Wednesday, February 22, 2017

DuBois column

The Zinke hearings plus collaboratin’ compensatin’ and stickin’ it to stakeholders

Zinke hearings

The Senate hearings on Ryan Zinke’s nomination as Secretary of Interior was relatively uneventful, with the Montana Congressman surviving unscathed.

Zinke testified he was an “unapologetic admirer of Teddy Roosevelt” and believes Roosevelt “had it right” when he set aside “millions of acres of federal lands” for protection. It was on these lands where “my father taught me to fish and hunt and the Boy Scout’s taught me the principles of environmental stewardship,” he said.

Zinke also reiterated his opposition to the transfer of lands out of federal ownership. “I want to be clear on this point: I am absolutely against transfer or sale of public land. I can’t be any more clear,” he said.

There would be three immediate priorities, he said.  First would be to restore trust. Second would be to prioritize the $12.5 billion backlog in Park Service maintenance, including making that a part of a proposed infrastructure bill. And third is “to ensure the professionals on the front line, our rangers and field managers, have the right tools, right resources, and flexibility to make the right decisions that give a voice to the people they serve.”

Sounds like he’s planning on having plenty of money to spend.

Those who rely on federal lands remaining federal lined up to support the nominee.

"The Outdoor Recreation Industry Roundtable supports Secretary-designate Zinke and looks forward to working with him and his team at the Department of the Interior to advance the outdoor recreation sector, grow jobs in the U.S. and ensure that all Americans have access to healthy, active outdoor fun on their public lands and waters," said Derrick Crandall, President of the American Recreation Coalition.

"RVIA unwaveringly supports the nomination of Representative Ryan Zinke to serve as Secretary of the Interior," said Frank Hugelmeyer, President, Recreation Vehicle Industry Association.

"Because the Department of Interior oversees water management and its policies directly impact Americans' access to federally managed waterways and fisheries for recreation, the role of Secretary of the Interior is of critical importance to the U.S. recreational boating industry and its 35,000 marine businesses and 88 million boaters," notes Thom Dammrich, President of the National Marine Manufacturers Association. "We stand behind President-elect Trump's nomination of Ryan Zinke of Montana for Secretary of the Interior given his proven passion for and commitment to the outdoors.

Welcome to the New West. 

The livestock producers chimed in, with Tracy Brunner, NCBA president saying, “During his tenure in the U.S. House of Representatives, Rep. Zinke has consistently advocated for our western communities, economies, and ranchers. He has demanded transparency and the inclusion of stakeholders when it comes to land management decisions, and has a strong understanding of the challenges that come with stewarding the West.” And PLC president Dave Eliason stating, “We are excited for Representative Zinke to refocus the agency’s efforts to their core mission, and to have someone in this role that understands the unique challenges we face in the West.”

As predicted, there were plenty of hosannas to collaboration and inclusion of all stakeholders. Zinke said he would be “working with rather than against” local communities and states by being “a listening advocate rather than a deaf adversary.”

Those are pretty words, but most of us will be more interested in what he does after listening.

And speaking of collaboration…

Collaborating and compensating?

On August 5, 2015, near Silverton, Colorado, EPA personnel and employees of an EPA contractor caused the release of wastewater and tailings, including toxic levels of lead and arsenic and other harmful elements.  The spill affected the waterways of municipalities in the states of Colorado, New Mexico and Utah, as well as the Navajo Nation.   

The Animas River turned orange but the EPA didn’t notify New Mexico and Colorado until the next day after the spill. But hey, who said all this collaboration had to be quick.

The EPA initially set the spill at one million gallons. They lied. The USGS determined the spill was triple that size at over three million gallons. But hey, who said all this collaboration had to be accurate.

EPA administrator Gina McCarthy stated the agency accepted “full responsibility” for the spill. Well, cry me a polluted river if she didn’t lie. The EPA has just announced attorneys at EPA and the Justice Department have determined EPA can’t pay the over $1.2 billion in claims for damages because of sovereign immunity. But hey, who said all this collaboration had to be truthful.

Congress can waive sovereign immunity, and if they chose to collaborate with the states and the river users, they will do so. Congress should also pay these claims out of EPA’s budget.

This whole episode is a prime example of collaboratin’, compensatin’ and stickin’ it to the stakeholders.

BLM brown baggin’ with Bigfoot

The press has reported on a January BLM Brown Bag Lecture in Safford, Arizona. The event had a documentary on Bigfoot, and featured “a Bigfoot lookalike contest, door prizes, popcorn, Bigfoot cookies, and more.”

Brown baggin’ with Bigfoot, including Bigfoot cookies, at the BLM office. Nice to see their budget’s not in the dire straits they often claim.

I wonder what their February brown baggin’ will feature. A BLM Break with Big Bird?

Till next time, be a nuisance to the devil and don’t forget to check that cinch.

 Frank DuBois was the NM Secretary of Agriculture from 1988 to 2003, is the author of a blog: The Westerner ( and is the founder of The DuBois Rodeo Scholarship and The DuBois Western Heritage Foundation

This column originally appeared in the February editions of New Mexico Stockman and the Livestock Market Digest.

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