Idaho Gov. Butch Otter’s wilderness math doesn’t add up

Idaho’s fact free governor testifies about Idaho Wilderness-

Clement “Butch” Otter has always made his way catering to most backward power groups in his unequal, economically poor, but wilderness rich state.  The poorly paid teachers, educationally deprived students, overflowing prisons, and dispirited population are fine by him, but he has never liked wild backcountry, and especially designated Wilderness, and there is a lot of it in Idaho.  Some of it was protected by Act of Congress during Idaho’s brief green period, 1969-1980.  The rest has been protected by rugged topography and dedicated Idahoans and their allies who have fought long odds ever since.

Otter recently shared his ignorance about Idaho’s Wilderness with a committee in the new Tea Party U. S. House of Representatives. Rocky Barker has a good article on his testimony before the House Natural Resources Committee in today’s Idaho Statesman.

Idaho Gov. Butch Otter’s wilderness math doesn’t add up. “In a fight against more wilderness, Otter may have vastly underestimated the economic impact of what the state already has.” By Rocky Barker. rbarker@idahostatesman.com. Idaho Statesman

Obama Administration Refuses to Reform Public-lands Grazing Fee

Fee is only $1.35 to graze a calf cow pair for a month.

Obama Administration Refuses to Reform Public-lands Grazing Fee
For immediate release – January 18, 2011

Contacts: Greta Anderson, Western Watersheds Project, 520.623.1878
Mark Salvo, WildEarth Guardians, 503.757.4221
Taylor McKinnon, Center for Biological Diversity, 928.310.6713
Brent Fenty, Oregon Natural Desert Association, 541.330.2638
Ronni Egan, Great Old Broads for Wilderness, 970.385.9577

Tucson, Ariz. – After a lengthy delay, five conservation organizations finally received an answer today from the Departments of the Interior and Agriculture concerning the artificially low fee federal agencies charge for livestock grazing on public lands. Claiming higher priorities, both agencies declined to address the outdated grazing fee formula. The government’s response was prompted by a lawsuit filed by Center for Biological Diversity, Western Watersheds Project, WildEarth Guardians, Great Old Broads for Wilderness, and Oregon Natural Desert Association.

Conservation organizations submitted a petition in 2005, asking the government to address the grazing fee formula and adjust the fee in order to cover the costs of the federal grazing program, which costs taxpayers at least $115 million dollars annually according to a Government Accountability Office report. Conservationists contend that Americans lose even more in compromised wildlife habitat, water quality, scenic views, and native vegetation.

“Today’s long-awaited answer was a huge disappointment,” said Greta Anderson, Arizona Director for Western Watersheds Project. “Year after year, we watch as the government gives a sweetheart deal to public lands ranchers at the expense of taxpayers and the environment. We had hoped the Obama Administration would have done better, but it’s business-as-usual for the western livestock industry.”

“Subsidizing the livestock industry at the cost of species, ecosystems, and taxpayers is plainly bad public land policy,” said Taylor McKinnon, public lands campaigns director with the Center for Biological Diversity, “Today’s choice to continue that policy is both a disappointment and a blight on the Obama administration’s environmental record.” Read the rest of this entry »

War on Trees: Harry Reid, Ag Extension Agents, and Chinese biomass companies promote liquidation of old growth forests……. in Nevada

Pinyon and juniper trees, demonized by ranchers, miners and water mining entities, are being eyed by Chinese “biomass” companies with the backing of politicians.

Pinyon Juniper Forest, Nevada.  Photo - Katie Fite

Pinyon Juniper Forest, Nevada. Photo - Katie Fite

Recently the Nevada Pinyon-Juniper Partnership, aided by USDA, set up a conference to discuss pinyon and juniper trees. At the conference were several players in government and business who have an interest in the removal of pinyon and juniper trees in the Great Basin. Bob Abbey, the director of the BLM, attended the meeting.

Most people don’t think of the Great Basin when they think of old growth forests but the pinyon-juniper forests there are ancient forests with several hundred year old trees that provide important habitats and food for many species of birds like pinyon jays, Clark’s nutcrackers, black throated gray warblers, small mammals, nesting raptors. The charismatic seed-caching Clark’s nutcracker faces catastrophic food shortages in the Rockies due to whitebark pine die-off. It relies on large-seeded pines – and the pinyon pine has a superb large seed that was also vital to supporting Native American cultures in the Great Basin.

The refuge provided by these trees are probably the only reason that central Nevada has any elk at all. They are one of the important components that keep the entire Great Basin Ecosystem together because they retain snow later into the year due to their shade and absorb CO2. Their destruction would promote global warming and desertification by making the area hotter and drier. Read the rest of this entry »

Kevin Richert: This year’s fight with the feds: Otter vs. BLM | Kevin Richert’s columns | Idaho Statesman

When I heard about the Interior Department’s decision to reverse the changes that the Bush Administration made to the policy on wild lands protection I was pleased. However, I remain skeptical at how the policy will be implemented by the current bunch running BLM who I don’t really trust. There is no doubt, however, how Idaho Governor Butch Otter feels about it.

The new policy reverses what the Bush Administration changed and allows the BLM inventory its lands to determine whether they meet the criteria for wilderness. The BLM would then go through a public process whereby lands could be designated as “wild lands”.

For Butch, and his buddies, complete domination over the landscape is not enough. It is unacceptable that anyone, other than the chosen few who maintain control, have any say in how the public’s landscapes are managed. It seems as if their motto is “one cow, one vote”.

Kevin Richert: This year’s fight with the feds: Otter vs. BLM.
Kevin Richert – Idaho Statesman

Anatomy of a medusahead invasion

An annual grass worse than cheatgrass

Medusahead grass has the ability to take over a landscape like cheatgrass but nothing will eat it after it dies and dries out in the early summer months. It is becoming a huge problem in some areas and I’ve seen allotments with vast expanses where it is about the only thing that grows. Of course, if you’re the BLM, what else is there to do but renew the grazing permit and continue the degradation?

Anatomy of a medusahead invasion.
High Country News

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

Rancher loses grazing appeal

USFS takes away grazing lease in Nevada’s Santa Rosa Mountains.

The Columbus method of grazing, where cattle are put out for months on end and then “discovered” at the end of the grazing season, gets a spank.

You can read the decision from April here.

Rancher loses grazing appeal.
Written by Dee Holzel – Silver Pinyon Journal