Issues of concern to people who live in the west: property rights, water rights, endangered species, livestock grazing, energy production, wilderness and western agriculture. Plus a few items on western history, western literature and the sport of rodeo... Frank DuBois served as the NM Secretary of Agriculture from 1988 to 2003. DuBois is a former legislative assistant to a U.S. Senator, a Deputy Assistant Secretary of Interior, and is the founder of the DuBois Rodeo Scholarship.
Tuesday, January 04, 2011
Wilderness Policy Sparks Western Ire
An Obama administration directive designed to preserve more public lands as wilderness is stirring anger in the West, where ranchers, sportsmen and energy companies say they could lose access to acreage they count on for their recreation and livelihood. The regulatory change, initiated this month, directs the Bureau of Land Management to survey its vast holdings stretching between Alaska, Arizona, California and Colorado, in search of unspoiled back country. The agency can then designate these tracts—potentially millions of acres—as "wild lands." Protections will vary from site to site, but in general such lands will be shielded from activities that disrupt habitat or destroy the solitude of the wild, according to the Interior Department. That might mean banning oil drilling, uranium mining or cattle grazing in some areas. It also could mean restrictions on recreational activities, such as snowmobiling or biking. But the move, which did not require legislative approval, has drawn a hostile response from many in the West. "This harms economic growth," said Rep. Rob Bishop, a Utah Republican who takes over next month as chair of the House subcommittee on public lands. "The West is being abused." None of that reassures Jim Hagenbarth, a Montana rancher who leases BLM land to graze cattle. He fears he might lose some of his leases to wild lands designations, or be barred from such practices as burning off sagebrush to clear room for the grasses that cattle prefer. He also frets that more protected wilderness will mean more habitat for wolves, grizzlies and other predators who occasionally raid his herds. "We're extremely worried," Mr. Hagenbarth says. .The initiative also has drawn opposition from the energy industry. Kathleen Sgamma, a director of the Western Energy Alliance, which represents 400 oil and natural-gas companies, said the new policy could block promising lands from drilling. The Obama administration has opened several million acres to leases by energy companies but has revoked or restricted other plans to drill on public lands. Ms. Sgamma said that had forced the industry to cancel nearly $4 billion in investment this year alone...more