Thursday, December 17, 2015

Sage grouse, parks among omnibus winners

Phil Taylor, E&E reporter

Congress' sweeping funding deal offers perks for the sage grouse and the National Park Service and contains almost no policy riders that would hamstring the Obama administration's agenda on public lands, energy and wildlife.

The $1.15 trillion spending package for fiscal 2016 contains $12 billion for the Interior Department, including substantial boosts to its three main land management agencies.

It also includes a three-year extension and a one-time funding boost for the Land and Water Conservation Fund, a partial victory for conservation groups, sportsmen, the Obama administration and pro-LWCF lawmakers from both parties.

...But the bill still provides $450 million for LWCF, a near 50 percent increase over current levels, and still allocates about half of the funding to federal land acquisitions that reform proponents have sought to curb.

...The omnibus does include a one-year prohibition on Fish and Wildlife Service listing the greater sage grouse or Columbia Basin sage grouse as a threatened or endangered species, though it will have little practical effect. FWS decided in September that birds in Washington state's Columbia River Basin were not a separate listable species and that the broader, 11-state population does not warrant Endangered Species Act protections.

...In a surprise to many, the omnibus also did not contain a rider mandating that FWS delist the gray wolf in Wyoming and the Great Lakes.

While the rider was strongly opposed by environmentalists, it carried bipartisan support and was similar to a rider in 2011 that delisted wolves in Montana and Idaho. Capitol Hill insiders believed the Obama administration would have quietly supported it, or at least not opposed it, given that Fish and Wildlife had previously delisted wolves in those regions.

...BLM and FWS also saw large overall boosts, thanks in large part to the bipartisan budget deal struck earlier this year to raise overall discretionary spending caps.

BLM would receive $1.2 billion, a $117 million increase over current levels. FWS would get $1.5 billion, a $69 million boost.

As far as The West is concerned, the new Republican "leadership" is a disaster. Consider the following: 

○ Instead of reforming the Endangered Species Act, they are throwing more money at it.

○ Increased funding for the land management agencies.  Just what we need, more employees in more trucks running around and messing things up.

○ EPA initiates a huge land grab by promulgating the Waters Of The United States (wotus) rule, and the Republicans do nothing about it.  In effect they are funding the agency to continue on.  That's from a policy perspective.  Further, EPA violates the law in lobbying for their new rule and the Republicans still leave the rule untouched.  So much for accountability. Give more control to the EPA? No Problem.  The EPA is in violation of federal law?  No problem.

○ A 50% increase in federal land acquisition!!  Owning one out of every three acres is apparently not enough for Ryan and his bunch. 

Bottom line:  More power to the feds, more money wasted and less private property. That's what the "new" Republican leadership is bringing to the West.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Further proof that the calf is hard to wean! But, "that day" will come. There will be lots of moaning and groaning to no avail. The possibility is that the dye has been cast. The insiders will pay dearly for these misdeeds in the election booth.