Thursday, March 15, 2012

Forest Road Battle; Rob Bishop: Hearing raises new questions

U.S. Rep. Rob Bishop said after a congressional field hearing Monday in Elko that “more questions came out than answers.” He said that was especially true on the question of how the U.S. Forest Service came up with the authority to close roads as part of its Travel Management Plans. Bishop, R-Utah, and U.S. Rep. Mark Amodei, R-Nev., listened to the testimony of six witnesses, mainly on travel plans. They also heard testimony on the issue of the Forest Service seeking a share of water rights for improvements to grazing allotments, and testimony touching on the sage grouse issue. Elko County Commissioners led the way in protesting the Travel Management Plan for Elko County that has yet to be put into effect. Commissioner Charlie Myers testified the county has concerns that the Forest Service developed the plan in violation of the National Environmental Policy Act and has yet to provide scientific data to back up its plans. He said the county has even filed requests under the Freedom of Information Act and not heard back. “Elko County has spent countless hours and many thousands of dollars attempting to coordinate and cooperate with the U.S. Forest Service in their planning efforts to implement the Forest Travel Management Plan,” he testified. Myers also said the plan would have a devastating impact on Elko County. Howard Hutchinson, executive director of the Coalition of Arizona/New Mexico counties, said the Forest Service has failed to meaningfully include local governments in the public in the process for developing travel plans. “There is clear direction in the laws and regulations for inclusion of state, tribal and local governments to coordinate planning and include these governments as cooperating agencies in the NEPA document preparation,” he testified. He said Congress needs to make it clear that local governments and tribes must be involved “in a meaningful way, not just creating the appearance of participation.” Hutchinson testified that there has been “extreme resistance” from federal agencies to cooperate. He also said sometimes agency personnel are members of “radical environmental organizations whose agenda is to thwart or discontinue resource access and use by humans.” J.J. Goicoechea, president of the Nevada Cattlemen’s Association and also speaking for the Public Lands Council and National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, centered his testimony on water issues. He pointed out that many water rights have been handed down for generations, and any Forest Service effort to acquire the rights is basically a taking. Nevada is the only state that specifies water rights on grazing allotments can only be held by those who own livestock, but Goicoechea said the Forest Service is refusing to issue permits for water improvements on grazing allotments. The regional forester testified that the Forest Service is trying to protect the rights of the public with acquisition of water rights. Forsgren testified it is intermountain region policy that the Forest Service have a water right on an allotment before funds are spent for any livestock water development project...more

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"intermountain region policy that the Forest Service have a water right on an allotment before funds are spent for any livestock water development project" How is it that for 50+years this water right policy has never come to light? The policy in Region 3 was to APPLY for a water right following development. No State Engineer would grant a water right unless the applicant could show no infringement on other water rights.