Monday, May 08, 2017
They’ve been busy
Let’s first take a look at the Executive Branch, so see what they’ve been up to with Presidential Orders, regulations and policy memos.
On February 28 President Trump signed an Executive Order directing a review of the “Waters of the United States” rule. The review should be conducted, says the E.O., “showing due regard for the roles of the Congress and the States under the Constitution.” The key here, of course, is how you define “Navigable Waters”, and the President was pretty specific, saying it should be defined “in a manner consistent with the opinion of Justice Antonin Scalia in Rapanos v. United States.” If you read that case you will find Justice Scalia said the following:
Accordingly, wetlands possess the requisite nexus, and thus come within the statutory phrase “navigable waters,” if the wetlands, alone or in combination with similarly situated lands in the region, significantly affect the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of other covered waters understood as navigable in the traditional sense. When, in contrast, their effects on water quality are speculative or insubstantial, they fall outside the zone fairly encompassed by the term “navigable waters.”
The EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers under Obama have claimed jurisdiction far beyond the Scalia opinion.
On March 28 the President signed an E.O. on energy independence and economic growth, which directed all agencies to “immediately review existing regulations that potentially burden the development or use of domestically produced energy resources and appropriately suspend, revise, or rescind those that unduly burden the development of domestic energy resources beyond the degree necessary to protect the public interest or otherwise comply with the law.” In addition, this E.O. refers specifically to EPA’s “Clean Power Plan” and revokes seven Obama-era orders and administrative actions on Climate Change.
Trump has also signed E.O.’s on Regulatory Reform, Government Reorganization, Border Security and Trade that will have an impact on ag producers and rural residents. In addition, he has approved the previously denied or delayed Keystone and Dakota Access pipelines.
Secretary Zinke has also been busy at the Department of Interior. On his first day he issued orders to overturns the recent ban of lead ammunition and fish tackle on Fish and Wildlife Service lands, waters, and facilities, and directs bureaus and agencies to immediately identify areas where hunting and fishing can be expanded.
On March 27 Zinke issued an order on land-use planning and NEPA which directs BLM to "identify and implement" revisions to the agency's land-use planning and environmental review processes. The order says BLM plans often “languish in a quagmire of plans, studies, and regulatory reviews” and provides seven principles for BLM use in their reform efforts.
In addition, a document has recently leaked that lays out a work list for the BLM. Among the items listed was one stating, “Streamline the grazing permit process and provide more flexibility to the American rancher.”
And from the Forest Service? Nada.
Congress, however, has been active in using the Congressional Review Act. That is an act passed in 1996 and signed into law by Bill Clinton. The law empowers Congress to review new federal regulations issued by government agencies and, by passing a joint resolution, to overrule the regulation. Once a rule is repealed, the CRA also prohibits the reissuing of the rule in substantially the same form or the issuing of a new rule that is substantially the same. Congress has a time frame of sixty legislative days (days they are actually in session) to act on a regulation. Up until this year, the CRA had only been used one time. This Congress has passed thirteen joint resolutions overturning recent Obama regulations. Those of most interest to us are: One that overturns BLM planning reg’s, one that overturns the department of Interior’s stream protection rule, and one that overturns restrictions on hunting in Alaskan wildlife refuges. The overturning of the BLM planning regulations is a big win for state and local governments, who were being pushed aside by BLM.
National Monument News
Word has just arrived that Trump will issue an Executive Order to mandate a review of all national monuments designated since 1996. That should be good news for the forty ranching families touched by the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument. It also should bring into play Rep. Steve Pearce’s proposal to limit the boundaries of the monument to the footprint of the Organ Mountains. It will not be good news to New Mexico Senators Udall and Heinrich who pushed hard for the designation and want none of it reverted back to multiple-use. The Senators recently signed a letter to Trump stating, "We urge you to honor your promise to be a great steward of our public lands by upholding the existing protections for the 157 National Monuments that have been designated through the years by nearly every President since the Antiquities Act was enacted into law in 1906.
Trampling flowers and solar walls
Eco-tourists are flocking to Central California to view the wildflowers, but are trampling over the same wildflowers they came to see. One observer of this writes, “nature lovers are failing to follow some common sense rules related to enjoying the beauty and are trampling over the delicate flowers they have flocked to admire.” The destruction has been reportedly so severe that specialists were brought in to assess the damage.
And contractors are bidding on Trump’s proposal to build a wall on our border with Mexico. One has submitted a bid that proposes building a wall large enough for a deck that would offer tourists scenic views of the desert, and another proposes to cover the wall with solar panels.
Don’t worry about those Wild & Wacky Wildflower Watchers, nor having sun-worshipers atop the Border Wall. I’m sure the DC Deep Thinkers will sort this all out.
Until 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 (www.thewesterner.blogspot.com) and is the founder of The DuBois Rodeo Scholarship and The DuBois Western Heritage Foundation
This column originally appeared in the May editions of New Mexico Stockman and the Livestock Market Digest.