Friday, October 09, 2015

Groups urge feds to release more Mexican wolves in New Mexico

More than three dozen environmental groups asked the federal government Thursday to release at least five packs of Mexican gray wolves in New Mexico to bolster the genetics of the endangered predators. The groups sent a letter to Interior Secretary Sally Jewell and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Director Dan Ashe. The request came after New Mexico wildlife officials declined to issue permits to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for releases earlier this year in Gila National Forest. The agency also was denied a permit that would’ve cleared the way for more cross-fostering of captive pups by pairs in the wild. The groups asked for federal officials to consult with independent scientists as well as state and local government entities to come up with a multi-year schedule for releasing wolves to address inbreeding within the wild population. “Scientists warn that the lack of timely releases of wolves to the wild jeopardizes the recovery of this unique subspecies of the gray wolf and may doom it to extinction through inbreeding depression,” the letter states...more

The CBD release is here and the letter is here.

Thursday, October 08, 2015

The EPA Spilled Again in Colorado and Failed to Tell

Washington, D.C. (October 8th, 2015) – Reports are in that yesterday the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency caused a spill of 2,000 gallons while working on a cleanup site at the Standard Mine in central western Colorado. The EPA failed to notify federal officials including Rep. Scott Tipton (CO-03) and has yet to comment on the spill. Information from local officials indicates that roughly 2,000 gallons of gray wastewater was released from the site. Work had recently resumed from a temporary halt after the August 5 blowout at Gold King Mine.

In August, EPA contractors released over 3 million gallons of toxic mine water from the Gold King mine cleanup site into the Animas river. Officials in areas all along the river were forced to get their information from other sources and backchannels. The EPA failed to contact local, tribal, and federal officials in a timely manner.

Western Caucus Chairman Cynthia Lummis (WY-at large) and Vice Chairman Scott Tipton (CO-03) issued the following statements in response to the Standard Mine spill:

“I don’t understand how, after all the trouble the EPA is in for the catastrophic Animas River spill, they could fail yet again to inform officials when they make another potentially dangerous mistake,” said Chairman Lummis. “While not the same magnitude of Animus, the EPA has caused another spill and failed to inform all concerned officials in a timely manner. The EPA has broken trust with the American people. Moving forward we need a more trustworthy process to clean up these sites and that solution lies in empowering and cooperating closely with local communities.”

“Another spill caused by the actions of the EPA—at a Superfund site no less—calls further into question this agency’s ability to adequately execute these types of projects. It is troubling and frustrating that the spill occurred yesterday and once again the EPA did not notify our office, despite repeated assurances from EPA after the Gold King blowout that communication would improve. Apparently nothing has changed at EPA,” said Vice Chairman Tipton. “These sites need to be cleaned up, and I believe there is a better way to go about it than the current EPA status-quo. That is why I continue to work with my colleagues and with local stakeholders to put the power and funding to address these problems in the hands of the folks on the ground who have been working to solve them for years. ”

Commissioners: No to Owyhee Canyonlands Monument effort

Wednesday morning, Linn County Commissioners Roger Nyquist, John Lindsey and Will Tucker signed a letter destined for Oregon’s elected officials, opposing plans by the federal government to designate 2.5 million acres in Malheur County — known as the Owyhee Canyonlands Monument — as wilderness and national monument areas.

Proponents of the plan say it will protect 2.5 million acres of land that is rich in geography, has numerous archaeological treasures and would ensure activities such as fishing, boating, hunting and hiking could continue.

“We do not support a federal designation of public lands without the concurrence of affected local governments or local public participation,” the letter read in part. “A special federal land designation, such as a monument, will have a negative economic impact to those living in the area. Ranching operations throughout southeastern Oregon will be reduced as the majority of ranchers are tied to federal grazing.”

The commissioners’ resolution opposed the federal proposal due to the following concerns:

• All mining and natural gas exploration efforts will cease.
• MalheurCounty will lose its number one ranking in cattle production in the state.
• Hunting and fishing will be severely limited due to no motorized access.
• The cost of search and rescue operations will increase due to limited access.
• The county will lose property tax revenue to the county and state.
• Rural school numbers will decrease.
• Loss of direct and ancillary ag jobs in an already economically depressed area.
• Wildfire dangers could increase due to more dry vegetation and local of best management practices in rangelands.
• Decreased wildlife.

Are Ranchers Terrorists?

It’s a prime example of why ranchers and the BLM don’t get along. Eastern Oregon ranchers Dwight and Steven Hammond served three months and one year in federal prison, respectively, after a fire they started on their property spread to BLM land. The fire, set to control juniper trees and sagebrush, burned less than 140 acres of public land. A jury convicted the father and son in 2012, and a U.S. District Judge handed down the sentence. Should have been case closed, except the feds weren’t satisfied. They appealed the sentence because it didn’t meet mandatory guidelines stipulated in the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996, which Congress passed following the Oklahoma City bombing. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed, and yesterday U.S. District Court Judge Ann Aiken re-sentenced the men to five years in federal prison. Oregon Farm Bureau president Barry Bushue said, “This is an example of gross government overreach, and the public should be outraged.  link

Statement by Oregon Farm Bureau President Barry Bushue on sentencing of Steve and Dwight Hammond to five years in federal prison

“Today two Oregon ranchers were sentenced to five years in federal prison under terrorism statutes for setting preventative fires on their own land. We are gravely disappointed at this outcome.

Elderly Harney County rancher Dwight Hammond and his son, Steven, a former OFB Board member and Harney County Farm Bureau president, have already served time in federal prison for their mistakes and paid their debt to society for the less-than-140 acres of BLM land that was accidentally impacted by the fires.

This is an example of gross government overreach, and the public should be outraged.

Today’s verdict is also hypocritical given BLM’s own harm to public and private grazing lands, which goes without consequence. It is unjust. OFB worked on this case quietly behind the scenes with BLM through the spring and summer. That diligent diplomatic effort was fruitless.

This prosecution will have a chilling effect across the West among ranchers, foresters, and others who rely on federal allotments and permits. It will harm the positive relationship many ranchers and organizations have worked to forge with the BLM, and undermine the cooperative spirit most ranchers have brought to the bureau in helping the health of the range.

Please join Farm Bureau and declare your support for Steve and Dwight Hammond. Join over 2,600 other citizens from across the country and show BLM that this extreme abuse of power will not go unnoticed and is shameful. Sign the petition at This must never happen again.

OFB will continue to work to bring public and policymaker attention to this case.”

See my previous post here.

Editorial - ‘Wolf-friendly beef’ idea patronizing to ranchers

There isn’t anyone who hasn’t said something that sounded better in their head than it did when they said it out loud.

That’s what we thought when we heard that conservation groups in Washington participating on the state’s wolf advisory panel suggested helping ranchers by creating a premium label for “wolf-friendly beef” for producers who employ Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife wolf protection measures.

Dan Paul, state director of The Humane Society of the United States, said as with cage-free eggs, some consumers would be willing to pay more for beef raised with wolf protection measures.


First, we’d point out that all beef raised on grazing land in wolf country is “wolf-friendly.” It all can fall prey. Ranchers in Washington and Oregon can’t legally shoot a wolf, as they are protected either by state or federal law. In fact, we would argue beef protected by extensive measures championed by the panel is less friendly to wolves. If the measures work — and producers say the results are mixed at best — wolves have to work harder for their meal.

Second, we think the number of people who would pay more for beef in order to somehow help wolves would be small.

Though we don’t necessarily think it’s true, people who buy cage-free eggs believe they’re getting a better quality product because of the way hens are treated. The reasoning goes that cage-free hens are exposed to less disease and stress, therefore their eggs are better.

But there is no corresponding perceived quality enhancement for “wolf-friendly” beef. The benefits from such measures go exclusively to the wolves and their champions.

Ranchers are quick to point out that to recoup the cost of the suggested counter-measures, “wolf-friendly” products would have to be priced 50 percent more than comparable conventional (wolf hostile?) products.

We’ll give the wolf advocates the benefit of the doubt that they are sincere in their desire to help ranchers cope with wolves on the range. But a new marketing ploy is not a substitute for a viable management plan that includes a full range of control options, including lethal measures for problem wolves.

Gosar cheers removal of Sonoran desert tortoise from Endangered Species candidate list

U.S. Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ) released a statement this week commending the recent U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service decision to remove the Sonoran desert tortoise from the Endangered Species Act (ESA) candidate list, calling it a win for common sense. “For far too long, unnecessary and misguided species listings, not based on science, have resulted in endless new regulations that harm our economic prosperity,” Gosar said. Gosar’s statement acknowledged the likelihood of an appeal from environmental groups, but an accompanying release highlighted the reasons why the decision stands to benefit Arizonans, one of which is that listing the tortoise would impact State Trust land revenues, which help fund K-12 education. “Local conservation efforts continue to yield positive results for threatened species like the Sonoran desert tortoise and incentivize local property owners, ranchers and developers to work with federal and state wildlife management agencies,” Gosar said...more

For decades, the government steered millions away from whole milk. Was that wrong?

U.S. dietary guidelines have long recommended that people steer clear of whole milk, and for decades, Americans have obeyed. Whole milk sales shrunk. It was banned from school lunch programs. Purchases of low-fat dairy climbed. “Replace whole milk and full-fat milk products with fat-free or low-fat choices,” says the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, the federal government's influential advice book, citing the role of dairy fat in heart disease. Whether this massive shift in eating habits has made anyone healthier is an open question among scientists, however. In fact, research published in recent years indicates that the opposite might be true: millions might have been better off had they stuck with whole milk. Scientists who tallied diet and health records for several thousand patients over ten years found, for example, that contrary to the government advice, people who consumed more milk fat had lower incidence of heart disease. By warning people against full-fat dairy foods, the United States is “losing a huge opportunity for the prevention of disease,” said Marcia Otto, an assistant professor of epidemiology at the University of Texas and the lead author of large studies published in 2012 and 2013, which were funded by government and academic institutions, not the industry. “What we have learned over the last decade is that certain foods that are high in fat seem to be beneficial.”  This shift in understanding has led to accusations that the Dietary Guidelines harmed those people who for years avoided fats -- as instructed -- and loaded up excessively on the carbohydrates in foods such as breads, cookies and cakes that were marketed as "low fat." It also has raised questions about the scientific foundations of the government’s diet advice: To what extent did the federal government, and the diet scientists they relied upon, go wrong? When the evidence is incomplete on a dietary question, should the government refrain from making recommendations?...more

About the Washington Post article above, John Merlin writes:

The story goes on to note that the government's push for Americans to eat a high-carb diet "provokes a number of heart disease risk factors." As the Harvard School of Public Health's Walter Willett put it, the "campaign to reduce fat in the diet has had some pretty disastrous consequences." The Post goes on to note that this "has raised questions about the scientific foundations of the government's diet advice." It should. Based on flimsy evidence, the USDA first started urging people to eat low-fat diets in 1977. As evidence grew that this advice was misguided — at best — it steadfastly refused to change course. So what we have here is the U.S. government using its power and might to push Americans — quite successfully — to change their eating habits in ways that likely killed many of them. If a private enterprise had done this, it would face massive class action lawsuits, its executives would be in jail, and its reputation permanently ruined.

Reminds me of what I posted yesterday about government-set fires, i.e., there is no accountability. Bottom line: the feds are mismanaging one out of every three acres in the U.S., and you best keep them out of your kitchen too. 

Got Incompetence?  Oh yes, we are surrounded by it.  

Federal judge returns ranchers to prison in fire case

An Eastern Oregon rancher and his adult son on Wednesday finally got the prison sentences they deserve — according to the law — for deliberately setting fires that spread from their property onto federal land. Dwight Hammond Jr., 73, and Steven Hammond, 46, were each sentenced to mandatory minimum sentences of five years, in proceedings scheduled after a federal appeals court ruled that a judge in Eugene had disregarded the law and let the ranchers off too lightly during their original sentencing hearing three years ago. Now-retired U.S. District Judge Michael Hogan in 2012 sentenced Steven Hammond to one year and a day in prison for setting intentional fires in 2001 and 2006, and ordered Dwight Hammond to spend three months behind bars for his involvement in the 2001 blaze, which burned in the Steens Mountain federal management and protection area. Hogan, who retired the day after the hearing, said at the time that the mandatory minimum five-year sentences represented “grossly disproportionate” punishment for the crimes. The government appealed Hogan’s decision, and a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last year that Hogan had illegally sentenced the Hammonds to terms below the mandatory minimum. The Harney County ranchers already have served the sentences imposed by Hogan, and will receive credit for that time when they return to prison. Nearly 20 friends and relatives of the Hammonds attended Wednesday’s sentencing hearing in U.S. District Court in Eugene. District Judge Ann Aiken imposed the mandatory minimum sentences and explained to those in attendance that the hearing was required after the appeals court “sent it back for the (district) court to follow the law.” A federal jury in Pendleton found the Hammond ranchers guilty of using fire to damage and destroy federal property, after a two-week trial in June 2012...more

For more background on this case, see this and this.

Surely then, when the federales set burns on federal property that damages private lands, they will go to jail too, right?

WildEarth Guardians seek support for grazing buyout legislation

It’s long past time to give America’s endangered wolves more room to roam on our public lands and simultaneously give ranchers the ability to permanently retire their grazing permits.  We’ve got just the tool to help both wolves and ranchers: it’s called grazing permit retirement. But we need Congress to pass legislation to allow this to happen across the western landscape.  Join us in telling Congress to pass legislation that will allow us to work with more and more ranchers to retire livestock grazing from our most sensitive and valuable public lands in the west. Lets give them an exit strategy that will be fair and equitable to everyone.  On public land across the West, millions of livestock remove and trample vegetation, damage soil, spread invasive weeds, despoil water, deprive native wildlife of forage and shelter, accelerate desertification, and even contribute to global warming.  Raising cattle generates more global warming greenhouse gases, as measured in CO2 equivalent, than transportation. On federal public lands alone livestock account for annual emissions equivalent of 705,342 passenger vehicles. Now there is proposed legislation that would provide an equitable solution. The Rural Economic Vitalization Act (H.R. 3410) would begin to alleviate these problems by providing public lands ranchers the option to relinquish their grazing permits in exchange for market-based compensation paid by private release 

Keep in mind that similar legislation targeted to specific Wilderness areas and surrounding allotments, championed by Idaho Republican Mike Simpson in the House and agreed to by both Republican Idaho Senators, has passed Congress and been signed into law this year.  See this.

Sheep wars rage on in southwest Montana

by Ben Goldfarb

Last month, on a remote, snow-dusted rise high in Montana’s Gravelly Mountains, I found myself beset by an army of livestock.

The sheep came over the hill in martial lines, a fleecy platoon framed by the teeth of the Madison Range, guard dogs nipping at their cloven heels like irate sergeants. The four-legged troops quickly captured our knoll, and my companions and I retreated to our car to watch the flock tug at the brown grass. Eventually a solitary horseman appeared along the ridgeline and began coaxing the sheep toward lower ground. It was mid-September, and the mountain grazing season had reached its end — for the final time, if conservationists get their way. I had, perhaps, witnessed the last hurrah of the Beaverhead-Deerlodge flock.

From Wayne Hage to Cliven Bundy, Westerners have been clashing over livestock since Gus McCrae and Captain Call first drove cattle into Montana. Even within that proud tradition, however, the current tussle over the Helle & Rebish/Konen flock stands out. Together, the families graze around 8,000 sheep from July to September on seven allotments in the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest, a gentle but wild swell overlooking the plains of the Madison Valley. The sheep live on private land the rest of the year.
...Grazing also impedes the recovery of bighorn sheep, which are susceptible to contracting pneumonia from their domestic brethren. To avoid devastating outbreaks, wildlife managers strive to prevent wild and domestic sheep from mingling on the range, effectively precluding bighorns from vast swaths of public land. In Montana, the standoff has proved disastrous to bighorn recovery. 

Though the state vowed in 2010 to create five new bighorn herds over a decade, there’s nowhere to stick the ungulates that wouldn’t expose them to disease. The situation has gotten so bad that some officials say Montana would be better off shipping its sheep to South Dakota.

Though bighorn sheep were reintroduced near the Gravelly Mountains in 2002, that herd comprises only 35 animals, far below the 125 that Montana deems a viable unit. Nearby herds are hardly faring better. According to conservationists, that’s because grazing’s giant hoofprint has kept bighorn herds too small and isolated to thrive.

“The question is, are we really going to allocate all this public land to domestic sheep influence?” demands Glenn Hockett, president of the Gallatin Wildlife Association.

Service Proposes to List the Headwater Chub and Roundtail Chub as Threatened Under the Endangered Species Act

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) is proposing to list two minnows, the headwater chub and a distinct population segment (DPS) of the roundtail chub in the Lower Colorado River Basin (Arizona and New Mexico), as threatened species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The headwater chub (Gila nigra) grows to about eight inches in length, is dark gray to brown with silvery sides, and lives in the upper and middle reaches of moderately sized streams. Headwater chub historically occur in a number of tributaries of the Verde River, most of the Tonto Creek drainage, much of the San Carlos River drainage, and parts of the upper Gila River in New Mexico. Today, they occur in the same drainages, but have a smaller distribution. The nine- to 14-inch roundtail chub (Gila robusta, also known as the Verde trout) is an olive-gray to silver minnow with a lighter belly. The species was historically considered common in deep pools and eddies of large streams throughout its range in the Upper and Lower Colorado River basins in Wyoming, Utah, Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona. Today the roundtail chub occupies about 18 percent of its historical range in the Lower Colorado River Basin and is limited to Arizona’s Little Colorado, Bill Williams, Salt, San Carlos and Verde River drainages, Eagle and Aravaipa creeks, and New Mexico’s upper Gila River...Press Release

Return of the water wars revisited: an opinionated book review

Colorado speculative fiction writer Paolo Bacigalupi’s new book, The Water Knife (Alfred A. Knopf, 2015, $25.95), has caught on...I’m a trained historian and journalist. We assemble facts and try to make sense of them. Fiction writers do what we cannot: let us inside the thoughts and hearts of those we write about. Fiction writers are not bound to the provable; they can use informed imagination to show us what if….and that’s what Bacigalupi does. The novel is set in a near-future Las Vegas and Phoenix, with the Southwest overheated and dry due to climate change. Mexico is now run on the state level by drug cartels, and California remains the promised land. States have legislated sovereignty and use the National Guard to patrol their borders to keep migrants — mostly from drought-destroyed Texas — out. Water is the most precious resource, and the wealthy have water-rich “arcologies” with waterfalls and ponds using recycled wastewater. The poor scramble for Chinese yuan to buy drinking water daily. Legal battles combine with helicopter raids, blowing up dams and cutting Arizona’s CAP canal line. The rich cluster in Las Vegas while squatters occupy what’s left of Phoenix. “The CAP is Arizona’s IV drip,” a character says. Colorado, Utah and Wyoming threaten to hold back the shrinking supply of Colorado River water, as they are, in fact, trying to do. Aquifers have been pumped nearly dry and dust storms are so common people routinely wear dust masks from REI. Urine is recycled into drinking water. Swimming pools are dry and collect dead bodies. Farmers disappear overnight when they won’t sell their water rights...more

California poised to be 1st state to outlaw human antibiotics in livestock

This has been the year of antibiotics awareness in the food industry. Giant food corporations like McDonald’s, Tyson, Foster Farms and Costco all announced plans to phase out meat raised with antibiotics. But these efforts pale in comparison to pending California legislation that aims to strictly limit antibiotic use in agriculture and, according to public health experts, could reduce the number of deaths and illnesses caused by drug-resistant bacteria. With the passage of SB27, which Gov. Jerry Brown is expected to sign by Sunday, California would be the first state in the nation to outlaw the routine use of human antibiotics in livestock. Supporters say it could have a wide-ranging influence. “California is a big agricultural state, and it often is a bellwether for the nation. We often see the FDA following suit or other states following suit,” said Elisa Odabashian of Consumers Union, a supporter of the bill, speaking of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Sales of medically important antibiotics to livestock producers went up 20 percent from 2009 to 2013, according to the FDA, just as Americans have become increasingly concerned by their use. According to research conducted for the U.S. Farmers & Ranchers Alliance, 48 percent of consumers are “uncomfortable” with antibiotic use in animal production, and 53 percent of consumers frequently wonder if the food they buy is safe. Currently, livestock producers across the country can purchase over-the-counter antibiotics in the form of feed, injections and pills. In what’s called subtherapeutic antibiotic use, low daily or routine doses of antibiotics can be used to promote growth, which reduces feed costs. Antibiotics can also be routinely added to feed or water to help prevent disease or to directly treat an infection...more

Wednesday, October 07, 2015

More than 200 hundred new species discovered

A sneezing monkey, a walking fish and a jewel-like snake are just some of a biological treasure trove of over 200 new species discovered in the Eastern Himalayas in recent years, according to a new report by WWF. The report, Hidden Himalayas: Asia’s Wonderland released on World Habitat Day maps out scores of new species found by scientists from various organizations including 133 plants, 39 invertebrates, 26 fish, 10 amphibians, one reptile, one bird and one mammal. The volume and diversity of discoveries, 211 in total between 2009 and 2014, highlight the region as one of the most biologically diverse places on Earth; the discoveries listed equating to an average of 34 new species discovered annually for the past six years...more

AFBF, NCBA, other ag groups support trade deal

The American Farm Bureau said, “We hope the agreement will bring a more level playing field for farmers and ranchers by reducing tariffs and removing non-science based barriers to trade. We expect to see increased access for our agricultural products, particularly some meats.” While he reserved final judgment on the agreement until he is able to read it, Wade Cowan, president of the American Soybean Association, said, “The agreement will eliminate tariffs and other market access barriers in most markets and substantially increase access in remaining markets. We are optimistic that soybeans, soybean products and the livestock products produced by our customers all will fare well in the TPP agreement when specific details are revealed.” And by the way, soybeans are the top U.S. farm export when measured by value. Chip Bowling, president of the National Corn Growers, said, "We are hopeful that this agreement continues the tradition of past free trade agreements, which have had a positive impact for America's farmers and ranchers. In the coming weeks, we will carefully examine the agreement to determine whether it is in the best interests of America's corn farmers." U.S. Grains Council CEO Tom Sleight said the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement is expected to increase the output of all U.S. grain exports by 11 percent. The National Cattlemen’s’ Beef Association said, “Congress should ratify the TPP, we can’t afford to pass this off to other countries. We’re the biggest economy in this agreement and it’s time for the U.S. to really take the lead.” The National Pork Producers Council said, “The Trans Pacific Partnership trade agreement will help ensure that exports of U.S. pork products remain competitive in Asian markets. There’s nothing at this point that gives us any pause.”...more

Western States Fighting for Control of Federal Lands

by Ann Purvis

A new report from the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) highlights a growing rift between Western states and the national government over what the states argue is gross mismanagement of the federal lands within their borders.

According to ALEC, more than 50 bills to transfer public lands from the federal government to state control were offered in or adopted by state legislatures in 2015.

On average, the national government controls more than 50 percent of the land within the borders of the 12 most western states, including 81 percent of Nevada and 66 percent of Utah. The national government controls just 4 percent of land in the 38 non-western states. Utah and its western neighbors are increasingly calling for the same treatment, with some Western lawmakers contending states could better manage the resources. 

Federal Land Mismanagement

ALEC calculates taxpayers lose $2 billion annually due to federal mismanagement of public lands. Federal land management agencies also face large maintenance backlogs, the study found. The National Park Service alone had a backlog of more than $11 billion of work, as of 2014.

The report highlights research from the Property and Environment Research Center showing every dollar spent by the federal government managing lands in Arizona, Idaho, Montana, and New Mexico returned just 73 cents to the federal treasury, whereas every dollar spent by those state governments on their public lands earned a return of $14.51.

Karla Jones, director of the ALEC Task Force on International Relations and Federalism and author of the federal lands report, says the disparity between federal and state management largely comes down to bureaucracy, with the federal government’s “use it or lose it budgeting” giving federal agencies no incentive to cut costs. 

Wildfire Concerns

Advocates of transferring federal land to the states contend states would be better stewards of the environment on public lands, as well as managing them more economically.

From 1980–89, during the Reagan administration, the number of large wildfires on federal lands averaged 140 per year. Because the amount of logging declined by 80 percent and hundreds of forest roads were closed since 1989, the number of large wildfires has risen substantially, topping 250 large fires annually from 2000–09. The U.S. Forest Service reports more than half the agency’s budget will go toward dealing with wildfires in 2015, up from just 16 percent in 1995.

Although critics of plans to transfer federal lands to the states question whether states can assume the growing costs of fighting wildfires, proponents argue federal mismanagement has exacerbated the wildfire problem.

“Of course the states cannot afford to manage fires and forests the way the federal government does,” said Utah state Rep. Ken Ivory (R-Salt Lake County).

Ivory says reducing the fuel loads—trees and other combustible material—in these areas would reduce the problem.

Jones suggests states could create additional road access to “give firefighters greater ability to get to fires while they’re still small.”

The ALEC report is here.