|10-24-2011, 10:28 AM||#1 (permalink)|
Join Date: Apr 2001
Member # 3975
BRC National Wilderness Legislative Update
Greetings BRC Action Alert Subscribers,
Last week we blasted a Wilderness update for Idaho and Montana and thought we'd whip up a quick national update on the latest legislative issues affecting recreational access.
As is often the case, our "quick" update quickly grew to 10 pages. So we made liberal use of the delete button and ended up with a very brief snapshot of the legislative issues of the day.
These are not all of the issues BRC is tracking and the update on each is very brief. Remember that BRC Action Alert subscribers will also receive any state-specific updates in addition to these national legislative updates.
As always, please feel free to shoot Ric or me an email if you want additional info or are concerned about an issue that isn't addressed here.
Brian Hawthorne Ric Foster
Public Lands Policy Director Public Lands Department Manager
BlueRibbon Coalition BlueRibbon Coalition
208-237-1008 ext 102 208-237-1008 ext 107
The Wilderness Society's New Lobbyist: Ken Salazar
This year's Wilderness Wish List continues to grow, although a new trendy way to lock up our public lands is via new "non wilderness" land designations such as wildlife corridors, National Monuments, biodiversity reserves and so-called "compromise land use bills."
Perhaps the most concerning update is the new role of your Department of the Interior (DOI) as the chief lobbyist for The Wilderness Society.
Long time BRC members know that Congress, with the passage of the Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA), specifically limited the Secretary of the Interior's activities related to Wilderness. After a initial review for Wilderness, the Bureau of Land Management was supposed to concentrate on managing our lands under the multiple use/sustained yield policy.
Under Secretary Ken Salazar, however, the BLM seems intent on shifting scarce budgetary resources toward aggressive lobbying activities for massive new Wilderness designations. That's perfectly appropriate, if you are a lobbyist for The Wilderness Society, but the Secretary of the Interior should have nothing to do with this.
According to Phil Taylor, a reporter for E&E News, Salazar's lobbying efforts have been somewhat successful:
"Interviews with BLM state offices last month found the agency was mulling more than a dozen areas for Congress to designate as wilderness, the highest level of protection for public lands. Areas included the Sheep Creek and Sleeping Giant wilderness study areas in Montana, Nevada's Gold Butte and Pine Forest, six wilderness study areas in Colorado and at least a couple of recommendations each in New Mexico and California."
Years of experience has taught us not to place too much stock in anything that isn't in ink. We're watching this list carefully, but we fully expect it to grow.
Wilderness Wish List
Each Congress legislators line up to re-introduce a conga line of Wilderness bills that, at least for now, have little chance of passage. Then they line up at the doors of the League of Conservation Voters for their check!
The perennial list of favorites include the now infamous Utah's America's Red Rock Wilderness Act, Diana DeGette's massive Colorado Wilderness Act of 2011, and the unfathomably massive Northern Rockies Ecosystem Protection Act.
With little chance of passage, these massive proposals serve to make other "scaled down" bills seem more reasonable. That is what the wilderness lobby in Washington D.C. would have us believe, anyway. Of the bills that have a much better chance of passing, BRC tracks them closely and sends updates to our members on a state by state basis.
The budget crisis has taken center stage, so it may be a bit early for a complete of legislation for the 112th Congress. But here is a quick list of some of the bills we're tracking.
We'll wrap up this part of the update with the latest from Phil Taylor at E&E News: House panel to review 6 designation bills, 3.3M-acre land disposal proposal
Growing the National Landscape Conservation System
Secretary Salazar's ambitious Treasured Landscape Initiative is still alive and well. And the lame stream media is doing their part. It's difficult not to come across two or three news stories touting the biological imperative of locking up most of our recreational lands. Two recent examples here and here.
It is reasonable to assume that any of Salazar's Treasured Landscape wish list that didn't make it into a wilderness bill will be proposed as a National Conservation Area or a National Monument and managed under the National Landscape Conservation System (NLCS).
Until recently, wilderness activists pitched the NLCS as a compromise between Wilderness designation and a more "recreation friendly" way to "protect" public lands. But with the release of a new 15-year strategy, Salazar has removed all doubt. For NLCS, conservation and protectionism trumps all.
Take a minute to read through the strategy. You will see that the NLCS directives place a huge burden on all recreational users, even mountain bike and equestrians. Previous to Salazar's new guidance, one could have assumed trail based recreation would be relatively safe in one of these new designations. But the facts are now in black and white, the ink is dry, and the fix is in... unless your use is specifically mentioned as a "value" in the new designation, your recreational use will not survive. Here are just two directives we're up against:
"Clearly communicate that the conservation, protection, and restoration of NLCS values is the highest priority in NLCS planning and management, consistent with the designating legislation or presidential proclamation."
Do not authorize discretionary uses that cannot be managed in a manner compatible with the designating proclamation or legislation. Work with the holders of valid existing rights to limit negative impacts to NLCS values.
A Recent Object Lesson
A recent email from the gang at the New Mexico Off Highway Vehicle Alliance (NMOHVA) provides us a object lesson. When asking how the proposed El Rio Grande Del Norte National Conservation Area would impact backcountry roads popular with dual sport motorcyclists, NMOHVA's advocates learned that BLM employees were making the claim that "the land would not be designated a Wilderness area and that motorized transportation, hunting, wood gathering and limited grazing would continue as they had in the past."
But the specific verbiage in the draft mentions only that motorized use will continue on existing roads. Under Salazar's new directives that means roads that are "improved and maintained by mechanical means to insure relatively regular and continue use," not "primitive roads" and "trails" popular with hunters and recreationists.
So here is how Salazar's directives kick in; unless the legislation or proclamation establishing the NCA specifically mentions "motorized and non motorized trail based recreation" the directives all but ensure those uses will not survive.
We encourage recreationists in areas proposed for a National Conservation Area and/or a National Monument to contact their legislators and alert them to Salazar's new directives. Don't believe what the well-meaning BLM tells you. No matter your flavor of recreational use, if it isn't specifically mentioned as a Conservation Value, it will not survive.
What. A. Mess. Because the annual Interior and Agriculture budget process is such a mess, I'm going to skip an update until things are more settled. Instead, we wanted to link to our Idaho and Montana Wilderness update. We've titled it "Washington D.C. Shenanigans" and it is definitely worthwhile reading and best of all, it's short!
Pro Recreation Bills Continue to Gain Support
Don Amador and I were talking the other day about what a significant change the recent field hearing held in Northern California represented.
The House Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests, and Public Lands heard formal testimony on September 19 in the State Capitol from OHV leaders, Forest Service, county officials, union representatives, sportsmen, and of course, anti-access groups. Don posted a blurb recently on our website: Trail Access Featured At Congressional Hearing
The hearing represents a relatively significant sea-change in the land-use debate. We are encouraged that recreational use of public lands is finally being addressed pro-actively by elected federal officials. There are several pro-recreation bills circulating on capitol hill, including a bill that limits the President's unilateral authority to designate National Monuments and the U.S. House of Representatives is considering changes to the Endangered Species Act.
Finally, to those greenies out there that continue to claim OHV groups are just a bunch of "pave the parks" nut cases, we note that some OHV groups are supporting certain conservation bills such as the "Beauty Mountain and Agua Tibia Act of 2011."
Source with Live Links: http://www.sharetrails.org/alerts/20...slative-update