N.M. Federal Lands News

by Frank DuBois

The Federal Land Council News

This month we tackle global warming at BLM, the learning curve of ranchers and bicyclists, and a sin tax on meat

According to an internal memo sent in April, the BLM is developing comprehensive guidance on calculating the climate change impacts of various activities on federal land. The memo, from Ed Roberson, assistant director for resources and planning, says climate change is a “reality” and “the rapid warming of the past half-century is due primarily to human activities.” The memo then directs that “all discussion of climate change in BLM’s NEPA documents” be “consistent with this conclusion.”

Notice that it says “all discussion.”  Even though NEPA has all kinds of requirements for public input, as far as BLM is concerned the science is settled and the debate is over. No use wasting your breathe or ink commenting to BLM about climate change.

The enviros are giddy over this, with a spokesman for WildEarth Guardians saying this is “the most authoritative statement from BLM on the reality of climate change.”

I think the memo was written because BLM field offices have handled the controversial Obama Administration tool known as the social cost of carbon (SCC) differently. The memo states the SCC “estimates the cost to future generations incurred by the emission of one additional metric ton of carbon dioxide.” Developed by the Obama folks in 2010, the original SCC was set at $24 per metric ton but has since been increased to $38 per metric ton. Yes friends, the cost of everything has gone up under Obama. Anyway, some BLM field offices were using the SCC and some weren’t, and we all know the one thing the enviros can’t stand is diversity.

It’s clear the enviro community is spurring hard to whip the federal agencies into line on global warming. Two former Obama officials, one from Interior and the other from the President’s Council of Economic Advisors, have written a piece for the New York Times calling for the use of the SCC. They want the precedent set now and used in all documents for the next two years. They will tolerate no foot-dragging on this one. It’s all line-dancing for the agencies now. No more pick your own partner.

Ranchers & Bicyclists

They are both learning.

Concerning the proposed Grand Canyon Watershed National Monument, Arizona rancher Jim Parks has written, “While activities such as grazing within a national monument are not “automatically” prohibited, history would indicate that, at some point, our livelihood as ranchers will be compromised.” Parks also says, “As someone who has lived off this land, as a rancher and sportsman, I fear my rights will be infringed upon with a monument designation.” He then cites two examples of what has happened on two monuments in Arizona.

Here again, there is the clear intent of the enviros to clamp down on livestock grazing in National Monuments. Just track the language in the Proclamations.  President Clinton, in his Proclamation on the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument (1996), has this language:

Nothing in this proclamation shall be deemed to affect existing permits or leases for, or levels of, livestock grazing on Federal lands within the monument; existing grazing uses shall continue to be governed by applicable laws and regulations other than this proclamation.

Now, look at the language used by President Obama in his Proclamation on the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument (2014):

Laws, regulations, and policies followed by the BLM in issuing and administering grazing permits or leases on lands under its jurisdiction shall continue to apply with regard to the lands in the monument, consistent with the protection of the objects identified above.

Similar language was in his Proclamation for the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument (2013). Nothing there saying the designation doesn’t affect existing permits or levels of livestock grazing. In fact, it ties livestock grazing right in to the designation by saying it must be “consistent” with protecting all the objects listed in the Proclamation.

The enviros have lost several cases where they had sued to have livestock grazing restricted in the agency management plans for a monument. In the most recent, Western Watershed Project v. Abbey (2013), the court ruled in favor of the BLM, saying their interpretation of the language in the Proclamation for the Missouri Breaks National Monument (2001) was “reasonable” in that “the Monument designation in itself did not mandate a need for an adjustment of forage allocated to livestock.” However, that Proclamation does not include the “consistency” language.

We’ll see how the BLM interprets the new language and whether or not that will result in another lawsuit. It is quite evident the enviros want livestock grazing restricted in the management plan and will continue seeking Proclamation language until that is accomplished. That way the fight is over the generic management plan where they can call in their legal guns and rely on their thousands of letter writers, instead of having to do on-the-ground, site-specific and science-based analysis for each allotment in the Monument.

One more item on the designation of Monuments:  In his column Jim Parks is doubtful that his U.S. Rep. will take rancher’s concerns into consideration, as she has written, “Overall, the comments have been overwhelmingly in favor of a national monument designation.” That troubles Mr. Parks, who attended the only public meeting at the representative’s Flagstaff office, where he says the 27 people who spoke were almost evenly split on the idea.   He should consider himself lucky. In our case here in Doña Ana County, the enviros bussed in folks from Santa Fe, Albuquerque, Silver City and El Paso for our one public meeting. They even barred our Sheriff, who was opposed to the Monument, from entering the meeting. Bottom Line: it’s all a façade and public sentiment doesn’t matter one iota to these folks. They’ve got two years until Obama is gone and they will push for all they can get during that time frame.

Let’s now turn to the bicyclists, who are in the process of learning but aren’t quite there yet. The Bitterroot National Forest recently released the final draft of its forest-wide travel plan which closes off 102,000 acres of two Wilderness Study Areas to motorized and mechanized transport. Lance Pysher, president of a backcountry cyclists group says he was “pretty shocked” by the final draft, which prohibits bicycling on 178 miles of trails currently used by his group and others. The Forest Supervisor claims their hands are tied because the Wilderness Act prohibits “mechanized transport”.

First, Mr. Pysher, the Forest Service has a lot more flexibility on management than they are telling. These are administratively designated Wilderness Study Areas, not congressionally passed Wilderness Areas.  If mountain bicycling didn’t threaten the wilderness characteristics before, it certainly doesn’t now and can be allowed until Congress acts. Second, many mountain biking groups have spent years lobbying against the interpretation of mechanical transport. Forget it. They won’t allow this wheelchair I’m sitting in so they sure won’t allow your bicycles. Better to spend your time, money and prestige opposing Wilderness.

Sin Tax On Meat

Columnist Heather Moore recently proposed a sin tax on meat and dairy products for “your health and the health of the planet.” She figures Congress should levy a 10-cent tax on every pound of meat sold in grocery stores and restaurants – and a modest sin tax on each dairy item and carton of eggs. She says we “pay a tax on gasoline in order to motivate us to conserve fossil fuels” and asserts we should do the same on animal-based food products to protect us from pollution and climate change.

I’m pretty sure Ike and the 1956 Congress weren’t thinking of global warming, climate change or reducing pollution when they passed the Federal Aid Highway Act, which created the gas tax and the Highway Trust Fund. The purpose of the tax and fund was to build the Interstate Highway System. You know, so we could drive bigger rigs farther and faster and burn more fossil fuels than ever before. I know, Al Gore may have told you he invented the Interstate Highway System, but it just ain’t so.

Then you state new taxes on meat and dairy products would “stimulate the economy.” How can that be when all the DC Deep Thinkers advocate tax increases to “cool off” an economy?

I’m sick of these so-called “sin” taxes.  There wasn’t anything about smokin’, drinkin’, eatin’ meat or scramblin’ eggs in those clay tablets anyway. If there’s a sin, it’s the corrupt implementation of our tax system itself. If you have to tax something, then tax the Congress critters, IRSers and their enablers who created this morally corrupt system and leave the rest of us alone to go our merry way.

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).