N.M. Federal Lands News

by Frank DuBois

The Federal Land Council News

The topics this month are budgets, enviro lawsuits and toad roads.

Budget time

The House Appropriations Committee has approved the fiscal year 2016 Interior and Environment Appropriations bill. This legislation includes funding for the Department of the Interior, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Forest Service.

The bill totals $30.17 billion in funding, a decrease of $246 million from last year and $3 billion less than the President’s request. Of interest to many, especially the counties, it includes $452 million to fully fund “Payments in Lieu of Taxes” (PILT).  Also included is $3.6 billion for the Department of the Interior and U.S. Forest Service to prevent and combat wildfires.

The bill also contains policy riders, which the Committee says are “to stop job-crushing bureaucratic red tape and regulations at federal agencies…that stymie growth, hurt businesses both large and small, and damage the U.S. economy.”

Let’s take a look at some of these riders.

For the Department of Interior, there are policy provisions that:

  • Prevents the listing of the sage grouse under the Endangered Species Act,
  • Requires the de-listing of wolves in Wyoming and the Great Lakes from the endangered species list
  • Prevents the implementation of Secretarial Order 3310, issued on December 22, 2010 (Wildlands policy)
  • Requires a government-wide report on expenditures for global warming, and
  • Prevents the BLM from studying the consolidation of Arizona and New Mexico state offices

For EPA, the most talked about rider will prevent the enforcement of the waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule. In addition, there are provisions preventing any rules which require the reporting of green house gas emissions from manure management piles, and one that prohibits the regulation of lead content in ammunition or fishing tackle, and another that prohibits the use of funds to limit recreational shooting and hunting on federal lands.

The Senate Committee on Appropriation has just passed their version of this bill, but I haven’t read the particulars. I believe they are good though. How do I know? Because Senator Tom Udall doesn’t like the amounts appropriated or the policy riders. I mean he really doesn’t like them. “I cannot stand by and watch while our nation’s most important environmental laws are dismantled through policy riders that have no place in a funding bill” says Udall. Udall presented two amendments to the committee, one to raise the spending amounts and another to strip all riders from the bill. Both amendments failed to pass.

And for those who thought the Republicans in the House would cut the budgets of the land management agencies, you needn’t worry. For instance, compared to last year, BLM has a $45 million increase in their budget.

And speaking of BLM, during a recent Joint Legislative Hearing Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) told two federal land officials, “I come bearing good news. I think if your employees keep up the arrogance, keep denying access to the land then very soon we’ll be able to dramatically cut your employees back and start turning those powers over to the states.”

We are with you on that Mr. Gohmert, whether or not they get their arrogance under control.

Enviros & Local Community

The WildEarth Guardians have been suing anyone and everyone over the years, always in the name of the environment.  Well how about their impact on the local communities where they are filing these suits? Americans for Prosperity wanted to know and funded a study to find out. The study was done by Ryan Yonk, Ph.D., Department of Political Science and Criminal Justice at Southern Utah University and Randy Simmons, Ph.D., Department of Economics and Finance at Utah State University. “What our study found was a negative impact on household income (in) places where WildEarth Guardians are active,” Yonk said. Yonk said household income is $2,500 less in areas where
WildEarth Guardians conduct “litigation for the wild.” “This approach is successful in meeting their own goals, but it comes at a cost to local communities,” he said.

We’ve known this all along, but now we can put a number on just how much
WildEarth Guardians and similar groups are costing rural communities.

Toad Road

There’s a newly installed mode of transportation to keep New Jersey’s threatened wildlife safe. Toads and other small animals have been hit while trying to cross River Road in Bedminster, so the township — with the help of the Department of Environmental Protection — installed a series of underground tunnels to help them get to the opposite side. The five tunnels run from the land next to the Raritan River to the grass and woods on the other side. Wooden fencing surrounds each tunnel entrance and lines the roadway, making the tunnels the only way for the animals to cross the road explains the local paper.

I’m sure this will start a new trend. We are sure to have turtle turnpikes and frog freeways in our near future.

Till next time, be a nuisance to the devil and don’t forget to check that cinch.

Frank DuBois was the NM Secretary of Agriculture from 1988 to 2003, is the author of a blog: The Westerner (www.thewesterner.blogspot.com) and is the founder of The DuBois Rodeo Scholarship (www.nmsu.edu/~duboisrodeo).