Saturday, December 06, 2014

Jalapeño study to benefit NM growers

New Mexico is famous for its green chile. Now, the Chile Pepper Institute in Las Cruces is working to come up with the perfect New Mexico jalapeño flavor. The sight, smells and flavor of green chile is associated with New Mexican pride. But locals may be surprised to know which pepper is more popular across the country. “Nationwide, jalapeños do sell more,” explained Paul Bosland, Director of the Chile Pepper Institute, and Horticulture Professor at New Mexico State University. Bosland and his students are working on a study that could make the state’s jalapeños a hot commodity. “Our mission is to help our New Mexico chile growers be competitive,” said Bosland. Bosland explained it’s all about the science behind the spicy product. “It’s not only jalapeños, but all chiles,” Bosland told KRQE News 13. “There’s a trend with fruits and vegetables to be more flavorful and more tasty.” “I always like to use the analogy of wine,” Bosland explained. “We know the flavor components that make a merlot versus a cabernet, and what we’d like to know, well what are those flavor compounds in chiles?” Jalapeños are a key ingredient for lots of fan favorites. They’re in salsa, guacamole and serve as popular side items for ballpark snacks nationwide...more

Friday, December 05, 2014

Virginia brewery taps 300-year-old beer recipe

What do you get when you combine water, American persimmons and hops and ferment it with yeast? A beer based on a 300-year-old recipe scribbled in a cookbook kept by Virginia's prominent Randolph family. Ardent Craft Ales in Richmond recently brewed "Jane's Percimon Beer" unearthed from the book in the Virginia Historical Society's collections from the 1700s that contains food, medicinal remedies and beer recipes. The formula for the Colonial-era concoction is one of thousands of alcoholic recipes in the society's collection that provide a glimpse into what Virginians and others were drinking in the 18th century and other points in history. "You can feel a connection across time when you're drinking something that maybe hasn't been drunk for a couple hundred years," said Paul Levengood, president and CEO of the Virginia Historical Society, a privately funded nonprofit that collects, preserves and interprets the state's history. "It's a fun way to bring the past into the present." The libation is considered a table beer, clocking in at an extremely easy-drinking 3 percent or less of alcohol by volume. That would be pretty typical of alcoholic beverages of the time that were enjoyed with many meals. In 1790, annual per-capita alcohol consumption for those over age 15 was 34 gallons of beer and cider, five gallons of distilled spirits and one gallon of wine, according to US government figures cited in an article in the "Colonial Williamsburg" history magazine...more

 Damn, I'd like to "feel a connection" right now.

Defense bill hits snag over land swaps, wilderness

Quick passage of a sweeping defense policy bill hit a snag on Wednesday over public lands, dividing Senate Republicans. The $585 billion measure authorizing funds for the military includes several unrelated bills to expand wilderness areas in the West and expand the program streamlining oil and gas permits, a popular step with western state lawmakers. Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., objected to their inclusion and promised to block any attempt to quickly finish the bill next week in the final days of the lame-duck session. "A bill that defines the needs of our nation's defense is hardly the proper place to trample on private property rights," Coburn wrote in a letter to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. "Nor is it the place to restrict access to hunting, fishing and other recreational opportunities on massive swaths of taxpayer-supported lands."...more

Boy, are we gonna miss Senator Coburn of Oklahoma, who is retiring.  Instead we are stuck with R's like Senator Murkowski who somehow believes restricting people's access to federal lands (Wilderness) creates jobs:

In a closed-door GOP lunch, Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski argued that the wilderness expansion and other changes create jobs...

Is she thinking that Wilderness will create more federal jobs?  How does not managing the lands require more employees than managing it?  Besides, Section 2(b) of the Wilderness Act states:

No appropriation shall be available for the payment of expenses or salaries for the administration of the National Wilderness Preservation System as a separate unit nor shall any appropriations be available for additional personnel stated as being required solely for the purpose of managing or administering areas solely because they are included within the National Wilderness Preservation System.

Perhaps we have a new statesman in Senator Cruz of Texas:

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, joined Coburn in criticizing the legislation, complaining about the designation of 250,000 acres of new wilderness, in addition to 15 new national park units or expansions and three new wild and scenic river designations.  "With the military's shrinking budget, it is offensive that this bill would be used to fund congressional pork. And, at a time where jobs are scarce and the federal government has removed billions of acres of land from productive use, Congress should not be restricting more than a half-million new acres," Cruz said in a statement.

Notice that both Senators who are proceeding as statesmen on this issue are from non-federal lands states. 

R.J. Smith with the National Center for Public Policy Research hits the issue hard

The leaders of both parties have cut a dark-of-night deal to slip a public lands lock-up package into the murky depths of the nearly 2,000 page National Defense Authorization Act. The federal lands package will take still more of the so-called public lands -- lands supposedly owned by all the people and available for multiple use -- and lock them up for the benefit of elite minorities and pressure groups in mainly limited-use or non-use categories, preventing their use by or benefit to the vast majority of the American people. Hundreds of thousands of acres of land all across the West will be permanently locked up. Still more un-inventoried land will be locked up as Wilderness Areas, set aside and left completely unmanaged to serve as source of forest disease, insect infestation, degradation, death and catastrophic wildfires. America already has over 107 MILLION acres of its lands permanently locked up as Wilderness, which is an area larger than the state of California plus Massachusetts. There is hardly a pressing need for any additional Wilderness.  

And nobody sums it up better than our own Caren Cowan:

"This is a continuation of the governance by blackmail," Cowan said. "The national defense authorization is vital to our nation and those who serve in the military. It should not be used as a bargaining chip for land grabs. Working on land packages in this manner is a disservice to the land and the people who enjoy it."


‘They Know Their Lands Better Than We Do’: Sally Jewell on Tribal Keystone XL Opposition

U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell invoked not only tribal sovereignty but also environmental expertise when she spoke to MSNBC’s José Díaz-Balart about the Keystone XL pipeline, which many tribes oppose. “I think the fact that the tribal nations are standing up saying, ‘We are concerned about this. We are concerned about water quality. We’re concerned about tribal sovereignty. We’re concerned about what this pipeline may do for our lands and our rights,’ needs to be heard,” she said when he asked her to put tribal opposition to Keystone in context. “In my role as secretary of the interior we will make sure that there’s a platform for those tribal voices to be heard,” she said. “And I think they will make a very effective case because they know their lands better than we do.” In the end it will all come down to the State Department, she said, which will make the pipeline decision “by listening to all of the facts and information they have,” including tribal voices...more


If they are depending on Sally Jewell to listen to local voices, they need to pow wow with the folks in Dona Ana County.  

Jewell says, "...they know their lands better than we do."  Too bad she doesn't feel the same way about non-Native Americans.

EPA, Corps May Withdraw Interpretive Rule On Permit-Exempt Conservation Practices

The Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers haven't ruled out the option of withdrawing a non-binding interpretive rule that outlines agricultural conservation practices that would be exempt from Clean Water Act dredge-and-fill permits due to the confusion it has caused among farmers and ranchers, an Agriculture Department official said Dec. 3. “It is one of the options that is being considered,” Jason Weller, chief of the Natural Resources Conservation Service, told Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), the ranking member of the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee. The committee convened the hearing to examine voluntary approaches by farmers and ranchers to improve water and soil quality. Roberts, who will take over as the committee chairman when the 114th Congress convenes in January, asked Weller why the agencies even chose to single out 56 conservation practices as being exempt when the Clean Water Act already exempts all normal agricultural and silvicultural practices from a requirement to obtain Section 404 dredge-and-fill permits. Weller deferred to the EPA and the corps on the need to issue the interpretive rule, saying they are reviewing the 1 million or so comments received on the waters of the U.S. proposed rule...more 



 Weller then testifies:

At the same time, Weller defended the agencies, saying “their intent was good, but unfortunately a lot of concerns were raised,” and much confusion has ensued as a result of the conservation practices that were identified in the interpretive rule.

Their intent was good? And the only reason they may withdraw that section is because all of us country rubes are "confused"? 

Residents living near Petroglyphs National Monument still worried about flood hazards

For one Albuquerque neighborhood, Thursday's rain was not the most welcome sight. A torrential downpour last year sent an avalanche of mud down from the Petroglyphs barreling through their fences and filling their backyards. It took months to clean up, and Thursday, KOB learned there's still no solution in place – not even a temporary one. There are proposals on the table for temporary and permanent solutions, but the federal government and city government have to work together on the project, and one can imagine how much red tape that has caused. "There always a concern here, because as your can see, the trench and all the rocks and stuff…it's always a concern," said Chris Sena, whose home backs up to the Petroglyph National Monument. 2013's downpour opened up the trench behind his house and sent a mudslide into his backyard. He and his family have since cleaned out the mud and rebuilt strong back walls, but every time it rains, it's a reminder that there's still no real solution to prevent it from happening again. "It's going to be a mess if they don't do anything soon, I'm sure. This rain is scary because you never know Mother Nature," Sena said. The City of Albuquerque proposed a quick fix to the problem by installing hay bales along the base of the hill behind homes. But with the city and federal governments both working on the project, the quick fix is anything but...more

I don't understand.  What about all those jobs and other wonderful things that happen with a national monument?

Here's the KOB-TV report:

‘The Homesman’ is a bleak, beautiful look at life in 1850s Nebraska

Brutal. Tommy Lee Jones’ “The Homesman” is a stark and beautiful and bleak portrait of life in the Midwest in the 1850s. The Nebraska territory is so unforgiving, conditions so harsh, you wonder why anyone chose to live there. This is more of a Midwestern than a pure Western, and it contains not an ounce of romance about the time period. There’s no majestic score, no choreographed gunfight, no scene where the hero walks into a saloon in the middle of the day and it’s filled with gamblers, roustabouts and women of ill repute. “The Homesman” is a film about women who go mad after having to bury their children, ranchers barely eking out a living and bargains that are struck in the name of survival. Hilary Swank, as good as she’s ever been (and we’re talking about a two-time Academy Award winner), is Mary Bee Cuddy, who lives alone on a small patch of land, doing the back-breaking work herself while comporting herself as a lady. (After a hard day plowing the fields, Mary Bee washes up and tidies up her home, meticulously placing a vase of flowers just so on the table.) Mary Bee’s in search of a husband, but as a neighboring farmer bluntly tells her after she’s cooked him dinner, sung a tune for him and proposed marriage, she’s far too bossy and plain...more

The Battle of Rattlesnake Springs

On August 6, 1880 two companies of Colonel Benjamin Grierson’s African-American 10th Cavalry troopers from Fort Davis defeated a band of Apaches led by the Warm Springs chief Victorio and turned them back into Mexico, where Victorio was shortly afterward killed. Grierson himself directed the battle. The fight was at a place called Rattlesnake Springs, just west of the highway and about 40 miles north of Van Horn. Victorio’s band had left the Mescalero Apache reservation, near Ruidoso, New Mexico in September 1879 and for the next 11 months struck terror in the hearts of ranchers and settlers in New Mexico, Chihuahua, and West Texas as they raided back and forth across the region, crossing the border into Mexico when the army got too close. In June of 1880 Grierson got word that Victorio intended to cross the Rio Grande from Mexico and slip back to the Mescalero Reservation to replenish his ammunition and recruit more warriors. Grierson’s strategy for intercepting him was to place small detachments of troops at the water holes that he knew Vicrorio’s men would have to use on their journey. On July 29, 1880, Grierson was on his way from Fort Quitman with an escort of a lieutenant and six African-American soldiers to Eagle Springs, near Sierra Blanca, to personally direct part of this operation. He was accompanied by his 20-year old son, Robert, who had just graduated from high school (he was a late bloomer) and was spending the summer with his father at Fort Concho. In his official report of the incident, Grierson wrote that his son “was out in search of adventure and suddenly found it.” As his party reached the eastern end of Quitman Canyon he got word that a large group of Indians had crossed the Rio Grande and was headed north. Determined to intercept them, even though he had only 7 soldiers, he made his camp that evening in the rocks above an intermittent waterhole called Tinaja de las Palmas, where he knew Victorio would have to stop, and sent messages to both Fort Quitman and Eagle Springs asking for reinforcements...more

Thursday, December 04, 2014

Livestock grazing language in NDAA


Below is the grazing language in the NDAA.  The bill is 1648 pages long, and this language starts on page 1187.  You can see the entire bill here.  I'm not sure we have gained much as this has been handled on a yearly basis through appropriations language.  The enviros got 250,000 acres of Wilderness (45,000 in NM), plus more parks (including Valles Caldera) and wild & scenic rivers.


SEC. 3023. GRAZING PERMITS AND LEASES.
Section 402 of the Federal Land Policy and Manage-
ment Act of 1976 (43 U.S.C. 1752) is amended—
 (1) in subsection (c)—
 (A) by redesignating paragraphs (1), (2),
and (3) as subparagraphs (A), (B), and (C), re-
spectively;
 (B) by striking ‘‘So long as’’ and inserting
the following:
 ‘‘(1) RENEWAL OF EXPIRING OR TRANSFERRED
PERMIT OR LEASE
.—During any period in which’’;
and
 (C) by adding at the end the following:
 ‘‘(2) CONTINUATION OF TERMS UNDER NEW
PERMIT OR LEASE
.—The terms and conditions in a
grazing permit or lease that has expired, or was ter-
minated due to a grazing preference transfer, shall
be continued under a new permit or lease until the
date on which the Secretary concerned completes
any environmental analysis and documentation for
the permit or lease required under the National En-
vironmental Policy Act of 1969 (42 U.S.C. 4321 et
seq.) and other applicable laws.
 ‘‘(3) COMPLETION OF PROCESSING
.—As of the
date on which the Secretary concerned completes the
processing of a grazing permit or lease in accordance
with paragraph (2), the permit or lease may be can-
celed, suspended, or modified, in whole or in part.
 ‘‘(4) ENVIRONMENTAL REVIEWS
.—The Sec-
retary concerned shall seek to conduct environmental
reviews on an allotment or multiple allotment basis,
to the extent practicable, if the allotments share
similar ecological conditions, for purposes of compli-
ance with the National Environmental Policy Act of
1969 (42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.) and other applicable
laws.’’;
 (2) by redesignating subsection (h) as sub-
section (j); and
 (3) by inserting after subsection (g) the fol-
lowing:
 ‘‘(h) NATIONAL ENVIRONMENTAL POLICY ACT OF 1969.—
 ‘‘(1) IN GENERAL
.—The issuance of a grazing
permit or lease by the Secretary concerned may be
categorically excluded from the requirement to pre-
pare an environmental assessment or an environ-
mental impact statement under the National Envi-
ronmental Policy Act of 1969 (42 U.S.C. 4321 et
seq.) if—
 ‘‘(A) the issued permit or lease continues
the current grazing management of the allot-
ment; and
 ‘‘(B) the Secretary concerned—
 ‘‘(i) has assessed and evaluated the
grazing allotment associated with the lease
or permit; and
 ‘‘(ii) based on the assessment and
evaluation under clause (i), has determined
that the allotment—
 ‘‘(I) with respect to public land
administered by the Secretary of the
Interior—
 ‘‘(aa) is meeting land health
standards; or
 ‘‘(bb) is not meeting land
health standards due to factors
other than existing livestock
grazing; or
 ‘‘(II) with respect to National
Forest System land administered by
the Secretary of Agriculture—
 ‘‘(aa) is meeting objectives
in the applicable land and re-
source management plan; or
 ‘‘(bb) is not meeting the ob-
jectives in the applicable land re-
source management plan due to
factors other than existing live-
stock grazing.
 ‘‘(2) TRAILING AND CROSSING
.—The trailing
and crossing of livestock across public land and Na-
tional Forest System land and the implementation of
trailing and crossing practices by the Secretary con-
cerned may be categorically excluded from the re-
quirement to prepare an environmental assessment
or an environmental impact statement under the Na-
tional Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (42 U.S.C.
4321 et seq.).
 ‘‘(i) PRIORITY AND TIMING FOR COMPLETION OF ENVIRONMENTAL ANALYSES
.—The Secretary concerned, in
the sole discretion of the Secretary concerned, shall deter-
mine the priority and timing for completing each required
environmental analysis with respect to a grazing allot-
ment, permit, or lease based on—
 ‘‘(1) the environmental significance of the graz-
ing allotment, permit, or lease; and
 ‘‘(2) the available funding for the environmental
analysis.’’.

Change protects wolf release

By Chad Smith

The New Mexico State Game Commission, at their meeting in Espanola on Nov. 13, took action that hunters, hikers and ranchers are applauding since it ensures state control over the reintroduction process for the Mexican gray wolf population.

The commission unanimously approved an amendment to the rule detailing the holding and releasing of a carnivore. The new section states, "The state game commission must review any permit application for the possession or use of any carnivore that is held, possessed or released on private property for the purpose of recovery, reintroduction, conditioning, establishment or re-establishment in New Mexico."

Why is this an important layer of protection for our state's hunters, hikers, bikers and ranchers? Because it makes it illegal for pro-wolf activists to release privately held wolves in our state. Imagine the consequences if you were in the Lincoln National Forest outside of Ruidoso and were not aware of the possibility of wolves, and thus were not vigilant. Your inattention could be fatal.

But who would expect a wolf in that area, 200 miles from Blue Range Wolf Recovery Area, the boundaries of which are currently centered in the Apache-Sitgreaves and Gila National Forests? Pro-wolf activists are not only expecting it, they are advocating for it. At a United States Fish and Wildlife Service meeting held Aug. 13 in Truth or Consequences, changes were proposed to the current Mexican gray wolf re-introduction plan that would change both the habitat and current management guidelines. The designated habitat of the wolf would expand dramatically so that wolves "found" in the Mexican Wolf Experimental Population Area (MWEPA) would not be relocated but would be allowed to stay. The MWEPA consists of 60 percent of the state, stretching south from I-40 and across from the California/Arizona line to the New Mexico/Texas line. Not only are wandering wolves in this zone allowed to remain, but at the request of a land-owner, adult wolves can be released on private land. There is no minimum-sized land holdings required for the agreement, and the release can occur without the consent of the land-holder's neighbors.  



Chad Smith is the CEO of New Mexico Farm & Livestock Bureau, an 18,000 member organization comprised of farmers and ranchers, and those who are interested in private property rights and a local food supply. NMF&LB is the state's largest, private agricultural organization and was founded in 1917.

California wildlife board bans coyote hunting derbies

California wildlife officials on Wednesday banned coyote hunting contests that have sparked a culture clash by offering cash and other prizes to marksmen who killed the most animals. It was the first ban of its kind in the U.S., according to Camilla Fox, executive director of Project Coyote, which petitioned the state to end the popular contests that occur almost every month in California or nearby states. The vote by the state Fish and Game Commission allows hunters to shoot as many of the predators as they wish year-round, but stops the awarding of prizes...more

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Wyoming fence law targets unlawful grazing

A bill that would make it a crime to unlawfully allow livestock to graze on neighboring lands will be sponsored by the Wyoming Legislature’s Joint Agriculture committee. The legislation makes it a misdemeanor to open a gate or remove a fence for the purpose of allowing livestock to graze on neighboring lands outside the landowner's land use rights. The charge carries a fine of up to $750. Jim Magagna, executive director of the Wyoming Stock Growers Association, said at the group’s 2014 Annual Winter Meeting that the law is aimed to keep owners of small ranchettes from releasing overcrowded animals on larger ranches' private lands. “Somebody might have 40 acres and they think they can put 50 head of horses on that,” he said. “It doesn’t work. They run out of something to eat and they look to larger pastures with grass owned by a rancher and think 'Let’s just leave the gate open; the horses will get filled up and when they’re full come back home.'”...more

Pendley to Speak at Joint Stockmen’s Convention

William Perry Pendley, President and Chief Operating Officer of the Mountain States Legal Foundation, will be the keynote speaker at the 2014 Joint Stockmen’s Convention Family Luncheon, sponsored by Farm Credit of New Mexico, on Friday, December 5. 
“Mountain States Legal Foundation is one of the biggest champions that we in agriculture – as individuals, as landowners and as family enterprises - have,” said Jose Varela Lopez, New Mexico Cattle Growers Association (NMCGA) President, La Cieneguilla.  “We are looking forward to Mr. Pendley’s insights.”
The Mountain States Legal Foundation is a grassroots organization that provides legal representation to individuals, local governments and small businesses to protect constitutional freedoms, individual liberty and property rights.
Pendley, a native of Wyoming, received B.A. and M.A. degrees in Economics and Political Science from George Washington University in Washington, D.C. He was a Captain in the United States Marine Corps, after which he received his J.D. from the University of Wyoming College of Law.  He served as an attorney to former Senator Clifford P. Hansen (R-Wyoming) and to the House Interior and Insular Affairs Committee. During the Reagan Administration, he served as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Energy and Minerals of the Department of Interior, where he authored President Reagan's National Minerals Policy and Exclusive Economic Zone proclamation. He was a consultant to former Secretary of the Navy John F. Lehman, Jr., and was engaged in the private practice of law in the Washington, D.C., area before his return to the West in 1989. 
He has argued cases before the Supreme Court of the United States as well as various federal courts of appeals; he won what Time called a "legal earthquake" when the Supreme Court ruled in his favor in the historic Adarand (equal protection) case. His monthly column, Summary Judgment, appears throughout the country; he is the author of four books: It Takes A Hero (1994); War on the West (1995); Warriors for the West (2006); and Sagebrush Rebel (2013).
The annual Joint Stockmen’s Convention, set for December 4-7 at the Albuquerque Marriott Pyramid North, brings together members of the New Mexico Cattle Growers Association (NMCGA), the New Mexico Wool Growers, Inc. (NMWGI), Dairy Producers of New Mexico (DPNM), the New Mexico CowBelles (NMCB) and the New Mexico Federal Lands Council (NMFLC).  For more information, contact the NMCGA at (505) 247-0584 or visit www.nmagriculture.org.
-30-

Major package of wilderness, parks and energy bills hitches ride on defense authorization



In a major bipartisan breakthrough, House and Senate lawmakers last night successfully attached a slew of public lands and energy bills to the defense authorization bill that Congress hopes to pass in the coming week.

If passed, the dozens of bills would represent -- by far -- the largest public lands package advanced by Congress since the 2009 Omnibus Public Land Management Act.

The package, negotiated by leaders on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources and House Natural Resources committees and backed by leaders on the Armed Service panels in both chambers, represents a major compromise between conservation and development interests.

It would designate nearly 250,000 acres of new wilderness in a handful of Western states while preserving hundreds of thousands of additional acres from drilling and mining in states, including Montana and Colorado.

It would also allow the Bureau of Land Management to expedite oil and gas and grazing permits, promote a copper mine in Arizona and convey federal timberlands to an Alaska Native-owned corporation in the Tongass National Forest -- all major Republican priorities.

In total, there appear to be roughly 70 provisions in the natural resources title of the 1,648-page National Defense Authorization Act, which was crafted by members of the House and Senate Armed Services panels.

...It remains to be seen whether senators who have historically opposed omnibus parks packages -- including Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) -- will oppose the package once it reaches the Senate floor.
It's also unclear whether the measure will garner opposition from any major environmental groups.
Like the 2009 omnibus bill -- which contained a controversial bill by Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) to authorize a road through an Alaska wilderness area -- the package attached to NDAA contains some potential poison pills for green groups.

They include a proposal by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) to swap lands in Arizona to build a copper mine and a bill by Murkowski to convey tens of thousands of acres of the Tongass National Forest to Juneau, Alaska-based Sealaska Corp., allowing the clearcutting of some old-growth trees. The package also appears to have a proposal by Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) to expedite grazing permits on public lands.
Some environmental activists yesterday were girding to oppose the package if it included those three provisions.

...Also included was a bill by Sens. Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) to designate the 45,000-acre Columbine-Hondo wilderness in Taos County, N.M.

"We are closer than ever to making historic gains in protecting some of New Mexico's most treasured landscapes," Heinrich said yesterday in a statement. "From designating the Columbine-Hondo as wilderness, increasing public access to the Valles Caldera, and establishing the Manhattan National Historical Park, to streamlining the oil and gas drilling permit process, these provisions will have a significant impact on growing our economy."



Natural Resources Provisions Again Included Within NDAA


WASHINGTON, D.C. – Bipartisan agreement has been reached on the natural resources provisions that will be included within this year’s National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).  The House-Senate agreement supports American job creation and economic growth through a balanced approach to improve the management of our public lands and natural resources while protecting treasured areas.
For multiple Congresses, the NDAA has included provisions within the jurisdiction of the House Natural Resources Committee and the Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee.  This year’s provisions are included in Title 30 of NDAA, with the multiple sections reflecting individual bills, each of which has been subject to public review in the House or Senate, and the majority have already passed the House or Senate.
The bills in the agreement will create thousands of American jobs, cut red-tape to energy production on federal lands, boost American mineral production, protect multiple-use and public recreation on federal lands, convey over 100,000 acres of federal land for job-creating economic and community development, protect treasured lands through the measured establishment of locally-supported parks and wilderness areas, and provide new means to enhance private dollars to support America’s National Parks.
“As it has traditionally done, this year’s annual national defense bill contains natural resources provisions that are the result of a bipartisan agreement.  Of great importance to the House is the inclusion of long-standing priorities and House-passed bills that have languished in the Senate.  The agreement offers a balanced approach to public lands management, providing opportunities for new job creation and energy and mineral production, while simultaneously protecting special areas,” said House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings (WA-04). 
Key highlights include:
 
Expanding American Energy & Mineral Production
·         Boosts new oil and natural gas production on federal lands by reducing permit delays, providing regulatory certainty to American job creators, preventing the Obama Administration from increasing costs, and extending a successful pilot program that helps the Bureau of Land Management deal with a backlog of drilling permit applications. 
·         Responsibly facilitates several proposed mineral development projects, which includes allowing for opening up the third largest undeveloped copper resource in the world – supporting nearly 3,700 American jobs, creating $61.4 billion in total economic impact, generating nearly $20 billion in federal, state, county and local tax revenue, and producing enough copper to meet 25 percent of current U.S. demand. 
Protecting Jobs and Multiple-Use of Federal Lands
·         Reduces grazing permit backlogs and adds needed certainty to America’s ranching community. 
·         Updates fee structure to provide predictable, fair rates so families are not forced to tear down cabins they own in national forests.  
Balancing Conservation Designations with Federal Land Conveyances
·         Provides for over 110,000 acres of land to be conveyed out of federal ownership – to be utilized for economic development (including mineral production, timber production, infrastructure projects) and community development (ie, local cemetery, shooting range). 
·         Supports America’s National Parks by providing new means of enhancing private funding (through donor recognition and the issuance of a commemorative coin to recognize the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service in 2016) and by designating a select number of new park units that have strong local support.
·         Designates approximately 245,000 acres of wilderness in specific areas with strong local and Congressional support.  Nearly half of those acres are already managed as if it were wilderness due to its current status as a roadless or wilderness study area.
·         Releases 26,000 acres of current wilderness study areas to multiple use.
·         Protects private property owners by ensuring that no private property can be condemned. 

Documents & other info on Utah's federal lands transfer efforts

The following is from the website of Utah's Public Lands Policy Coordinating Office.



During the 2012 General Session, the Utah Legislature passed H.B. 148, “Transfer of Public Lands Act and Related Study,” in an effort to develop a new model for public land management and use. Governor Herbert signed the bill into law on March 23, 2012. H.B. 148 provides a framework for transferring public lands into State ownership. Public lands contemplated by the bill exclude national parks, all national monuments (except the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument), specific congressionally-designated wilderness areas, Department of Defense areas, and tribal lands.

H.B. 148 involves many practical and some legal considerations regarding the actual transfer of public lands into State ownership. To address these issues, the legislature directed the Constitutional Defense Council (CDC), to conduct studies on potential land transfer and to prepare a report and recommendations to legislative interim committees.
PLPCO’s staff and attorneys assigned to the Public Lands Section of the Attorney General’s Office created two reports presented to the Natural Resources, Agriculture, and Environment Interim Committee and the Education Interim Committee on November 2, 2012.
  1. “Report on Utah’s Transfer of Public Lands Act: H.B.148″ describes the historical context of H.B. 148 and contains information regarding the ownership and economics of the public lands. It also makes recommendations regarding future steps in the land transfer initiative. Download Report
  2. “Toward a Balanced Public Lands Policy: A Case Statement for the H.B. 148: Utah’s Transfer of Public Lands Act” explains the necessity of change in public lands policy and rationalizes the suggested mechanism for transferring public lands into State ownership. Download Report

H.B. 142 and the Economic Feasibility of Transferring Public Lands

In 2013, Utah Legislature passed H.B. 142, giving PLPCO the responsibility of directing and overseeing a study and economic analysis of the transfer of public lands contemplated by H.B. 148. PLPCO put together a team of economists from the University of Utah, Utah State University, and Weber State University to conduct the analysis. The team worked on the study for over 18 months preparing a final report “An Analysis of a Transfer of Federal Lands to the State of Utah”. Download Report
The 700+ page study examines economic feasibility of the proposed lands transfer. The study provides information about the current uses of land, the economic effects and non-economic benefits of those uses, and the ramifications of any transfer. Additionally, the study estimates the costs of managing the transferred lands and identifies the state agencies that could manage those lands. The study will guide the Utah Legislatures when the 2015 legislative session convenes in January.

PLPCO also prepared its own report to the Natural Resources, Agriculture, and Environment Interim Committee — “Pathway to a Balanced Public Lands Policy.” This report reviews and summarizes the economic study, finding it to be a cautionary, yet optimistic analysis of the opportunities and challenges facing a public lands transfer. The main challenge is finding the proper balance between preserving and protecting Utah’s many scenic areas and dispersing the lands economic value and net benefit over the entire state. Such balance can be achieved. “ Download Report

The best place for all kinds of info (including videos and webinars) on the transfer of federal lands issue is the website for the American Lands Council.  They are also on Facebook here and Twitter here.


Army Looks to Increase Intensity of Training Exercises at Pinon Canyon

Explosions, drones, and full-brigade size exercises with armored vehicles are all a part of the Army’s proposed Enhanced Readiness plan for its Pinon Canyon Maneuver Site in southeastern Colorado. The goal is to get troops trained on new gear. It’s a controversial plan that some say opens the door to expansion, a notion that’s long been a thorn in the side of many nearby residents. Nearly 100 people packed a small meeting hall at the training site for the only scheduled public forum. They came from as far away as Boulder and as close as the adjacent tiny community of Tyrone to hear about the proposal and its projected environmental impacts. Technologies and tactics are constantly evolving, according to Dan Benford, Director of Plans, Training, Mobilization and Security at Fort Carson. As such, Benford added, it’s important for soldiers to be able to train on equipment they’d use while deployed. Nearly 100 people packed a small meeting hall at the training site for the only scheduled public forum. They came from as far away as Boulder and as close as the adjacent tiny community of Tyrone to hear about the proposal and its projected environmental impacts. Many are concerned through, that allowing the higher intensity activity at the site would open the door to eventual expansion. It’s a possibility that Garrison Commander Colonel Joel Hamilton downplayed in his opening remarks. “For the record,” said Colonel Hamilton, “we are not about expansion of Pinon Canyon Maneuver Site.” It’s also written into the DEIS that the proposal doesn’t require expansion. That’s a point that Jim Herrell equates to having a coyote keep watch over a chicken house. Herrell said at the meeting that continued expansion of the infrastructure at Pinon Canyon would lead to a Congressional authorization within seven years or less to acquire more land. “And don’t you think there won’t be,” said Herrell. “Then there will be a Congressman, probably from Texas, that will tack on an appropriations amendment to some crap to buy more land. And everyone in this room in uniform will be gone. And everyone in this room with a cowboy hat and boots that are pointed will be here, just a little older.”...more

Secretary Johnson defends Obama immigration move, vows Arizona visit ‘next year’

Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said he will return to southern Arizona early next year to meet with residents and talk about steps his agency is taking to secure the border and further reduce illegal immigration. “I plan to – if you’ll have me – come early next year to Arizona,” Johnson said Tuesday in response to a question from Rep. Ron Barber, D-Tucson. “I owe the ranchers another visit.” It was an agreeable moment in an occasionally contentious hearing before the House Homeland Security Committee, where Johnson was called on to defend President Barack Obama’s recent executive action on immigration. Committee Republicans peppered Johnson with questions about the legality of Obama’s Nov. 20 actions, which Texas Rep. Mike McCaul, the committee chairman, described as “unilateral actions to bypass Congress, undermine the Constitution and threaten our democracy.” Johnson agreed with lawmakers that executive action is “no substitute” for comprehensive immigration reform legislation that he hopes Congress will pass. But he said the president acted “within his legal authority” with his actions – many of which came from Johnson...more

Montana hydro storage project could buffer wind, solar surges

...The innovation of pumped storage uses water and gravity to generate electricity much like dams do. Two reservoirs are built, and when water flows from the higher-elevation reservoir to the lower, electricity is produced. But what happens if the upper reservoir empties? From there, pump storage relies on the peaks and valleys of electrical supply produced by variable renewable energy sources like wind. The wind blows -- or the sun shines in the case of solar – mostly during the day and produces excess electricity. That electricity can be used to pump the water back to the upper reservoir, storing the energy until it’s needed to turn the turbines again. One reservoir on top of the 1,200-foot-high butte of the Gordon Butte Project will feed the lower reservoir, allowing for storage and generation of 400 megawatts, more than either Colstrip plants 1 or 2. The project has a water right that Carl Borgquist, president of Absaroka Energy, said would not deplete the watershed, taking water only during the month of high runoff. The project will generate a lot of energy, but the real benefit is that it would buffer the highs and lows of renewable energy production, absorbing the surges and then compensating for the drop-offs. Utility companies have opposed adding a large number of renewable energy projects to their mix because of the headache of constantly having to balance the electrical load. If the Gordon Butte Project comes online, it can balance the load...more

Feds send $13.4 Billion in Energy dollars to State, Local and Tribal Governments

Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell today announced that the Department of the Interior disbursed more than $13.4 billion in revenue generated by energy production on Federal and American Indian lands and offshore areas in Fiscal Year 2014, with increases in state and Indian Country revenues over the prior year. The disbursements include more than $1 billion to American Indian Tribes and individual Indian mineral owners, marking the first time disbursements from energy production on American Indian lands topped the billion-dollar mark. The Interior Department distributes energy revenues to state, local, and federal accounts to support critical reclamation, conservation, recreation, and historic preservation projects. Local governments apply the revenues to meet a variety of needs, ranging from school funding to infrastructure improvements and water conservation projects. The $1.1 billion disbursed to 34 American Indian Tribes and more than 34,000 individual Indian mineral owners for resources held for them in trust or restricted status represents an increase of more than $200 million over FY 2013 disbursements that totaled $932.9 million...more

Effort to recognize Virginia tribe draws ire


Several members of the Congressional Black Caucus are urging the Obama administration to withhold federal recognition of a Virginia Indian tribe because of its history of banning intermarriage with blacks.In January, the Interior Department proposed recognizing the Pamunkey tribe in southeast Virginia, which would make members eligible for special benefits in education, housing and medical care — and allow the tribe to pursue a casino. A decision on recognition, which would be the first for a Virginia tribe, is due by March 30. The Congressional Black Caucus members urged Interior Secretary Sally Jewell and Attorney General Eric Holder to hold off until the Justice Department investigates any discriminatory practices by the tribe. Neither department has responded to the request, made in a Sept. 23 letter, according to a spokeswoman for Mississippi Democrat Bennie Thompson, who signed the letter. The letter cited a report by the Interior Department’s Bureau of Indian Affairs that quoted tribal law: “No member of the Pamunkey Indian Tribe shall intermarry with anny (sic) Nation except White or Indian under penalty of forfeiting their rights in Town.” The bureau said it had no indication the tribe had changed its ban, but Pamunkey Chief Kevin Brown responded in a letter to the CBC that the ban has been repealed. He said in an interview that the change was made in 2012. The Bureau of Indian Affairs said that the significant number of Pamunkey-Pamunkey marriages and efforts to encourage them helped satisfy a criterion for federal recognition: that a predominant portion of the group comprises a distinct community and has existed as one from historical times to the present...more

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

NMDA seeks rancher input to guide livestock export activities

(LAS CRUCES, N.M.) – New Mexico Department of Agriculture (NMDA) is inviting ranchers across the state to help guide its efforts to export New Mexico livestock.

“We’re reaching out to ranchers across the state so they can tell us what trade activities will benefit their ranches the most,” New Mexico Secretary of Agriculture Jeff Witte said.

Witte said that ranchers can offer their input by stopping by NMDA’s booth at the 2014 New Mexico Joint Stockmen’s Convention, Dec. 4-7 in Albuquerque.  There, attendees can fill out a survey whose results will guide NMDA in designing its export activities.  Ranchers who cannot attend the Joint Stockmen’s Convention can request a survey by emailing jsanchez@nmda.nmsu.edu or by calling 575-646-4929. 

Convention attendees will also have the chance to meet Juan Sanchez, NMDA’s new marketing specialist who will lead trade missions to help export New Mexico livestock and other high-value agricultural commodities into Mexico and other Latin American countries.  Sanchez is fluent in both English and Spanish.

Sanchez will work with the U.S. Livestock Genetics Export, Inc. (USLGE) to conduct trade activities on behalf of New Mexico livestock producers.  USLGE is a trade association that helps export U.S. dairy, beef, sheep, pigs, and horses, as well as their genetics.  It awards funds to state departments of agriculture to support their trade missions and other efforts aimed at increasing export markets.  NMDA must apply to USLGE for such funds.

Among his other duties, Sanchez will help lead NMDA’s annual nationwide promotion of New Mexico green chile, the department’s decade-old campaign to introduce New Mexico’s signature crop to other parts of the United States.  Sanchez also works with the New Mexico Chile Commission and the New Mexico Dry Onion Commission.  Each commission collects funds from growers in that industry to underwrite research, promotion, and education efforts surrounding the two crops, respectively.

Sanchez grew up in a farm family in Las Cruces.  He earned his bachelor’s in agricultural business from Eastern New Mexico University in Portales, where he had a scholarship to play baseball for the Greyhounds.  He and his wife Pamela have two children.

For more information about NMDA and its activities to export New Mexico livestock, please visit www.nmda.nmsu.edu.

After A Bloodbath In Oil, What Next?

As we tucked into Turkey and football last Thursday, OPEC announced no output cut, no target price and no output ceiling. Sounds like a lot of no news, but the OPEC meeting has been described in historic terms. Bloomberg's headline declared that war had broken out: “Oil enters new era as OPEC faces off against shale; who blinks as price slides toward $70?” The accompanying article made the case that OPEC is indubitably locked in a price war against U.S. shale producers. Oil prices plunged on the OPEC news. West Texas Intermediate crude is now at $65 a barrel. It was $107 back in June. That Bloomberg article had my favorite quote of the week, from Leonid Fedun, a board member at Russia’s Lukoil. Fedun said that by maintaining output levels, OPEC would bring about an outright crash among U.S. shale drillers. “In 2016, when OPEC completes this objective of cleaning up the American marginal market, the oil price will start growing again,” said Fedun. “The shale boom is on a par with the dot-com boom. The strong players will remain, the weak ones will vanish.” That America’s shale operators will be hard to kill isn’t lost on OPEC. Argus Media quoted the Iranian oil minister as saying that squeezing non-Opec production out of the market will take years rather than months. Indeed there’s a real question as to how much pain OPEC nations and other exporters will be willing and able to endure at the hands of the Saudis. Oil journalist Derek Brower tweeted from Vienna last week that there was lots of anger at the OPEC meetings, with Algerian and Venezuelan oil ministers “furious” that the Saudis refused to cut output. An Iranian oil ministry source told Brower that Iran thinks the Saudis are trying to ruin both it and Russia...more

Study: Federal lands transfer for Utah could be profitable

A study commissioned by the state and performed by economists from a trio of Utah universities says the transfer of federal lands to Utah control could be profitable and revenues would cover the costs of managing the lands. The 784-page report was mandated after the 2012 passage of the Transfer of Public Lands Act and was carried out by the University of Utah’s Bureau of Economic and Business Research, Utah State University and Weber State University. Utah Gov. Gary Herbert said lawmakers and the public will be well-served by the report. “It is important to make decisions based upon a thorough review of accurate, relevant information,” Herbert said, adding that the analysis will provide policymakers with a sound platform to assess both the risks and challenges associated with the move. While conceding the transfer of 31.2 million acres of land managed by the federal government would pose a major shift in the "economic structure" of the state, the report goes on to say that the land transfer could actually be profitable for the state if oil and gas prices remain high and if Utah aggressively manages its mineral lease program. The study said the biggest infusion of money into Utah coffers would be the elimination of revenue royalty sharing with the federal government. Utah would go from getting 50 percent of the proceeds under the current mineral lease program to getting 100 percent of the proceeds. That new money, the researchers added, would eclipse increasing taxes on any new production that came online or ramping up the number of oil and gas wells by 15 percent...more

Global Warming Alarmists Claim Airplanes Won’t Fly in 50 Years

Airplanes of the future will have to carry lighter loads more often thanks to global warming, according to two scientists at Columbia University, New York. They reached their conclusion by creating models which predicted that by 2060 there will be more warm days but no commensurate technological advances in the aviation industry. The two scientists, Coffel and Horton, looked at a phenomenon known amongst pilots as ‘density altitude’, which affects a plane’s ability to take off. Essentially, on hotter days the air is less dense, making it harder to get a plane airborne. It is a particular problem at airports with short runways, as the planes will take longer to lift off. Commercial aviation overcomes the problem by issuing weight restrictions at the airport on particularly hot days. Coffel and Horton sought to predict how many more weight restricted days there will be by 2050-2070, and decided, through use of models, that the "number of weight restriction days between May and September will increase by 50-200 percent at four major airports in the United States by 2050-2070," and that "these performance reductions may have a negative economic effect on the airline industry."...more

Water in the West: The future of irrigation and fisheries

Every spring, John Joyce watches as thousands of gallons of water in the Nowood River rush by his ranch in northern Wyoming. It's water that eventually moves into the Bighorn, Yellowstone, Missouri and Mississippi rivers before dumping into the Gulf of Mexico. In his mind, and in the minds of other ranchers in his area, it’s wasted water that could help their fields. The answer, they believe, is a 7,500-acre-foot reservoir. “The Nowood might run somewhere between 500 and 800 cubic feet per second, but in the spring it might run as high as 5,000 cfs, so all of that water goes to Montana,” Joyce said. “We would like to capture a little bit of it and use it ourselves.” Joyce said the off-channel Alkali Creek Reservoir is a way to keep irrigation late into the season for farms and ranches without damming a major creek or river. The project is one of a handful the Wyoming Water Development Commission has been studying and could be proposed by Gov. Matt Mead as part of his new water strategy to be released in January. “We will be building reservoirs,” Mead said at a water conference in October in Casper. “New ones as well as looking at the ones we have.” Mead argues that storing Wyoming's water is one of the best ways to preserve the state’s resource for the future and use what is legally ours. Opponents of new reservoirs say the state could find better ways to conserve water that don't cost hundreds of millions of dollars and have untold environmental impacts. At a time when the rest of the country is removing dams, Wyoming should be looking at an innovative future with water, not one that hearkens back to an era of massive concrete structures and tamed rivers. “Spending tens of millions or billions of dollars building additional surface reservoirs takes the money and effort away from developing more sustainable or efficient alternatives like water conservation measures and groundwater and recharge storage,” said Matt Stoecker, fisheries biologist and producer and co-creator of DamNation, a film by apparel company Patagonia. “All of the dam projects are subsidized," he said. "They don’t make financial sense on their own, which tells you a lot right there.”...more

U.S. Appeals WTO Ruling Against National Meat Labels

The United States is appealing a World Trade Organization decision that would make it harder for U.S. consumers to know where meat in the grocery store came from. The WTO in October rejected U.S. rules requiring labels on packaged steaks, ribs and other cuts of meat identifying where the animals were born, raised and slaughtered. The WTO said the "country of origin labeling" requirements put Canadian and Mexican livestock at a disadvantage. On Friday, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative appealed the ruling. U.S. farmers who compete with Mexican and Canadian ranchers welcomed the appeal. National Farmers Union President Roger Johnson on Friday called it "the right thing to do for American family farmers, ranchers and consumers." But meatpackers oppose the labeling requirements, saying they impose costly paperwork....more

Project protects NM forested land from development

More than 11,000 acres that adjoin the Carson National Forest have been permanently protected from development through a conservation easement. A conservation effort on the Upper Rio Chama River property in northern New Mexico began in 2009. The final and largest piece of the 11,655-acre property became part of the easement Monday. The $8.4 million project aims to protect the local water supply and wildlife habitat. Nearly half of the funding came from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Forest Legacy Program. The state of New Mexico and the landowner chipped in as well. The property will remain in private ownership but will be safeguarded through requirements of the easement held by the New Mexico State Forestry Division. The land includes mixed conifer, aspen and spruce-fir trees, meadows and tributary creeks...more

Monday, December 01, 2014

What 4-H teaches 7 million kids about food

In a new book, Raise: What 4-H Teaches 7 Million Kids & How Its Lessons Could Change Food & Farming Forever, Mother Jones senior editor Kiera Butler writes about the century-old organization that teaches kids—via local chapters across the country—how to raise livestock and grow food. While writing the book, she learned about the origins of 4-H, the agribusinesses funding much of its curricula today, and how agriculture education is changing. Butler has never participated in 4-H herself, but first became interested in the program when she wandered over to the livestock barn at the Alameda County Fair in Northern California, and saw “nine-year-old girls leading around giant, hulking cows and kicking ass in the showroom.” High Country News recently spoke with Butler about the book...more

Graham to Address Joint Stockmen’s Convention

Carl Graham, Director of the Sutherland Coalition for Self-Government in the West (CSG-W), will address 2014 Joint Stockmen’s Convention attendees at the Property Rights General Session, set for Friday, December 5, at 1:30 p.m.
            “In today’s climate of ever-increasing and overreaching federal laws and regulations, protecting and strengthening our rights is essential,” said Jose Varela Lopez, New Mexico Cattle Growers Association (NMCGA) President, La Cieneguilla.  “Mr. Graham is an expert in this field and we are looking forward to hearing what he has to say.”
The CSG-W is a project of Sutherland Institute, a think tank advocating conservative principles in Salt Lake City, Utah.  Its mission is to protect freedom and opportunity in Utah and the West by promoting federalism and equipping state leaders – both public and private – to reclaim their powers and responsibilities under the United States Constitution.
Graham is a third generation Montanan and a Montana State University graduate. He is a 20 year Navy veteran, where as a Naval Flight Officer he amassed nearly 500 carrier landings in the A-6 Intruder and F-14 Tomcat.  He holds a Masters’ degree in National Security Affairs, is a certified flight instructor, and has taught various courses as an adjunct professor at Montana State University and Gallatin College in Bozeman, MT. He is also a previous CEO of the Montana Policy Institute, where he still serves as a managing board member. Carl’s writing has been featured in National Review, the Wall Street Journal, Washington Times, The Hill and many other national and regional publications.
        The annual Joint Stockmen’s Convention, set for December 4-7 at the Albuquerque Marriott Pyramid North, brings together members of the New Mexico Cattle Growers Association (NMCGA), the New Mexico Wool Growers, Inc. (NMWGI), Dairy Producers of New Mexico (DPNM), the New Mexico CowBelles (NMCB) and the New Mexico Federal Lands Council (NMFLC).  For more information, contact the NMCGA at (505) 247-0584 or visit www.nmagriculture.org

Seattle Seahawks owner finances lawsuit targeting coal leasing on federal lands

Mercer Island billionaire and Seattle Seahawks owner Paul Allen has jumped into the battle over the future of coal leasing on federal lands. A federal lawsuit financed by the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation, seeks to force the federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to conduct a review of the effect of leasing coal on the global climate. “The leasing of coal from federal lands undermines President Obama’s climate policy goals,” Allen wrote in a column published in The Huffington Post. “We have no comprehensive understanding of air pollution and climate impact of the federal coal-leasing program because the Bureau of Land Management has failed to analyze the available data for more than three decades.” Allen wrote that climate change is due to “unprecedented amounts of carbon dioxide we are emitting through the combustion of fossil fuels,” and that he had seen the impacts in degraded coral reefs and retreating glaciers. The lawsuit was filed Monday in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., by the Western Organization of Resource Councils and Friends of the Earth, and the legal fight will be fully funded by Allen’s foundation for as long as it goes, according to Michael Meehan, a spokesman for Allen...more

The unfinished business of protecting wild places

By Joshua Reichert

With a major election behind us, policymakers, pundits and the public will be looking for evidence that Congress and the White House can move forward on issues of importance to a majority of Americans. With that in mind, it's safe to say that as a nation we have no firmer common ground than our literal common ground — the lands we cherish for hunting, fishing, hiking and camping. For decades, presidents and members of Congress from both parties have held protection of these wild places as an honorable duty. Now should be no exception.

For its part, Congress has the opportunity to safeguard some of our rapidly vanishing wilderness. Through the Wilderness Act, which this year celebrates its 50th anniversary, lawmakers have the authority to preserve the nation's most biologically diverse federal lands. Currently, more than two dozen bills, many of them with bipartisan sponsorship, await action by either the House or Senate.

...Beyond signing wilderness legislation, President Obama can also use the authority of the presidency, under the Antiquities Act, to unilaterally protect "objects of historic and scientific interest." The Antiquities Act has been used more than 100 times by presidents from both sides of the aisle to set aside some of the nation's most valuable ecological, cultural and historical places. It was signed into law in 1906 with the support of President Theodore Roosevelt, who most famously used it to shield the Grand Canyon from mining and other development.

...Just as President Reagan helped set a record for wilderness legislation signed, President Clinton proclaimed the most monuments — 21 sites in all. Congress and the White House should seize upon this historical tradition of bipartisan commitment to protect some of America's first — and last — wild places, which form our true common ground.

Reichert heads the environment program at the Pew Charitable Trusts.




Ever since the R's took over the House, the enviros have become interested in "bipartisanship".  Now that the R's also have a majority in the Senate, they're really interested in the concept.  Throw in a little threat from the Antiquities Act and presto, you have their game plan for the next two years.