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March 26, 2008

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Conservation Column: A Call to Arms

Conservation_art
From the April issue of Field & Stream


Call to Arms

A new push to harvest energy resources could harm 42 million acres  of wild land by the end of the year, and only sportsmen can stop it. By Bob Marshall

If there ever there was a time for sportsmen to make an impact, it is now. Hunters and anglers may be the nation’s last hope for stopping one of the largest public-land giveaways in history -- and a potential disaster for hunting and fishing in the West.

The issue is the Bureau of Land Management’s rush to complete dozens of Resource Management Plans (RMPs) across the West before the Bush administration leaves office. It is one of the most important conservation stories of the decade because the future quality of hunting and fishing in large parts of a half dozen states hangs in the balance.

RMPs are documents that establish how public lands managed by the BLM can be used. The process, which typically takes several years, allows for public comment at several steps along the way, including a 30-day period after the draft plan is published. Any person or group can recommend changes. While the agency must listen, it is under no legal obligation, however, to act on any requests. The final plan typically reflects the priorities of the administration.

Once in place, an RMP has the force of law. And although an RMP can be changed by a new administration, that process can take several years, a period during which the old rules remain in effect.

“Energy companies will have the right to explore virtually anywhere—and the impacts of that development on fish and wildlife will be a secondary consideration,” says Rollin Sparrowe, a director of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership (TRCP). “I’m concerned that sportsmen have no idea how much land we’re talking about, how far-reaching and long-­lasting these plans will be.”

In fact, supreme authority on approximately 42 million acres of prime hunting and fishing habitat across the West could be handed to the energy industry for 15 to 20 years by the end of 2008. After that, an additional 8 million or more acres could be affected. The area stretches from Idaho and Montana south through Wyo­ming, Colorado, and Utah, and into New Mexico. It touches everything from blue-ribbon trout streams to legendary mule deer, elk, pronghorn, and grouse ranges.

Executive Bias
Sportsmen should not be surprised. President Bush publicly proclaimed his bias for the energy industry over wildlife in 2001 with Executive Orders 13211 and 13212, which turned decades of American public-land management on its head. Until then, companies wanting to turn a profit off public property had to show how their projects would impact fish and wildlife. After Bush’s orders, all activities on BLM lands—including fish and wildlife management—had to include a “statement of energy effects,” showing how they would impact energy. No impingement would be tolerated.

Conservation groups protested, but in the intervening years a rope-a-dope scenario has played out: While sportsmen and other conservationists were exhausting themselves slugging away at specific properties (such as the Trapper’s Point corridor in Wyo­ming and the Roan Plateau in Colorado), the BLM under the Bush administration was ­revising or amending up to 50 RMPs that would in essence cede long-term control over entire landscapes to the energy industry.

Now, the administration is sending a good-bye present to its oil and gas pals as it heads out the door. Last December the BLM began releasing the first of 25 RMPs that could be submitted this year.

“They’ve been working on these things since they took office, but we’re not getting a look at most of them until the final months,” Sparrowe says. “We have 30 days to protest each of these plans, but most of these things run thousands of pages. They cover huge amounts of land. It’s just staggering.”

The RMPs being written for the various BLM districts allow more than 90 percent of this public land to be available for drilling—and that drilling will take place under rules that make it extremely difficult to prevent serious damage to fish and wildlife habitat.

Wildlife advocates’ worst fears that RMPs being released would result in an explosion of drilling have proved accurate. According to a January Wilderness Society analysis of existing RMPs and announced projects, some 126,381 new oil and gas wells will be authorized over the next 15 to 20 years in Montana, Wyoming, Utah, Colorado, and New Mexico.

The impact on fish, wildlife, and sportsmen will be heavy.

“We’re talking about disruption of migration corridors, breeding areas, and other sensitive habitats for a wide range of mammals, birds, and fish,” Sparrowe says. “Look, we are not against all energy development. The nation needs fuel. But we know this can be done in a way that is much less damaging to fish and wildlife. We’re saying these are our public lands, and we have the right to demand that where development has to take place, it must take place in the least damaging way to fish and wildlife.”
That’s where hunters and fishermen come in.

The Voice That’s Heard in Washington
Mainstream environmental groups such as the Wilderness Society excel at the hard work of researching and gathering facts. But as that group’s Nada Culver points out, sportsmen are clearly the most capable of getting this administration’s ear.

“It is absolutely worth a hunter’s or angler’s effort to get involved in this,” she says. “They are the one group this administration will at least listen to.”

The importance of that point—and the nature of this fight—was driven home last year when the BLM released a list of lands for an energy-lease auction in southeastern Wyoming. Sportsmen who saw the list were shocked that it included a 28,000-acre section of the beautiful Saratoga Valley, encompassing the blue-­ribbon North Platte trout fishery as well as prime big-game and upland-bird hunting ranges. So they took action.

“We had just a few weeks, but we were able to organize an effective protest,” says Wyoming resident Dwayne Meadows, a field representative for the TRCP. “We had a ground­swell of opposition to this thing. Eventually we got the state rep and Gov. Dave Freudenthal to join with us.”

By December, the BLM had agreed to pull that section from the sale. But the victory lasted only until the draft of the new RMP for the region was released in January. “The local BLM guy called me to give me a heads-up that the new RMP would allow that section to be included in any future auction,” Meadows says.

“The way these RMPs are written,” he continues, “any time an oil company requests that any section of property be included in an auction, the local BLM office has to comply. We can protest again—and we might win again. But the next time a company wants that parcel, it will be listed again.”

Getting land permanently pulled from lease sales is the obvious solution. Although doing so is difficult, it’s possible—and those few victories have occurred thanks to the active support of hunters and fishermen. Culver says the BLM last year began considering special protection for a backcountry hunting unit in its Little Snake field area in northwestern Colorado. Since then, the agency has said it will include a similar exception in the Jarbidge (Idaho) RMP.

“These things would not have happened without the support of the hunting and fishing community,” Culver stresses. “If it becomes a trend, it will only be because of that involvement by hunters and anglers. They need to be involved.”

And they need to be involved now.

Sportsmen can find an excellent step-by-step explanation of the BLM planning process and future activities, with directions on how to get involved, at wilderness.org. An online petition is available on the TRCP website at ­responsiblesportsmen.org.

Comments

Dave

These are great opinions and ideas, well do something about them!

WRITE TO YOUR LOCAL LEGISLATOR OR CONGRESSMAN AND LET THEM HEAR YOU!

Thats the only way anything will get done (it rarely happens anyways in Congress) if we want to stop this destruction.

Mike Diehl

@Yoop -

About those cranes. They're not everywhere. The trick is picking locations where the impact is minimal. There are plenty of places where wind power can work. That and solar may not work in your county, but that's why we have transmission lines.

@Bubba -

"You speak of solar energy arrays!?
How large an "array" to produce one (1) KWH?"

About 5 square yards. I can fit enough solar panels on my roof to run my house and three others during daylight hours.

"You easily "give away" creosote covered "scrub land". Are there not wildlife species that survive and thrive in those environments?"

Where I live, these are former grasslands that have been overgrazed into a deteriorated state that largely supports dove, quail, jackrabbits, small rodents, and snakes. Also a few javelina. Right now that land is held in reserve to fund the state's educational system -- a task that it achieves most poorly -- by selling off chunks of it to land speculators who fill the parcels up with cookie cutter homes. So the long run choice is develop it and drive out all the game, or else install solar arrays that can be mounted on the order of 4m off the ground, which will generate power and a sustainable cash flow for the schools, and leave the quail, rabbits, snakes, and javelina alone. It's a pretty easy choice. And if we do that in lieu of screwing up prime western elk habitat it's a win-win-win. The only losers are people who do not have America's interests in mind.

"I have seen the Windmill Farms"

Me too. Their impact is much lower than the NG wells developed on BLM and USFS land in the west.

"Third, once a well is no longer productive, the area can be cleaned up and returned to a natural state!"

I have never seen any mineral extraction activity on western public lands substantially cleaned up, much less restored to anything approaching a natural state. There is no protection for these lands, the people who do mineral extraction on 'em don't put money in escrow to clean up or restore. They just haul out what they can at cents on the dollar of value and leave the sh*t for the taxpayer to clean up. I wouldn't trust a mineral company executive as far as I could kick him on a windy day.

"If a mill becomes non-productive, it will be replaced with another scenery chewing monster!"

That is a foolish claim. Wind stations do not become non-productive (unless you imagine that the winds will suddenly forever cease). They do from time to time require maintenance, as do all forms of power generation. The footprint of mills is smaller than well heads. In the event you don't want a wind mill there all you need to do is remove it an the damage is undone. In contrast, the cost to mitigate the damage from mineral extraction is extreme, and pretty much all of that cost is carried by taxpaying citizens like you n me. Mineral extraction on public lands would make Joe Stalin proud: a few well connected cronies get paid by the taxpayer to take resources from public land, use those resources for pennies on the dollar in value, and then sell those resources back to the taxpayer (the original owners of those resources) for great profit, then saddle the taxpayer with the cleanup bill.

Bubba

Okay Mike!

Bubba

Bob

Wow, Mike. I think you've layed it out pretty well. Nice work.

Matt Mallery

FH,

The rivers are damned to provide hyfdro eclectric. True. Maybe if we sued less electricity we could decommission some damns. But we use so much it's crazy.Think of all the three story homes, 6 bedroom houses, ect. We consume too damn much and our environment suffers because of it.
As far as water for municipal use. Let your lawn die and let the native species replace it. It's ridiculous how big some peoples lawns are. And golf? Don't get me started. All that water used on golf courses should stay in the rivers.

Beef. We are the fattest nation on the planet. If we ate healthier and maybe reasonable portions we would not need so much beef.

Exotic species. There is absolutley no justificsation for this. They compete with natives fo resources and the fences break up wildlife corridors. This is not real hunting. Give me a real wilderness hunt for native species. If I want to hunt African or Asian species, I will get on a plane.

What's this about "public land only a few can access".In Texas, you need to shell out $1000 a year or have connections to hunt. In the west, anyone regardless of socio-economic status can hunt, camp, hike, or fish. Texas is a classic example of what happens when you put the economy first. You get a great economy and not much else.

William

Good points Mike.

Bubba

Matt M.

You might need to do a bit of research there Bub!

Texas has quite a bit of public land. They probably have as much or more public land as any western state, it just doesn't look that large on a map. TPW also offers a Type II hunting permit for a very small fee that allows hunting in selected areas.
TPW also offers hunts on most of it's WMA's at affordable prices!
There are tons of hunting opportunities, available to anyone, at affordable prices, EVEN in Texas!

Bubba

Matt Mallery

Bubba,

Texas is 5% public land compared to Arizona which is 86%.

Bubba

Matt

Along with the "public" land, throw in the WMA's that allow hunting! There is a bunch of public access hunting in Texas!

Bubba

Joe

t

Joe

Never knew so many liberals read this magazine.So Mr.Marshall and readers,yer tellin me that its alright for us to rape the other contries of their reserve on oil and not touch our "precious lands" to supply our own country?Come on! You guys were all for bush when you found out your gun privelages were going to be ok and now that we gotta pay the piper for the gas we use on our ATV,boat,1/2 ton ford and all the other toys we use.Do you need a tissue guys.Outdoorsman are the worst at there need gas and now that you find out you may see a oil rig in yer trout stream you cry the blues.Should of thought of that when you bought that huge truck to be a "weekend warrior". Time to pay up hippie!

Mike Diehl

Another idiot heard from it seems.

JB

Sports men and women
Do you hunt in any of the states mentioned? Leave your gas guzzling 4 wheelers at home. Give the animals a sporting chance and walk.

Eric Stewart

Eveidently Bob Marshall thinks that 'it is an undeniable fact that we cannot drill our way to energy sef-sufficiency'. He is wrong.
We have oil off our east coast, west coast, & in the Gulf of Mexico. This amounts to trillions of barrels of crude. We have the technolgy to refine shale oil in our mountains and would not need more than a couple of percent of that land for manufacture.
It is currently illegal for American corporations to explore the fore-metioned. The oil industry gets approx. 10 cents per/gal. profit, but our government makes 18+ cents per/gal. Federal tax plus there is and added state tax. So gentleman, while the oil companies make billions of dollars, our government makes 2 TO 3 TRILLION dollars. And we blame the oil companies??
Oil is not going away today, tommorow, or for many generations to come. Oil is the life blood of cilvilization. It is in and is needed to make plastics, to firearms, to fishing gear, to toothbrushes.
Right now, just off our coast in international waters, the Chinese are drilling down & sideways, taking our oil. The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.
I applaud Bob for his concern and the BLM should be closly watched, but his facts on oil amounts are dated in the '70's.

David Epps

When one reads the above 'Field Notes', do not assume that the authors are hunters who share common ideals. These anonymous writers could just as easily be associated with political groups or individuals that have a hidden agendas. The Internet is a great source of information but do not fall victim to its other nature as a media for propaganda. Do not be swayed by arguments which appeal to emotion and lies by omission as in the above article and BLOG notes that follow it. THE ABOVE AUTHORS ARE PEOPLE THAT YOU DO NOT KNOW AND YOU CANNOT SEE INTO THEIR EYES, THE WINDOW OF THEIR SOUL.

David Epps

Bob Marshall responded in June 2008 issue by saying “We cannot drill our way to energy self-sufficiency because there isn't enough of the stuff.” You have heard this mantra from everyone on the left who have a track record of limiting our freedom of religion and our right to bear arms. So you cannot rely upon anything that Bob Marshall says. The news papers, the TV news channels, and now my once favorite magazines, Field & Stream and Readers Digest, are rife with political bias and appeals to emotion and zip, nota, zilch rational thought..
See http://www.rd.com/your-america-inspiring-people-and-stories/americas-water-shortage-crisis/article55731.html
and http://news.scotsman.com/education/Falling-exam--passes-blamed.4209408.jp
Here is how the propagandists do it. An author releases an article having a leftist agenda and then a cadre of thought police having the same agenda post to the BLOG associated in support of the thesis of the article, the initial opinions then give reinforcement of the bias and taint the readers thought process to one of emotion. If you read down the BLOG the responses are likely more genuine and the reader could attribute higher credibility to them. The same tactic of thought control is used on Internet Message Boards AKA Forums.
Get the facts!




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