N.M. Federal Lands News

My column this month discusses dinero, disgust over a 52-second hearing, destruction of our forests, details of a “radical” wilderness bill and diminution of greenhouse gases by garlicky cows.

Dinero & Public Policy. 

One of the ways Republicans in the House of Representatives can exert influence over the Obama administration

is by policy riders on appropriation bills. These usually take the form of an actual policy prescription or “no funds shall be spent on” language placed in the legislation.

This year’s appropriation bill for Interior, EPA and the Forest Service is loaded with them. Here’s a few of special interest to us:

  • A five-year extension of a grazing rider that allows the BLM to extend existing grazing permits while they complete environmental work on 10-year renewals;
  • A provision allowing the BLM to transfer permits under the same conditions without triggering the NEPA process;
  • A provision exempting the process of trailing from NEPA requirements for the next five years;
  • A provision requiring litigants to exhaust the administrative appeals process before litigating in federal courts on grazing issues;
  • A provision requiring the EPA, Forest Service, and DOI to report to the Appropriations Committee detailed information on any EAJA payments and to make that information publicly available;
  • A provision blocking the EPA from implementing new greenhouse gas emission regulations, prohibiting a change in the definition of navigable waterways, and clarifying that aquatic pesticides are not subject to duplicative regulation under the Clean Water Act.
  • Provisions that prevent the EPA from regulating animal emissions of ammonia under the Clean Air Act and another that stops the EPA from attempting to regulate farm dust.

There was also a provision blocking the Fish & Wildlife Service from listing anymore endangered species, but that language was removed by a vote of the full House.

Rep. Mike Simpson of Idaho is orchestrating the bill through the House and says, “As every single rancher who lives west of the Mississippi River knows, our nation’s leading environmental laws have evolved from species and resource protection acts at their inception to land and water control acts today.” He continued, “For too long, Congress has sat idly by watching as the courts transform federal laws away from what Congress intended and toward an ideology that abhors multiple-uses and openly states its desire to move both livestock and anything with wheels off of public lands.”

Rep. Hal Rogers of Kentucky, Chairman of the Appropriations Committee said the bill spends $2.1 billion less than last year and $3.8 billion less than the President’s request. “Some areas that will see bigger reductions include climate change programs, which is trimmed 22 percent from last year, and land acquisition funding, which is at a level nearly 79 percent lower than last year” said Rogers.

The bill is still being debated in the House and then must pass the Senate. Who knows how many of these provisions will survive, but it was exactly this policy rider process that rid us of the infamous Wild Lands Policy concocted by Interior Secretary Salazar.

Bingaman’s 52-Second Hearing on NM Bill

Yes, the heading is correct. On August 3 a Senate Subcommittee held a hearing on S. 1024, Senator Jeff Bingaman’s legislation to create 242,000 acres of Wilderness in southern New Mexico. Bingaman chairs the full Committee and is an ex-officio member of the Subcommittee, but didn’t even show up for the hearing. BLM Director Bob Abbey’s oral testimony on the bill lasted exactly 52 seconds. No other witnesses were invited to testify. I guess Bingaman is just tired of hearing New Mexican’s views on his bill.

Forum For Our Forest

Representative Steve Pearce of New Mexico, chairman of the Congressional Western Caucus, and Representative Paul Gosar of Arizona, member of the House Natural Resources Committee, recently held a joint “Forum For Our Forest” meeting in Arizona. The meeting provided constituents an opportunity to express concerns on forest management and wildfires, especially the recent Wallow fire. According to Rep. Gosar nearly four hundred residents from eastern Arizona and western New Mexico offered their ideas and expressed their frustrations with past federal forest policies.

Representative Pearce said, “For decades, reckless forest management has killed logging jobs and contributed to dry, overcrowded forests.” Both Representatives touted their bill, H.R. 2562, the Wallow Fire Recovery and Monitoring Act, which puts forth an expedited removal of hazardous, dead and dying trees in the areas affected by the Wallow Fire.

Perhaps the whole situation was best summarized by Arizona rancher Roxanne Knight. At a recent meeting in Prescott she said, “The message I want to share is that this fire was tragic, it was senseless, it was unnecessary (and) had it not been for a lot of misguided policies over the last 20, 30 years, our forest did not have to get in that condition.” Knight continued, “Natural fires are one thing, monster fires like this are created by failed policies of forest management, and we have to change it. If we don’t we will have no forest left in the Southwest.”

Ironically, while ranchers and others are trying to get a few thinning projects going here, the Park Service will be felling “thousands of trees” at Yosemite National Park. Seems the trees are so thick visitors can’t see the park’s waterfalls and the faces of El Capitan and Half Dome. That’s about to change. “Chain saws will be fired up in the fall,” says Supt. Don Neubacher. One can only conclude protecting these “iconic views” is more important than the health and safety of folks living in the Southwest.

Wilderness Release

Recently the House Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests, and Public Lands held a hearing on H.R. 1581, The Wilderness and Roadless Area Release Act of 2011. This legislation implements the recommendations of the Bureau of Land Management and the Forest Service to lift the restrictive management practices on 43 million acres of land determined by the agencies to lack Wilderness characteristics. Testifying before the Subcommittee, Senator John Barrasso of Wyoming said, “This Act ends the cycle of indefinite wilderness review and management of these non-wilderness recommended lands. It allows local Americans and stakeholders to work with agency officials to develop management plans that best balance recreation, multiple-use, and conservation.” New Mexico Rep. Steve Pearce testified, “H.R. 1581 is good for the West and good for America.”

Opposing the legislation were Obama appointees from Interior and USDA, and former Secretary of Interior Bruce Babbitt. Babbitt said the bill was “the most radical” proposal on public lands in his lifetime. I guess we’ve now reached the point where actually implementing the law is “radical”.

County Manages Federal Land & Feed Them Cows Garlic

Linn County in Oregon is managing campgrounds owned by the Forest Service. This year they signed a five-year contract to manage six rustic campgrounds. The county will pay the Forest Service 5.3 percent of adjusted gross income, or a minimum of $2,628 annually. “So far, everything is going well,” county parks director Brian Carroll says. Carroll said comments about the Forest Service campgrounds have been positive. “We have a couple campground hosts and we have two staff people working the new campgrounds,” Carroll said. “They’re doing a great job and people are noticing.” As Congress and the President struggle over areas to cut spending, the Linn County model could be applied all across the West.

Finally, the latest research shows you can reduce farm animals’ wind and substantially reduce greenhouse gases by adding garlic to their feed. According to Professor Jamie Newbold, cows eating feed enriched with the garlic compound — called Allicin — release 40 percent less gas without interference to their normal digestive fermentation,.

My first thought was we should feed the compound to the politicians in D.C. and thereby reduce the most noxious wind of all.

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 ).