Thursday, June 07, 2018

DuBois column

Zinke pivots, but in what direction? Heinrich runs roughshod over two counties, and ESA data is terribly flawed

Zinke’s pivot(s)

On May 16, Secretary of Interior Ryan Zinke met with 25 different environmental and sportsmen’s groups at the Department of Interior. The subject was reorganization of the Department of Interior.  According to E&E news, Zinke announced several times during the meeting that he was going to make a “grand pivot” towards conservation.  An official with Trout Unlimited, Steve Moyer, said Zinke used the term "grand pivot" several times to indicate a change of focus away from energy development and toward conservation is planned at Interior over the next few years.  Moyer added, "I was glad to hear of a change of direction from Mr. Zinke."

Please note Zinke’s choice of words. This is not just a change, or even a plain old pivot, but a “grand” pivot. I’m afraid many of us will not find this to be so grand.

Several days later, Zinke was in Fort Peck, Montana to meet with farmers and ranchers. MTN News reports that Zinke told the group, "This next year, we're going to do a grand pivot. And the pivot is, the energy sector is fine. The grand pivot is reorganization.”

So which is it: A grand pivot towards conservation, or a grand pivot towards reorganization? 

Perhaps they are one and the same. Environmental groups have been pushing ecosystem management for years, ignoring state and county jurisdictions. Unfortunately, that appears to be the direction Zinke is headed with his reorganization. 

About that pivot: If this was basketball, I would blow the whistle and call “walking” on Zinke. And if he keeps committing this infraction, the coach should pull him out of game.

Heinrich vs. Otero County

Senator Martin Heinrich has introduced legislation to change the status of the White Sands National Monument to that of a national park. "This is a place that, between its geologic features, the unique biology that exists here, the enormous cultural history that goes back well over 10,000 years, really deserves recognition as a national park.", said Heinrich.

This is being pursued in spite of the opposition of the Otero County Commission who finds the status change unnecessary and about which they have many unanswered questions. In addition, the Dona Ana County Commission has rescinded their previous support for the proposal.

In a letter to Heinrich the Otero County Commission wrote, “We do not support changing White Sands National Monument into a national park. The chief argument in favor of the change is that it will increase the number of visitors. Yet the White Sands are already the most visited of the twelve National Park Service sites in New Mexico, more visitors than Carlsbad Caverns National Park.” In other words, why change the status to national park when the White Sands National Monument already receives more visitors than any national park in New Mexico? The letter goes on to cite figures showing the change in status “is no guarantee of popularity.”

Supporters of the proposal refer to a study by Headwaters Economics that claims a change in status will bring more visitors, cause up to $7.5 million in new spending and create over a hundred jobs. Anyone who follows this issue knows Headwaters Economics has never found a piece of federal land that wasn’t a positive benefit to the community, and the more restrictive the federal designation the more they like it. The Otero County Commission is having none of this. 

Their letter states:

“Besides its distance from and unfamiliarity with Otero County and its people, funding for Headquarters comes almost exclusively from federal agencies and environmental organizations whose goals are anything but nonpartisan. In fact, the first sources of funding listed on the Headwaters website are the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service. There is something amiss when federal tax dollars are routed through a charity to produce a report that is used to lobby that same federal government.”

The Commission’s letter thoroughly and in detail attacks the methodology utilized by Headwaters  and says, “There are serious questions about the methodology and biases of the Headwaters report and we think it has little value in evaluating future visitation to White Sands.”

What a pleasure it is to see someone expose the reality of these federally funded “studies”.

The Commission also has concerns about how a change in status may affect the management of White Sands. One example is the film industry. After listing the many movies that have been filmed at White Sands, the Commission says, “We are concerned that the change in status will affect filmmaking here either from higher fees or increased regulation.”

The Commission also expresses disappointment in how Senator Heinrich has made “end-runs” around the two County Commissions who oppose the bill and how the Senator announced the introduction of the bill in Las Cruces, instead of Alamogordo, and no members of the “democratically elected representatives of Otero County” were invited to this “meeting of community leaders.”

Flawed ESA data

If you lived in a community around Lake Erie, you were told to not mow your lawn unless the temperature was right and your grass was a certain height. Your pets should be kept indoors and forget about using weed killer. Why? Because there might be snakes in the area protected by the Endangered Species Act.

 Rob Gordon, a senior research fellow with The Heritage Foundation, discovered this situation while researching the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s 1999 decision to list the Lake Erie water snake. According to Gordon, the Fish and Wildlife Service estimated the population of that particular water snake to be somewhere between 1,530 and 2,030 at the time. But just a few years later, the agency revised it to 5,690. Gordon says the federal agency either made a “substantial underestimation” of the species or the snake underwent “a truly miraculous population growth rate”.

In his research paper, Correcting Falsely “Recovered” and Wrongly Listed Species and Increasing Accountability and Transparency in the Endangered Species Program, Gordon found that half of those species that were listed as recovered, should never have been listed in the first place.

If you think the cost of all this is born solely by the landowners, you should think again. The general taxpayer is also on the hook. According to Gordon’s paper, the Fish and Wildlife Service reported in 2014 that the “median cost for preparing and publishing a 90-day finding is $39,276; for a 12-month finding, $100,690; for a proposed rule with critical habitat, $345,000; and for a final listing rule with critical habitat, $305,000.”

How’s that for federally funded fiction. And, oh yes, the feds delisted that snake in 2011.

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 ( and is the founder of The DuBois Rodeo Scholarship and The DuBois Western Heritage Foundation

 This column first appeared in the June editions of the NM Stockman and the Livestock Market Digest 

No comments: