N.M. Federal Lands News

by Frank DuBois

The Federal Land Council News

This month’s column is about a new jewel, a new chairman, sequestration and road kill dining

A jewel or junk?

President Obama has nominated Sally Jewell to be the next Secretary of Interior. Jewell has been the CEO of Recreational Equipment Inc. (REI) since 2005, and prior to that she was a petroleum engineer for Mobil Oil Co. and served in the banking industry.

Before you get too excited about a businesswoman with a degree in petroleum engineering, take note the executive director of the Sierra Club says “In Jewell, President Obama chose a leader with a demonstrated commitment to preserving the higher purposes public lands hold for all Americans – recreation, adventure, and enjoyment. We look forward to working closely with her to preserve more of those benefits and more of our natural heritage by designating new national monuments, protecting America’s Arctic from risky drilling, and keeping dirty and dangerous fracking out of our public lands.” And Frances Beinecke, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council, issued a statement saying “Jewell’s unique experience and her love of America’s outdoors will be invaluable to the stewardship of the waters, lands and wildlife we’ve been entrusted to protect for our children.” (I wish someone would protect something for this old fogy, like my income).

So why is the environmental community so pleased? In a 2007 interview Jewell said she was “intrigued” by the “success” of cap-and-trade as it was applied to sulfur dioxide and has called for “real change” in our policies related to global warming.  And in 2009 she stated, “I know tax is a dirty word, but if we were paying a carbon tax that accounted for our impact on greenhouse gases, that would in fact change our consumption . . . Regulation plays an important role in driving behavior.” Jewell is on the board of the National Parks Conservation Association which has successfully worked to close down an 80 year-old business in California because it’s in a Wilderness area. Her company, REI, created the Conservation Alliance, a foundation which doles out money to enviro groups such as Earth Justice and has actively supported the Clinton-era Roadless Area Conservation Rule. Finally, she was a 2009 recipient of the Audubon Society’s Rachel Carson Award.

New Chairman

Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore) has replaced retired Senator Jeff Bingaman as the chairman of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. A spokesman for Wyden says, “Generally, Sen. Wyden has said that he would like to restore the Energy and Natural Resources Committee to something resembling the success of the committee in the past.”  Intended or not, that seems to be a slap at our former Senator.

Also of interest to New Mexico would be another attempt at an Omnibus Public Lands bill. On that Wyden’s spokesman says . . . one of Sen. Wyden’s first priorities will be to pass the dozens of lands bills left over from last Congress.” There were reports during the recent lame duck Congress that the Democrats in the Senate had jammed over a hundred bills into a Omnibus Public Lands bill which was never made public.  This will be an issue to watch.

Itty Bitty Budget Cuts

There has been a lot of weeping and gnashing of teeth over the “sequestration” budget cuts to take effect this month.  We’re being told that parks will shut down, wildlife will die, permits will not be issued and meat inspectors will be furloughed.  However, the Congressional Budget Office has reported the 2013 cuts amount to just 1.2 percent of total federal spending. The CBO estimates that with the sequester in place, federal spending will be $3.553 trillion in 2013. Without the $44 billion in sequester cuts federal spending would rise to $3.597 trillion.  They are not even close to resolving our spending problem.

Legislation

Senator John Barrasso (R-WY) has again introduced the Grazing Improvement Act (S. 258). You will recall this legislation:

  • Extends Bureau of Land Management and Forest Service Livestock grazing permits from 10 to 20 years for permits that have been completed under the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA)
  • Codifies appropriation rider language that requires grazing permits to be renewed under existing terms and conditions until the renewal process is complete
  • Allows the department secretary to issue a categorical exclusion under NEPA if the decision by the agency is to continue grazing management under the permit, and
  • Codifies appropriation language that allows the appropriate secretary to set the priority and timing for environmental analysis regarding grazing permit renewal.

Neither of our New Mexico Senators has cosponsored the bill.

S. 241 is the number for Senators Udall and Heinrich’s Rio Grande del Norte National Conservation Area Establishment Act which would impact 240,000 acres in Taos and Rio Arriba counties.  Representative Lujan’s companion legislation in the House is H.R. 560.  In addition, all three NM members have written to President Obama and requested he designate the same area as a National Monument.

S. 285 has been introduced by Udall and Heinrich to transfer management of the Valles Caldera to the Park Service.  This would overturn the current trust system originally legislated by former Senator Pete Domenici.

And finally, the Montana House of Representatives has passed a bill that would allow drivers to eat their road kill.  “This includes deer, elk, moose and antelope, the animals with the most meat,” said State Rep. Steve Lavin.

Hopefully this will start a west-wide movement for a “meals under wheels” program.

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).