge, all of which would keep these bison in the public domain which was required under the plan. If Ted Turner receives these 78 buffalo he wants 190 of their progeny in return for his own commercial operations which also violates the agreement with the National Park Service to keep them in the public domain.

“There’s land in Montana,” said Stephany Seay with the Buffalo Field Campaign. “The alternatives are not Turner or slaughter. But that’s what we are being fed.”

Activists call for bison on state land
By DANIEL PERSON Chronicle Staff Writer

Homeless on the Range

An article about the ill-conceived bison quarantine program that will likely be turning the majority of the progeny of these bison into privately owned livestock.

Buffalo in quarantine - Kim Acheson

Buffalo in quarantine - Kim Acheson

The Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks’ bison quarantine project started several years ago in an attempt to create a brucellosis free heard of Yellowstone bison from captured calves which had been repeatedly tested for the disease. These calves were separated from their mothers who were slaughtered and placed in pastures just north of Gardiner, Montana where they were fed out of troughs. They have no connection to their land and have not been exposed to experienced, older animals so they haven’t learned buffalo social skills. There is a big problem though. The program wasn’t thoroughly thought out, the FWP didn’t have any takers for the bison before the program was started.

The original, and often vaunted, intent was to create herds which would be used to repopulate the western public and tribal lands with genetically pure bison. There is a requirement to keep the bison that leave the quarantined facility fenced away from other animals for an additional 5 years in case brucellosis, a bacterial disease, re-emergerges. That’s expensive and nobody wants to do it so proposals to take the bison have been limited.

Enter Ted Turner. He has offered to keep the bison fenced, at a cost, for five years but he wants 190 of the progeny expected to be produced during those 5 years so that he can improve the genetics of his own commercial buffalo operations. This is the polar opposite of what was originally required of the recipients of the bison. The plans specifically mandated that the bison would not be mixed with hybrid bison and that they would remain in the public trust.

The Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks has said that the other major proposal to take the bison to Fort Belknap is not serious in nature and that they would have to slaughter them if they can’t give them to Ted Turner. They frame the issue as if slaughter is the only other option.

Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Carving Up the Commons

Ralph previously noted how the Western Lands Project monitors public land privatization, which let people know about a great book, Carving Up the Commons (pdf), freely available for download.  The book gives great history and analysis of.  Here’s a recent book review :

Required reading: How Congress crafts public land billsMissoula Independent

Perhaps the most succinct summary is provided by former congressional public lands committees staffer Erica Rosenberg in the introduction.

“Armed with insider know-how, Janine distills an astoundingly complex political process into an accessible manual. Although the process remains unwieldy, Janine’s illumination of the legal framework and political context makes it far less so. In Carving Up the Commons, Janine has provided a much needed window into a shady world of back-room deals, special interests and cronyism, while offering pragmatic information and a tactful approach to citizen involvement.”

Posted in conservation, politics, privatization, public lands, wilderness roadless. Tags: . Comments Off on Review: Carving Up the Commons

Renewable energy sparks a probe of a modern-day land rush

New technology, same uninhibited ambition

You had better watch this, now and from now on.  The land grabbers are on the loose again and they can be stopped only as they were before, by the effective marshaling of public opinion.  Your property is in danger of being alienated, your interests and those of your children are being threatened[…]

Bernard DeVoto
Two-Gun Desmond is Back
~ 1951

They say history repeats itself.  At nearly every point in the history of western colonization there was an industry that was all the uproar among the well-intentioned.  Europeans moved West and trapped away the beaver, mined, laid claim to the land with homestead, sheep and cattle – don’t forget the logging.  That was no problem, the resource was infinite back then.  We did the impossible in harnessing rivers with dams and harvesting its inertia as our own, bringing power to cities and agricultural production to a western arid landscape that would not support such dense human habitation otherwise.  Hydroelectric dams were supposed to be the next perfect, “clean” source of power – remember ?

At each point in this history, calls for restraint, even timid caution against the unforeseeable consequences of the next great, faultless enterprise were brushed aside – dismissed as ‘nay-saying’ and the personalities behind the calls were labeled enemies of progress by even the most forward thinking and well-intentioned voices leading the charge.  The allure of human ambition has always enjoyed more volume than the practice of restraint.  ‘The land is infinite’ ~  ‘we’ve found the perfect technology, the perfect innovation’ ~ ‘we just need to make sure there’s good housekeeping’ ~ ‘you can’t stop progess’.

But, unfortunately – it seems to me, depending on how one looks at it, “progress” keeps happening over and over again in the same way as before.

Renewable energy sparks a probe of a modern-day land rushThe Los Angeles Times

A rush to stake claims for renewable energy projects in the California desert has triggered a federal investigation and prompted calls for reforms to prevent public lands from being exposed to private profiteering and environmental degradation.

Transmission lies

Against the so-called ‘need’ for new long-distance, high-voltage transmission lines

Transmission lies Grist Environmental News and Commentary

Carol A. Overland posits the idea that a new electrical grid is “an enabler of dysfunctional energy planning and profit-driven projects that are against the public interest.”

Idaho’s one Democrat, Minnick, teams with Simpson to reintroduce CIEDRA

Prospects for “wilderness bill” have now improved-

Walt Minnick, the Democrat who defeated incumbent nutwinger Bill Sali for Idaho First Congressional District, joined with Idaho Second District Representative, Republican Mike Simpson to reintroduce the controversial Central Idaho Economic Development and Recreation Act (CIEDRA) on the first day of Congress.

With Democrats in control the prospects for the passage of the bill written by  Simpson have increased as well as the possibility of making the legislation less damaging.

While the media often call it a “Wilderness bill” because it designates 318,765 acres in the Boulder Mountains and White Cloud Mountains as Wilderness, there are other aspects of the bill that many see as problems. We need to see the actual text of the bill to see if any of these have been removed.

Read the rest of this entry »

Interior decorating: Obama, Salazar and the Future of America’s Public Lands

Consensus decision-making is incompatable with the rule of law-

Obama, Salazar and the Future of America’s Public Lands. Interior Decorating. By Dr. Brian Horejsi. Counterpunch.

Many Montana landowners trying to lock out public hunting, while private hunting continues.

I like this editorial in the Great Falls Tribune, namely that if you post your land “no hunting,” that should mean no hunting, period. It should not mean “no hunting for the general public, but hunting for those who pay the landowner.

Landowners absolutely do not own the wildlife that live on or cross their land.

“No hunting” should mean no hunting. Editorial. Great Falls Tribune.

Owyhee Canyonlands protections back before Congress

Owyhee Canyonlands protections back before Congress. By Rocky Barker. Idaho Statesman

Posted in B.L.M., cattle, politics, privatization, public lands, wilderness roadless. Tags: , . Comments Off on Owyhee Canyonlands protections back before Congress

Forest Service is writing rules to help privatize your lands in favor of outfitters

We could see it in the Idaho wolf population management plan, and now we see in the rules the Forest Service is developing regarding allocation of recreation on public lands.

Story in the Casper Star Tribune. Sweet deal for outfitters? By Brodie Farquhar.

Ever since the Pombo-Gibbons bill to give away our public lands to the mining companies was slapped down in December 2005, there has been an upsurge in interest in keeping and protecting our American public lands from the special interests who want to privatize (steal) them from us.

Because citizens are more watchful now, those who want to grab our lands are getting more sneaky. Senator Larry Craig has always been one of the biggest land-grabbers, and the Forest Service still marches to his tune because his former aide Mark Rey oversees the FS.

Update: thanks to Robert Hoskins, here are the proposed regulations 

Wyoming US Senator’s bill claims to target beetle kill in Wyoming; others say he is really interested in a public lands giveaway

Barrasso bill targets beetle kill. By Brodie Farquhar. Casper Star-Tribune correspondent.

Whatever his motives, logging has never stopped any of the current beetle kill which is taking place all over the Rocky Mountains. That’s because beetles are not the ultimate cause; it’s the warming climate. The winters are no longer cold enough to kill beetle infestations.

People don’t realize it, but most of the coninferous forests are going to die and then burn to be replaced by something else — what is not clear.

Idaho “wolf viewing area” language is a menace to hunters and wildlife watchers.

You might say, “how’s that? I know it is awful language and a fraud, but how is it dangerous to wildlife watching and hunting in general?

It is dangerous because it arguably transfers ownership of the state’s wildlife to outfitters. Let me write that again, it implicitly transfers ownership of Idaho wildlife from the state of Idaho to private outfitters. Read the rest of this entry »

Bush Administration trying to charge fees to photo and film on the public lands.

Now the Bush Administration wants to charge fees and require permits for people who commercially take photos or film in the national parks, national forests, BLM lands and wildlife refuges.

This is another attempt to steal your rights to use your public land right out from under you, and also to prevent coverage of what is going on on the public lands. It is also a clear violation of your First Amendment Rights.

I can see a ranger asking you for your permit to photograph the pollution running out of oil well on the national forest.

– – – – –

Closely related to this new attempt to take away your natural rights as an American is the growing citizen movement to fight back against the RAT (Recreation Access Tax). Story: Turning Back the Clock to the Good Old Days. What the Baucus-Crapo Bill Does. New West by Bill Schneider.

Breaking story: Fees proposed by Bush Administration for filming and photography on public lands. By Les Blumenthal.

Tribal Takeover Of National Parks And Refuges said by PEER to be on a Fast Track

I can hardly believe this to be a real initiative, if only because the politics of any real push for this would be just devastating to the Democratic Party. Nevertheless PEER, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, has issued this news release.

As a side note, does anyone know about this controversy over the National Bison Range — the Indians versus the federal government? I read some headlines, but I didn’t get around to reading the story.

Update 11-9: This story from a Montana TV station gives a somewhat different view of the hearing. Proposed bill that would effect management of National Bison Range debated.

– – – – –

Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility
For Immediate Release: November 6, 2007
Contact: Carol Goldberg (202) 265-7337

TRIBAL TAKEOVER OF NATIONAL PARKS AND REFUGES ON FAST TRACK — Legislation Would Set “Targets” for Transferring Jobs and Funds to Tribal Control

Washington, DC — This week, Congress will consider legislation that directs the Interior Department to turn over many national parks, wildlife refuges and other operations to tribal governments under virtually permanent funding agreements, according to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). National parks such as Redwood, Glacier, Voyageurs, Olympic and the Cape Cod National Seashore are among the 57 park units in 19 states listed as eligible for tribal operation, as are 19 refuges in 8 states, including all of the Alaska National Wildlife Refuges and the National Bison Range in Montana.

This Thursday, November 8th, HR 3994 by Representative David Boren (D-OK) is slated for hearing before the full House Natural Resources Committee, just nine days after it was introduced. The committee is chaired by Rep. Nick Rahall (D-WV), the bill’s lead co-sponsor. Read the rest of this entry »

As Logging Fades, Rich Carve Up Open Land in West

As Logging Fades, Rich Carve Up Open Land in West. New York Times. By Kirk Johnson.

This is something that needs to be slowed or stopped if possible.

Hardly any existing residents seem to like this trend, but hardly anyone suggests anything effective in stopping it.

Repealing regulations protecting the environment from logging and grazing won’t stop it because it clearly hasn’t stopped where it has been tried. You just get rural sprawl mixed with livestock and logging abuse.

Today, the land is worth more as a residence than for grazing or timbering when the county provides services.

So, the key to minimizing this is to zone the county and not provide services to properties not zoned for residential occupation.

1. This does not violate the owner’s property rights because a private property owner has no right to reach into your wallet and extract tax-supported service unless the county permits it. Your money is private property too.

2. Some rural counties are so foolish they that give agricultural exemptions if the owner of a rural palace lets them run a few cattle or sheep on their 50 or so acres . . . talk about redistribution of wealth from the average person to the better off! Clearly people need to think about who they election to county commission.

3. The fire fighting agencies need to draw the line on protecting these places from wildfire. Now before Bob Caesar or someone so situated who has had a rural residence for many years writes about it being unfair, we need to obviously grandfather places like his. This is a policy for future construction, not for past.

4. Private insurance needs to segregate these residences and make them pay full cost rather than once again spreading the cost to people who have built where so many tax dollars need not be consumed. In order words, no private wealth redistribution to these places either.

5. Private communities should be discouraged by local ordinance as a violation of the US and various state constitutions. Traditional access where it is not harmful to the environment needs to be enforced by the county (not abandoned). I am not thinking, however, that ATV trails going straight up the mountain or through a marsh should be kept open. Here private closure can actually be of great benefit.

6. I believe in private property rights. If the person still wants to build on his or her remote property after it is clear no services will be provided from the local, state, or federal government taxes, then that’s their right. Everyone with property has property rights, but money is just as much private property as land.

7. Finally, because many of the rich newcomers are conservation-minded, It might be possible to enlist them to stopping more of what they did. Some people will say it’s not fair to lock the door behind you. I say it is fair because it is strongly in the interest of the public and the conservation of land and water, it is more than fair.

Nature conservancy poisons prairie dogs until county issues restraining order

For a conservation organization, the Nature Conservancy often seems not be very nature friendly, although usually have a political explanation.

Here is the story from the Hays Daily News.

It decribes how they poisoned prairie dogs in Logan County, Kansas. Prairie dogs are a species most groups are trying desperately to conserve. Phostoxin was used without a permit on properties adjacent to their 18,000 acre ranch in Logan County, KA. According to the story, TNC was poisoning prairie dogs that moved from their ranch onto to adjacent ones.

Apparently TNC was responding to pressure from Logan County commissioners who don’t like prairie dogs, which had made a comback on the TNC ranch.

Phostoxin is a non-selective poison. Now TNC is putting pellets of zinc phosphide down the burrows.

I think this is the kind of problem you run into with their method of trying to appease backward local interests when they buy land.

Federal recreation access fees have become a shakedown of the public.

Ted Williams wrote this. It’s in Read It Here Magazine.

The fees are on other folk’s minds too. The Forest for the Fees. By Brian Park and Joshua Zaffos. Rocky Mountain Chronicle. 

Industry darling: Mining law of 1872 should be reformed

The Salt Lake Tribune has an editorial today against the 1872 general mining law, which has endured attempts to reform it since the 19th century. Its harmful consequences to our public lands is increasing because of the recent rush to stake new uranium and other “hard rocks” claims.

These minerals are basically given away free under this law and the surface of the law is permanently privatized if the mining claim is patented. Meanwhile oil, gas, phosphate, potash, sulfur, coal, and geothermal, are classified as leasable minerals and bo th the federal government and the state receive receive royalties from their development.

SLT Editorial.

The Tribune is not alone in covering this. Report: More Than 800 New Mining Claims Crowd Border of Grand Canyon National Park. Many Claims for Uranium: Yosemite, Arches, Canyonlands, Joshua Tree also Threatened. YubaNet.

From July 2007. Sportsmen want 1872 mining law revised. By Steve Lipsher Denver Post Staff Writer.

On Aug 27, the Washington Post had a warming article about the recent upsurge in claims under the 1872 law. Mining Our Treasures: An 1872 Law Paves the Way for a Rush of Claims in the West. By Jane Danowitz and Richard Wiles.  “815 active mining claims lie within five miles of the Grand Canyon, 805 of them staked since 2003. Just outside Arches National Park in Utah, 869 claims have been snatched up, almost all within the past five years.”

Some conservation groups become ranchers — baaad idea!

The WWP blog has a good take on a fairly recent, and continuing development. Conservation groups are buying ranches and assuming the grazing permits on adjacent public land, and in their words showing how running livestock can be done right.

Wrong. The lands of the Western United States did not evolve with cattle grazing them, and cattle do not take the place of bison, elk, deer, etc.

1. Consider that cattle are today completely artificial animals. There are no wild cows. The ancestors of cows no longer exist. They are extinct.

2. While the Texas longhorn cattle used in the early days of the West were much more capable animals at survival, they have long been replaced by tender cows like Angus.

3. Grasses and forbs did evolve under the pressure of grazing, but not grazing by cows. They were grazed variously by elk, deer, bison, pronghorn, bighorn sheep, all large ungulates to be sure, but they graze differently than cows. They were, and still are also grazed by rodents and insects.
Read the rest of this entry »

Western governors declare war on cheatgrass

Western Governors yesterday held a press conference to declare war on cheatgrass.

I can’t help but think back to an article on NewWest describing the importance of words when considering conservation politics – politics in general.

We’ve got a good idea how politicians in cowboy suits conduct their perpetual wars. Now it’s been declared in the West, on up to a million acres recently charred by fire – against an infliction of the range which follows the very ‘prescriptions’ that they call for. They’re chasing their tails, and in the process turning your public lands into their private pasture.
Read the rest of this entry »

It’s time for sagebrush patriots to rally against the land stealing rebels

The winter before last, emboldened by their power, California’s Representative from the Tracy area area, Richard Pombo, teamed up with Jim Gibbons of Nevada and hatch a scheme to steal the public lands under the disguise of mining reform.

In a move surprising to many, Westerners rallied against them, and before long Western Republicans who’d long had little good to say about public lands such as Craig Thomas, Mike Enzi, and even Larry Craig were backpeddling, and pledging their fealty to our birthright of room to roam, our great public land heritage. Even Butch Otter, then a member of the House who was proposing to sell off 20% of the national forests, etc. to pay for Hurricane Katrina, was quickly forced to drop his bill lest he lose his race for governor.

Of course, their conversion was “lite.”Now they are back at it, using the fires as the latest weapon against the public lands. John Miller’s article on the fire’s stirring an “ember of the sagebrush rebellion” should be a wake-up call. This isn’t really about fire. The fires are their vehicle to attack the public land management agencies, the firefighters, policies designed to elevate the importance of wildlife, recreation, and the average citizen. They mean to take it away from you.

It’s got to be once again more into the breach for the public land patriots.

post 1404

Predator hunters for the environment, “Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife”

This is a long feature on the interest group, Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife, a group I have greatly criticized because of their anti-carnivore stance and ties to reactionary, anti-wildlife interests in the West like livestock associations. The name is misleading, some say Orwellian because Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife’s various incarnations in a handful of Western states have one thing in common — they are only in favor of a fraction of the wildlife.

Each state’s SFW runs differently. The worst is probably Wyoming’s SFW, where they support continuing feeding elk in the winter on the state’s many disease ridden elk feedlots. In Wyoming SFW can’t even bring itself to oppose the statewide destruction of the scenic national forest land by the oil industry. They have not joined the coalition to save the Wyoming Range, for example. I suppose their solution to the destruction of wildlife habitat by the gas wells must be to sprinkle hay here and there between the wells.

They are also not clearly in favor of keeping wildlife public. The have failed to oppose the various elk farms and elk shooting operations in Idaho, which besides not being fair chase, represent the privatization of wildlife — the turning of wildlife into livestock. Their natural constituency is the rich person who doesn’t want to work hard to hunt, e.g., Dick Cheney, although no doubt some of their members are real hunters.

Having lived in Utah and Idaho all my life (except for graduate school), I didn’t realize that these shooting farms represent the model of the old aristocracy in Europe and also in states with little public land where the Dick Cheney kind of “hunters” have servants drive the game to the them. SFW has close ties to reactionary Republican power structure in Idaho and Utah (note, not all Republican office-holders are part of this).

In their favor, SFW, especially in Utah and Idaho, have carried out projects that protect and enhance habitat for mule deer.

Hal Herring has a long feature article on them in the latest High Country News. Predator hunters for the environment. Feature Article. June 25, 2007 by Hal Herring.

Note: in the past I gave the executive directors of SFW for Idaho, Nate Helm; and for Wyoming, Robert Wharff all the space they wanted to explain their positions.

Here is a link to the past discussion. It was last December. You can take it from there to read all their postings and my replies. My Reply to Nate Helm. Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife-Idaho

Here is the sort of thing SFW-Wyoming doesn’t do. Groups challenge BLM well permits on the Atlantic Rim [WY]. Billings Gazette. The appeals came from the Wyoming Wildlife Federation, the National Wildlife Federation, Biodiversity Conservation Alliance, the Wyoming Outdoor Council, the Wyoming Wilderness Association, the Western Watersheds Project, the Colorado Environmental Coalition, the Center for Native Ecosystems and The Wilderness Society.

Corrupt number 2 at Dept. of Interior trying to get out of doing time

I have been reporting for some time about the corruption in the Bush Department of Interior, the major land-management department of the federal government. One of those reported was J. Steven Griles, number two in DOI under Gale Norton. He was recently convicted for has dealings with corrupt lobbying Jack Abramoff. Now he is trying to get out of doing time for his crime. Instead he wants to do public service for an anti-conservation group involved with those recreation fees we are being changed to use our public lands.

Story. J. Steven Griles did the crime but doesn’t want to do the time. Former Interior Department Deputy Secretary who pleaded guilty earlier in connection with Jack Abramoff looking for ‘sentence’ of working for anti-environmental group instead of five years in the pokey. Bill Berkowitz. Media Transparancy.

Rocky Barker’s blog today tells how Idaho’s largely anti-conservation governor, Butch Otter, is going to bat for Griles. Rocky Barker’s blog: Otter asks for leniency for riding buddy. By Rocky Barker – Idaho Statesman

The public land recreation fee has become a shakedown of the public

Outdoor writer Ted Williams has weighed on the “RAT” in a Writers on the Range piece.

Writers on the Range: Fees have become a public lands shakedown. By Ted Williams.

A search of this blog will bring many more stories how a not very good demonstration project has become much worse as it  was made permanent without even a real vote in Congress. As Williams writes, “a rope to hang ourselves.”

Posted in privatization, public lands management. Comments Off on The public land recreation fee has become a shakedown of the public

National Park Service to increase entrance fees

Story in the New York Times.

A big question is whether the fees will stay at the Parks, or will they be siphoned off, like the Forest Services fees, to do the bidding of industrial recreation groups who want to close minimal campgrounds and herd people into high end developments that separate them from nature.

post 1092

Guest opinion (Tucson Citizen): Fee-for-all on public lands

More on the RAT. By Greg Lewis. Tucson Citizen.

Who are the interests behind the pay-to-use-your-public-land philosophy?

post 1073

FS Digging Its Own Grave (with the recreation tax)

Wild Bill has another insightful article on the ill effects of the “RAT.” FS Digging Its Own Grave. By Bill Schneider. New West.

Being from SE Idaho, I don’t get hit with the RAT as much as most folks, but recently in Arizona I really felt its sting.

I wanted to explore Oak Creek Canyon. I expected to pay a RAT. At the rim it said $5 for a one-day “Red Rocks country” recreation pass, so I pulled into the “Call of the Canyon” parking lot and bought a day’s pass (the $5 had recently been replaced by $8). I walked a couple miles up the West Fork of Oak Creek (a Wilderness area) and came back and drove down the canyon.

There was another interesting looking place close to the mouth of the canyon, so I pulled in, pointed to my purchased sticker and began to pull off, when the angry fee collector told be I had to pay another $8! It seems every stop costs you another $8.

Irritated, I drove through Sedona and didn’t buy anything. I drove up into the less scenic, but free, ponderosa pine forest country near Happy Camp.

post 1067

Senator Baucus Berates Recreation Fee Policy

Good News! A major Western Democrat is going after the “RAT.”

In my view the RAT is just another Bush Administration effort to slowly privatize the public lands.

Senator Baucus Berates Recreation Fee Policy. New West. By Bill Schneider.

While a number of Western Senators have spoken against the RAT, such as Idaho’s Senator Craig. They have taken no action.

post 1051

The Montana stream access issue becomes a three-front war

From New West. Montana stream access issue becomes a three-front war. By Dan Testa; and from the Missoulian. Legal questions surface about governor’s stream access move
By Charles S. Johnson. Missoulian State Bureau

Here is an earlier story on the issue from early April 1 that I posted.

Update. April 18. Editorial in the Missoulian. “Public will have its stream access. “ “SUMMARY: Governor’s gambit may or may not work, but make no mistake about the eventual outcome.”

Post 1004

Posted in Fish, privatization, public lands. Comments Off on The Montana stream access issue becomes a three-front war

Much-debated stream access bill in Montana is tabled

Much like the proposals to regulate or eliminate elk shooting enclosures in Idaho, which had much public support, but were defeated anyway, efforts in Montana to secure the right to access the streams of the state, which belong to the people, has been killed in the Montana legislature.

Much-debated stream access bill tabled. By Charles S. Johnson. Billings Gazette State Bureau

Idaho Elk farm regulation bill held up while elk farmers decide how much they want to regulate themselves

The great effort to clean up or abolish the Idaho elk farms have come down to a dispute between the elk farmers who want a little regulation and those who want none.

Story: Seeking compromise, House Speaker holds up elk bill: Game breeders disagree among themselves on how stringent proposed regulations should be. Idaho Statesman. By Alicia P.Q. Wittmeyer. The Associated Press

Posted in Elk, privatization, property rights. Comments Off on Idaho Elk farm regulation bill held up while elk farmers decide how much they want to regulate themselves

General Accounting Office to look at bison situation in Montana

Finally some aid may be coming to Yellowstone’s bison, artificially constrained to Yellowstone Park.

The GAO, the investigatory arm of Congress, is looking into a number of bison issues, including the failure of CUT, the Church Universal and Triumphant, a land-owning cult immediately north of the Yellowstone boundary, to allow bison to cross its land.

In 1999, a federal land exchange between the Gallatin National Forest and various private land owners was implemented. It was not just an exchange. A payout of 13-million dollars was also made to made things equal. This exchange was expected to settle numerous private/public land issues on lands north of the Park. It did in part. However, a major enticement for conservation groups to make the deal, as I remember it (I was on the Board of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition at the time), was that CUT would receive land and give up lands in order to facilitate bison migration and winter range. Instead, they have actually brought in cattle (the notion that bison will give cattle brucellosis is one of excuses used to keep bison inside YNP). Yes, it’s time to see whether taxpayers got what they paid for. See the story below.

GAO to examine bison management. 13M deal to open land north of Yellowstone has never been implemented. By Mike Stark. Billings Gazette Staff

Update. 3-3-2007. Bison management under federal investigation. Missoula Independent.

Posted in Bison, national parks, privatization, public lands, public lands management, wildlife disease. Comments Off on General Accounting Office to look at bison situation in Montana

Idaho State Senate passes the “elk farmers” elk regulation bill

Idaho is going down a different path than Wyoming in terms of harming elk–different, but just a bad (privatization of elk). Elk will be livestock, not wildlife if this trend continues. There is already too much agricultural thinking about wildlife in Idaho, and not enough thinking about wildlife as a good thing, in and of itself.

Once again this is a reason why the politicians yell so much about wolves. It’s a diversion from real wildlife issues in Idaho, just as it is in Wyoming. Idahoans need to take the matter into their own hands like Montanans did, and get an initiative on the ballot. The state legislature will never pass a bill on its own.

“We’ve been waiting for this one – this is the industry bill.” With that, Senator Tim Corder, R-Mountain Home began his successful bid to herd S1074 through the full Senate. And in a prepared statement, Sen. Kate Kelly, D-Boise wrote, “Senate Bill 1074 passed by the Senate today was written by the elk industry for the elk industry. It represents bare standards designed to give only the minimal protection.”

Read the rest in New West. Idaho Senate: License Elk Hunt Operations. By Jill Kuraitis, 2-23-07

It is important to note that the vote was largely on party lines, with Democrats favoring wild elk and Republicans favoring the minimal regulation of elk farmers.

Posted in Elk, politics, privatization. Comments Off on Idaho State Senate passes the “elk farmers” elk regulation bill

Time to kill the RAT?

Congress has never had a straight up or down vote on the federal recreation access tax, and Oregon Representative Peter DeFazio wants one on Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act (FLREA) or RAT which was slipped into law as an amendment to a bill.

Read “Time to Kill the RAT?” by Bill Schneider. New West.

Posted in privatization, public lands, public lands management. Comments Off on Time to kill the RAT?

The real use of FS recreation access fees is exposed.

The Forest Service and other land management agencies are charging more and more access fees. They say the money is put to work for underfunded recreation programs, but it is now apparent that they actually using the money for other purposes including closing recreational facilities.


Bill Schneider exposes them in New West. Now We Know Where the RAT Goes. By Bill Schneider.

Link to the Western Slope No Fee Coalition web page

Note that the law on which this was passed by Congress without any debate.

[Section VIII was originally introduced as HR 3283. It passed the House Resources Committee by a voice vote on September 22, 2004. It was then attached as a rider to HR 4818, the Omnibus Appropriations Bill for FY2005, by Representative Ralph Regula (R-OH). HR 4818 passed the House and Senate on December 6, 2004 and was signed by the President on December 8, 2004 to become Public Law 108-447. HR 3283 was never considered by the full House and was never introduced into the Senate except as a rider on the Omnibus Bill.] . . . from the Western Slope No Fee Coalition page

Here is the entire bill

Read the rest of this entry »

Bush increase for national parks said to rely on private donations.

Yellowstone Park Superintendent Suzanne Lewis is reportedly very happy about the unexpected increase in the proposed budget. Maybe there are no strings attached, but I’m still looking for the privatization angle — will result be “Yellowstone brought to you by Haliburton?”

Park officials thrilled about Bush’s proposed budget. By Mike Stark. Billings Gazette.

Park plan relies on private donations. by Brodie Farquhar. Casper Star Tribune.

Bush again proposes selling off national forest lands

Time for outdoor enthusiasts to step up and slap down an Administration privatization scheme again. Fortunately Congress is now a lot more unfriendly to overt privatization schemes than a a year ago. Idaho’s Senator Larry Craig rejected the President’s latest privatization scheme today.

Story in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Bush again proposes selling off national forest lands. By Matthew Daly.

Story in the Bozeman Chronicle. Bush budget includes increased funds for parks, but also forest land sales. By Scott McMillion Bozeman Chronicle Staff Writer.

From the Huffington Post. What is it about “no” you don’t understand? [Mr. President]

From Goat, the High Country News blog. “Forest Land Sales: Will it Fly this Time?”

Idaho Legislators may tinker with elk ranching laws

Legislators may tinker with elk ranching laws. By Roger Phillips.

I was talking with a leader in a major sportsman organization the other night. He said the Idaho legislature was likely to do nothing of importance to restore fair chase hunting in Idaho, and he was talking ballot initiative to solve the problem the way sportsmen did in Montana about 6 years ago.

Posted in Elk, politics, privatization. Comments Off on Idaho Legislators may tinker with elk ranching laws

Idaho Elk Breeders on the Offense

Here is in interesting story, especially since Erin Miller posts to this forum.

Idaho Elk Breeders on the Offense. New West. By Bill Schneider

Previous story on Camo Day. Jan. 17.

Jan. 25, 2007 Update. Wild Bill has additional thoughts on this. Humane Society, Idaho Sportsmen, and Game Farmers: A Strange Affair. By Bill Schneider. New West.

Chief forester resigns. First woman to head US Forest Service appointed.

Northern Region’s Kimbell to Replace Bosworth as Forest Service Chief. Headwaters News as republished in New West.

I’m not sure what this means. A new chief forester can mean a new direction, but not usually unless the Administration changes (as it did from the “Bush the Greater” to Clinton in 1993, and then again in 2001 from Clinton to “Bush the lesser).” There was a sea change at these periods.

Posted new story on this appointment Jan. 13. Missoulian to become 1st female forest chief. Kimbell replaces another Montanan as Forest Service head. By Noelle Straub. Billings Gazette Washington Bureau.

As one post indicated (backed up by this story), Kimbell is an advocate of access fees. In the story above Democratic Senator Max Baucus of Montana said,

“While I’m pleased a Montanan has been picked for this important job, I’m concerned about Gail’s willingness to charge additional fees to access public lands,” Baucus said in a statement. “That’s a wrong approach. I hope she backs away from plans that would limit Montanans’ access to public lands for hunting, fishing and recreation.”

Jan. 13. Randy Stapilus, an astute political observer of Pacific Northwest Politics has further comments on Kimbell. “Into the fire.

Jan. 15. Over at Demarcated Landscapes there is more news on Kimbell, More news emerging on new Forest Service Chief” (and it doesn’t look good)

Energy/Ag Alliance In Wyoming Fractures Over Eminent Domain

The power to condemn private property in the public interest (with just compensation, of course) is a fundamental power of government.

Some states, including especially Wyoming, have actually allowed this fundamental power to be exercised by private entities, organizations that may very well not have the interest of the citizens of the state in mind.

Anger is growing is the state’s land and water is being torn asunder, and there might be fireworks in the new legislature.

Read Brodie Farquhar’s “Energy/Ag Alliance Fractures over Eminent Domain.” New West.

Addition on Jan. 2.

Some people may wonder what does this have to do with Wyoming Wildlife? The answer is “plenty”. The prevention of this battle, this alliance from breaking up, this war from breaking out, is why they try to divert sportsmen and ranchers in Wyoming onto the subject of wolves. The outcome means billions of dollars of gains for some and losses for others. That’s why is it nice to have people talking about the loss of a couple hundred thousands of dollars of livestock lost to wolves.

Like Barnum said, “there’s a sucker born everyday.” At least many Wyoming politicians believe that.

Posted in privatization. Comments Off on Energy/Ag Alliance In Wyoming Fractures Over Eminent Domain

Horrible news from the Congressional wrap-up . . . Nevada ughh!

I had meant to discuss this too, but KT just posted a detailed comment on the awful White Pine County, NV lands bill that did pass. This measure, which was attached to the omnibus bill,  designates over 500,000 acres of scenic desert mountains as Wilderness, but outside the Wilderness it is privatization of our public lands and a lot of other awful stuff. Let KT tell it. . . . Ralph Maughan

White Pine Designs: Chopping Up the West, County By County


Harry Reid and John Ensign’s White Pine Rider, with all of its land privatization schemes, was attached to the “Tax Relief and Health Care Act of 2006”.

This can be found at:

The “White Pine County Conservation, Recreation and Development Act” starts at page 264. It includes:

Rapid sale of 45,000 acres of BLM in White Pine County. (Note: This was preceded by the Reid and Ensign Lincoln County Bill that authorized selling off around 100,000 acres of BLM land to the south in the same Bill that legislated the water pipelines rights-of-way for Las Vegas in both Lincoln and White Pine counties).

The sale of our public lands is then to be used to provide: 10% for County use (fire protection, law enforcement, education, public safety, housing, social service, transportation and planning) –All made more costly through fast-track development of BLM lands sold off, development of an OHV trail that will increase human-caused wild land fires, etc.).

The remainder of the BLM land sale proceeds go to:

  • reimbursing BLM for surveying and appraisals on the land to be privatized
  • cultural surveys (necessary for the land sales, also to clear the way for the purposeful burning, chopping, chaining, biomassing, etc. under this Bill’s Eastern Nevada Landscape Coalition provisions below
  • a “study” of routes for the Silver State OHV Trail
  • developing and implementing the Silver State OHV Trail
  • maybe developing “conservation plans” for “at risk” species (and the risk just got considerably greater for these species as their habitats are fragmented by development and OHV Hells under this Bill)
  • maybe a study of non-motorized recreation .

Water Rights:

The Bill continues “because of the unique nature of the land designated as wilderness … it is possible to provide for proper management and protection of the wilderness … by means other than a federally reserved water right”. Reid and Ensign must have been chuckling over this provision! Their Lincoln County Bill legislated the Las Vegas aquifer-sucking pipelines and wells that will de-water the same aquifers that underlie the wilderness areas – making the lands unique, indeed!

Silver State OHV Trail: EXTENDS the OHV Trail designated under the Lincoln County Bill with a spur running north (to Elko County and the Spruce Mountain Trail no doubt) and west (to Utah).

Eastern Nevada Landscape Restoration Project: This is Bush’s Healthy Forests Initiative on steroids, and applies to both White Pine and Lincoln Counties.

Fearmongering over wildfire concerns (with fire risk increased considerably from development to be spawned by public land privatization, OHV trails, etc.), the Bill unleashes large-scale taxpayer-funded manipulation of public lands.

It enables the Eastern Nevada Landscape Restoration Project, spawned by the Eastern Nevada Landscape Coalition (ENLC), to “reduce hazardous fuels” and “restore” rangeland and woodland, and perhaps a local “research” facility to study the effects of the public land treatments.

The White Pine Bill authorizes the Secretaries of the Interior and Agriculture to make grants to this private non-profit ENLC (largely livestock and other local interests with token enviro presence). Millions of dollars are going to be handed over to this local group to chop, chain, chip, burn, “masticate”, turn into biomass, and otherwise alter pinyon-juniper and sagebrush habitats across 12 million acres – and kill woody vegetation to benefit of the public lands cattle and sheep industry. This also makes a large function of the BLM and Forest Service irrelevant, and privatizes management of public lands. And of course, with an ENLC middleman, costs will increase, local cronies will get project bids, etc.

The White Pine Bill is also likely to accelerate global warming and desertification (see Un Report!!!!), as lands (including in the new Wilderness areas) are deforested by the ENLC to grow cattle and sheep grass.

A close parallel to this – and quashed even in Idaho in the 1990s – was the Federal Lands Task Force, where National Forest land management would be turned over to state ‘collaborative’ groups – to facilitate logging. A chief spokesman for the Task Force idea was Willam G. (?) Myers III, the cattle industry lobbyist, and thwarted Bush Ninth Circuit nominee.

Now, the Democratic majority leader-to-be in the 110th congress has just bullied this privatization and local control scheme as part of a Rider onto the last act of this Congress.

The Bill also designates 12 “unique” no water rights new Wilderness areas (where ENLC burning and other manipulation is likely to occur) totaling 558,000 acres– in by and large the last threatened, rocky, rugged areas of White Pine County. Other provisions: Military can do whatever it wants over Wilderness. WSA Releases: Bill releases BLM WSAs (no maps available on-line that I have seen). Wildlife: NDOW can do pretty much whatever it wants in wilderness. Other BLM land conveyances and privatization, and a direct conveyance of land to White Pine County for sale, including for “non-residential development”.

As a biologist, I’m outraged at the loss and fragmentation of public lands under this latest quid pro quo deal.

Will Harry Reid as majority leader end up legislating more OHV Trails, privatizing BLM lands so coal-fired power plants can be built, turning tax dollars over to local cronies, and selling off public land under cover of Wilderness? A national spotlight needs to shine very brightly on doings in Nevada right now, so that the public can be better informed about just how “green” the Democratic leaders may be.

Juniper and pinyon pine burn on Cherry Creek Mountain, White Pine County Nevada. We will see a lot more of this now that the bill has passed. What is wrong with this? The area is being cleared for livestock use. They think it will grow grass and claim it will restore the landscape. Look at its fertility. It coarse sand. It will grow a bit of grass–cheatgrass

Note that pine nuts come from pinyon pine, and they are probably more valuable than the meager amount of livestock that can be raised in the area. Meanwhile the United States imports pine nuts from China.

“Wild Bill” says “the America the Beautiful Pass sends a strong message”

. . . and the message is a negative one.

Read his column in New West.

He points out that the entire newly imposed structure of fees to fund recreation on our public lands has been established by “midnight” riders to appropriations bills, “temporary programs” that somehow became permanent, or provisions buried deep within complex legislation. There was never a straight up or down vote in Congress to see how members of Congress really stood on making this fundamental change, so contrary to past traditions.

I’ll say it’s an affront to democracy, and yet another reason why Congress needed the big housecleaning it got, and maybe need still more. Meanwhile, pony up to buy your “America the Beautiful Pass.”


Here is government information (web site) on the pass that goes on sale Jan. 1, 2007

House blocks Southern Utah lands bill

 Perhaps the worst of the crop of “wilderness with side payment” bills is dead, although this one is a more straight forward development and privatization bill with a thin veneer of wilderness.

I won’t give the details because they have been hashed out earlier in this blog.

US House blocks Washington County [Utah] lands bill. By Robert Gehrke. Salt Lake Tribune.

. . . and the next day, reaction. Local leaders react to shelved bills. By Scott David Johnson. The Spectrum. This is reaction to the failed land bill, and the recognition that it needed some element of real protection in it. The rest of the article is about the failure of Utah to get a 4th House seat, a deal which would give the District of Columbia a seat too, temporarily raising the size of the House of Representatives from 435 to 457.

Posted in privatization, public lands, public lands management, wilderness roadless. Comments Off on House blocks Southern Utah lands bill

Failure to pass in this Congress might improve the two Idaho “wilderness bills’

The next Congress will have to take up these bills afresh — from the start. With Democrats now in control, the Times-News opines that the bills may have to get more conservation friendly to puss muster.

Read: Delays may help both Idaho wilderness plans. Twin Falls Times-News. I have characterized these bills (and a lot of copycat bills for other states) as “wilderness designation with side payments.” These are side payments to non-wilderness and anti-wilderness folks. Unfortunately, these side payments confer real non and anti-wilderness political gifts, while all that the wilderness designation does is draw a line around an already existing area of land that is wilderness in fact, but not protected as such by law.

In terms of real conservation it’s what happens on the ground that counts, not what happens on on a map. Some conservation groups don’t recognize that, however, and end up agreeing to symbolic victories while the real, tangible, material rewards go to others.

I would propose that if these bills are to continue they need to become “wilderness designation” with sidepayments to conservation as well as non-conservation interests. For example, in CIEDRA which would designative wilderness in Idaho’s Boulder and White Clouds Mountains, the bill that passed the House has only gifts of privatized public land offered to Custer and Blaine County and gifts to off-road vehicle folks. As Representative Simpson introduced it, however, it had a buyout of grazing in the roaded East Fork of the Salmon River and also inside what would become designated wilderness. This would be a real change, not a change on paper. Simpson dropped this, however, when Richard Pombo, the committee insisted.

Pombo is now defeated, and this side payment to conservation should be added back and more side-payments should be proferred, such as a buyout of grazing in nearby Copper Basin. This is not a roadless area, but with the livestock removed, Copper Basin could become a wildlife rich area like the Lamar Valley in Yellowstone, only more scenic (which may seem impossible to hard core Lamar Valley veterans) with thousands of elk, and hundreds of moose and pronghorn, wolf packs that don’t get shot, and many more beaver than can survive under the current oppressive regime of heavy cattle and sheep grazing all the way past the timberline to the bare rock of the stunning Pioneer Mountain range (stunning if you don’t look at the ground).

Copper Basin and the Pioneer Mountains. This high mountain valley has the Pioneer Mountains (Idaho’s 2nd highest range) on three sides, and the White Knob Mountains on the other (east side). Copyright Ralph Maughan. Cattle graze the Basin and the mountains up past the timberline, all the way to the rock line. Maybe elimination of cattle could be a way to coax conservationists to support a Boulder/White Clouds Wilderness bill in the next Congress.

Washington County, Utah “wilderness bill” faces much opposition, but could pass

This bill “designates” a lot of wilderness acreage, but it is very deceptive. A good portion of it is in Zion National Park. Wilderness designation is largely redundant there. Much roadless area in the vicinity would remain unprotected.The city of St. George and now sprawling nearby towns is another classic of bad planning and uncontrolled growth, although many of the individual developments are quite lovely, and were even planned to blend with the color of the desert cliffs and slopes.

The only limits to growth have been lack of water. Utah’s “Dixie” as it is called, is serious desert country. Unfortunately the real point of the bill is not wilderness, but privatizing a big chunk of public land so St. George can continue its march over the landscape. The bill would sell public land to pay for the building of a big pipeline all the way across southern Utah to tap Lake Powell in the state’s SE Corner and bring it to Washington County in the SW corner of Beehive State. Utility corridors would be authorized and also massive off road vehicle trail system.

So the real effect of the bill is not protection, but continued development of an energy and water guzzling culture. The looming end of the Lame Duck session of the old Congress may spell the end of this bill in its present form, but there is talk about an omnibus bill for the various “wilderness, with side-payment” bills, as I call them.

Here is the story of the hearing before Senator Larry Craig’s Senate subcommittee. “Dixie land bill faces obstacles. End of session in D.C. is a problem for growth measure for S. Utah.” By Suzanne Struglinski. The Deseret Morning News.

If you want to stop the wasteful use of land and energy and destruction, not the creation of real wilderness, you need to contact your Senator and ask them to oppose the Washington County Growth and Conservation Act.

Here is a detailed alert from SUWA, the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance. Note that the lame duck adjouns for Thanksgiving, so there is probably time to stop it.

Montana’s governor calls on Idaho to ban game farms

The Story in the Casper Star Tribune.

Montana’s Schweitzer, who has sky high popularity, was in Idaho campaigning for fellow Democrat Jerry Brady who is tied in a recent poll with Butch Otter in the governor’s race (many are skeptical, of course, about such poll results in the reddest state in the country).Schweitzer became the second governor to tell Idaho to ban the controversial facilities. Earlier Wyoming’s Governor Dave Freudenthal sent a letter to Idaho’s Governor Jim Risch with similar concerns. Risch steps down at the end of the year. He became governor when he ascended to the post when Governor Dirk Kempthorne became Secretary of Interior.

Brady has campaigned strongly on public lands issues. On the other hand, Otter introduced a bill in Congress to sell off 15% of the nation’s public lands in the Western States to raise money to deal with Hurricane Katrina. When keeping all of America’s public lands like national forests became very popular in Idaho and the West last winter, Otter withdrew his bill and said he had made a mistake, and sad he now supports public lands. The issue had come to a flashpoint when Richard Pombo of CA and Jim Gibbons of Nevada devised a scheme to allow “mining companies” to stake claims on essentially unlimited swaths of public land, and then privatize them after paying a fee. This is chronicled in my earlier “Congressional land grab page.”

Idaho critics of Freudenthal had pointed out the chronic wasting disease spreads unchecked in Wyoming, but has not been detected in Idaho.

BLM trying to sell off public lands again.

After being repeatedly slapped down by folks all across the political spectrum, the BLM, at least in Wyoming, hasn’t learned that Americans love their public lands, and they don’t want them sold off.

This latest proposal is in eastern Wyoming. The media picked up the story a few days ago. At first it seemed like a minor sale of some isolated small parcels, but it keeps getting bigger.

Of course, this plan didn’t really originate in the Wyoming BLM office. You can trace it back to the Bush Administration. They may believe with all the scandals in the news, the public’s attention is diverted! They really know how make a sow’s ear into a silk purse for themselves.

Story: BLM land sale draws fire. Casper Star Tribune.

Potlatch Corp. to charge fees for access to its land in Idaho

Potlatch has joined a growing trend toward access fees. It is the largest private land owner in Idaho, with almost all of its land in the Idaho Panhandle and in North Central Idaho.

There is also a continuing battle over US Forest Service, BLM, and other public land management agencies charging access fees.

Story in the Post-Intelligencer.

Posted in privatization, public lands, Trees Forests. Comments Off on Potlatch Corp. to charge fees for access to its land in Idaho

Key US Senate subcommitee holds hearings on CIEDRA and Owyhee Initiative today

Idaho’s Senior US Senator Larry Craig chairs the Senate subcommitte that has hearings on CIEDRA and the Owyhee Initiative today.

CIEDRA has already passed the House of Representatives where notorious Richard Pombo chairs the committee. His pound of flesh was insistence that the very beneficial buyout of East Fork of the Salmon River ranchers be taken out. The ranchers had wanted to be bought out. There was a hope that it would end a hundred years of overgrazing. An end to grazing could have made it a wildlife paradise.

Rocky Barker of the Idaho Statesman has a article today where he gives some history of the political battles of the past in central Idaho (which is affected by CIEDRA)

The article says ” ‘No matter what the outcome is on the bills, the process has changed the face of public lands management in the West,’ said John Freemuth, a Boise State University political science professor.’ ” ‘I think it’s a sea change that they have decided to participate in seeking solutions,’ he said.”

I am not so sure. If the bills become worse from the standpoint of conservation interests, there will be no more of this kind of solution seeking. Conservation interests won’t participate. While a number of major conservation groups are standing behind CIEDRA, many other groups are greatly opposed, and some of these folks will probably post to this forum. The off-road vehicle lobby is also strongly opposed because the bill isn’t weak enough even though they got numerous special favors.

If this “new process” offends the membership of the groups that are now participating by having the proposals backfire, almost all groups will just strop participating. If their members are pleased with what they see on the ground, compared to the long stalmate, participation will continue.
At the top of Warm Springs Canyon the the White Clouds Mountains.
Home of the Galena wolf pack. This is in part of the Wilderness designated
by CIEDRA. Copyright Ralph Maughan

I am judging that the Owyhee Initiative has less support than CIEDRA.

Two Idaho “wilderness” bills before the U.S. Senate this week.

I have written a lot about CIEDRA (Wilderness, with side payments in the Boulder and White Cloud Mountains). I have written less about the Owyhee Initiative (Wilderness, with side payments in a huge region of arid, unpopulated steppe and canyon country in SW Idaho).

CIEDRA has already passed the House. This is the first legislative test of the Owyhee Initiative.

These bills are the product of years of negotiations. There is plenty for conservationists to dislike (and like) in both.

Rocky Barker has a feature in the Idaho Statesman today about several female activistis who both hate the legislation, but are on opposite sides of the fence. Article.

Of course, many other women, women in favor of the legislation could have been featured too.

I know a lot of the conservationists who are currently taking different sides on the bills.

Posted in politics, privatization, public lands, public lands management, wilderness roadless. Comments Off on Two Idaho “wilderness” bills before the U.S. Senate this week.

Stanley withdraws support for CIEDRA. City takes neutral position, but still wants land transfers

This is the followup to an earlier story below.

Steven Benson of the Idaho Mountain Express has written a long story about the emergency Sunday meeting in Stanley last Sunday that lasted for hours. Read article.

Sept. 21. Now the Challis Messinger has its article on the meeting. It’s by Anna Means. Read article.

The town withdrew its support for the Central Idaho Economic Development and Recreation Act (a wilderness bill, with side-payments to non and anti-wilderness interests). The town council was narrowly not swayed by a Boise motorized enthusiast who tried to dictate a resolution to the council that would put Stanley against the bill.

Posted in politics, privatization, public lands, wilderness roadless. Comments Off on Stanley withdraws support for CIEDRA. City takes neutral position, but still wants land transfers

CIEDRA drama escalating in Stanley. Emergency meeting set for Sunday

For those who haven’t followed it CIEDRA is “Central Idaho Economic Development and Recreation Act,” which some call the “Wilderness Bill” for the White Cloud Mountains, but it involves a lot more. It is sponsored by Idaho Republican US Representative Mike Simpson who crafted a bill that barely convinced diverse interests to support what might be the first Wilderness Bill in Idaho in 26 years!

However, the bill has many detractors, both on the Wilderness side and anti-Wilderness side. One of the keys for getting support from the anti-Wilderness Custer County Commissions was privatization of public land, and one of places where it would be privatized is on the hill behind Stanley, Idaho.

I have supported CIEDRA, though with little enthusiasm. I have warned Idaho conservationists that the Senate could be real danger (the bill passed the House this summer). The bill is now in the hands of Idaho US Senator Larry Craig, who has always been a die-hard supporter of the traditional extractive uses of the public lands, and not a supporter of “consensus processes” like Rep. Simpson used.

It looks like Craig is up to his old tricks, and the folks in Stanley who don’t share the views of their Custer County Commissioners are worried about what he is up-to.

That is what the story in the Idaho Mountain Express is about, “CIEDRA drama escalating in Stanley. Emergency meeting set for Sunday.”

On top of the hill behind Stanley, ID with the Sawtooth Range
in the background. The land on top of the hill would be privatized
by CIEDRA. Copyright Ralph Maughan

There are a lot of earlier stories about CIEDRA and other wilderness/roadless news on my old web page.

– – – –

Update on Sept. 18. I heard they had quite a meeting in Stanley on Sunday. I hope the Idaho Mountain Express and the Challis Messenger got the good parts, and the gist of what was going on. The Express publishes on Wednesday and the Messenger on Thursday.

Owyhee Initiative–vast area in SW Idaho–sparks controversy

Groups like the Sierra Club, Idaho Conservation League, Nature Conservancy and Wilderness Society support the legislation recently introduced by Idaho Senator Mike Crapo, though they have plenty of reservations.

Other groups like the Western Watersheds Project, Committee for Idaho’s High Desert, and the Idaho Wildlife Federation oppose it as a give-away to ranchers that locks in years of grazing abuse in exchange for poorly protected designated Wilderness.

Due to the importance of this issue for conservation, wildlife, and scenery, below are some links expressing various points of view on the Owyhee Initiative.

Folks have been working for 20 or more years to protect this huge hinterland.

Owyhee This is a joint web site put up by conservation groups that support it.
Owyhee This web site by Committee for the High Desert, and Payette Forest Watch against the Initiative.

Senator Crapo on the Owyhee Initiative. Crapo took the “consensus language” and put it in the bill he introduced.

Recent news story on the bill. “Owyhee Initiative begins its trek through Congress.” Read the article in the [Twin Falls] Times-News. Article.

Jon Marvel: Owyhee bill is a theft of public lands.” Sept. 9, 2006 guest opinion in the Idaho Statesman. Marvel is the E.D. of the Western Watersheds Project which opposes the bill.

In one of the many Owyhee Canyons. Photo Copyright © Lee Mercer
Owyhee Mountains at sunset. Copyright © Ralph Maughan

Utah legislation endangers lands we hold dear.

The Washington County [Utah] Growth and Conservation Act would designate over 200,000 acres of very scenic public lands as part of the National Wilderness Preservation System, but the guts of the act is the part that sells 25,000 acres of US public land near booming St. George, Utah to developers. The money would finance a 120-mile long pipeline to Lake Powell (reservoir) to fuel the endless desert sprawl that is covering “Utah’s Dixie.”
A lot of people are very unhappy about this bill, including Peter Metcalf, who wrote this article for Writers on the Range.

Metcalf’s article has appeared in a number of places, here it is in the Casper Star Tribune. Article.

Posted in privatization, public lands, wilderness roadless. Comments Off on Utah legislation endangers lands we hold dear.