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September 13, 2005

While the Forest Service Slept Planned

Much of the discussion on this blog and in the Forest Service lately has been about the “new planning rule,” related directives, etc. But much of the action is elsewhere—in legislative, judicial and administrative arenas far apart from planning. Consider these:

  • “The U.S. Forest Service will propose regulations to shorten the environmental reviews of small oil-drilling projects in national grasslands, an Agriculture Department official said Friday.” Forest Service Plan Would Speed Oil Drilling, Dale Wetzel, SF Chronicle AP, Sept. 9

  • The White River National Forest this week reorganized its staff to eliminate 25 management and business administration positions and create 23 new ones to “focus more on the field work,” Forest Supervisor Maribeth Gustafson said.

    The Glenwood Springs Field Office of the Bureau of Land Management will be one of several offices in the West in a pilot project next year with other federal agencies to more efficiently process mineral leases and drilling permits, office Manager Jamie Connell said. That will mean more staff for the Glenwood Springs office. …The national energy bill included the Glenwood Springs BLM Field Office in a study on how to efficiently process energy-related applications on federal lands, Connell said. That will include the White River Forest, Environmental Protection Agency, Fish and Wildlife Agency, Bureau of Indian Affairs and others, she said.

    Eight BLM offices in five states — Colorado, Utah, Montana, New Mexico and Wyoming — will take part in the three-year study. Those five states contain the largest on-shore gas resource in the country, an estimated 139 trillion cubic feet of gas, enough to the heat 55 million homes for almost 30 years, according to Interior Department figures. More than half of those lands are under federal management. Glenwood Federal Agencies Staff UpThe Daily Sentinel, Sept 13

  • A handbook detailing U.S. Forest Service policies for allowing cattle grazing on national grasslands will be reviewed cover to cover, rather than singling out two new chapters to which ranchers objected, a top official said. The chapters were recently changed to say that ranchers who lease grazing property in national grasslands shouldn't get grazing permits that come with the land. The changes were suspended after they prompted widespread complaints. Forest Service Will Review Grazing Policy Book, Officials Say, Grand Forks Herald, Sept. 9

  • The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals this week loosened the standards for what Utah and its counties can claim as their roads in the state's outback. … U.S. District Court Judge Tena Campbell ruled that the county's road claims did not meet the BLM's criteria requiring proof that the roads led to specific destinations and that they showed evidence of purposeful, mechanical construction. But the 10th Circuit this week rejected the construction requirement, ruling that local governments must prove only that a road has been in continuous use for 10 years. …

    [Utah] Assistant attorney general [Ralph] Finlayson believes the key component of the 10th Circuit ruling was that it expands the definition of a road to include old mining and jeep trails, which the counties consider part of their transportation network. "We're not talking about a freeway," he said. "The interpretation of what a highway is, is quite minimal. It can even include trails, though we're not seeking to establish trails as a right of way. We argued these roads are used by vehicles."

    But SUWA's [Heidi] McIntosh believes the appeals court also laid down a firm marker requiring local governments to show what she calls "prolonged use" to have a valid road claim.

    "Just because an off-road vehicle goes down into a wash bottom, that doesn't make it a highway," she said. "All of these two-tracks and dirt trails that have not received substantial use and have dried up and blown away do not deserve RS 2477 status." Warning: Bumps Ahead in Dispute Over Rural Roads, Joe Baird, The Salt Lake Tribune, Sept. 10

  • … "[Community forestry is] a dramatic new model for forest management," said Jeff Campbell, senior program manager for environment and development at the Ford Foundation, which has given $25 million to finance community forestry in the United States over the last five years.

    In community forestry, traditional opponents like environmentalists and loggers often join to fight a common enemy, for example subdivisions, absentee landowners or the decline of a local economy. The concept has been embraced by the Bush administration, which held a conference on what is known as cooperative conservation in late August in St. Louis.

    "It's a new way of doing business," said Kathleen Clarke, director of the Bureau of Land Management, who toured the Blackfoot project in August. "Ours is not a command-and-control operation. It acknowledges that the best hope of being stewards is to pull together folks who live on these lands with the federal agencies."

    "It's Sagebrush Rebellion light," said John Horning, executive director of Forest Guardians, an environmental group in Santa Fe, N.M., referring to an effort in the 1980's by some Western politicians to persuade the federal government to turn over federal land to the states. "It's sinister and it's frightening, because it comes at the same time federal environmental safeguards on public lands are being dismantled to allow logging, mining, and oil and gas development." Community Forestry Bids To Preserve Scenic West {$ link}, Jim Robbins NY Times, Sept. 4

  • … "The Nature Conservancy has most of its barrier islands open to the public, free of charge," [Steve Parker, executive director of The Nature Conservancy's Virginia Coast Reserve] said. "It is not appropriate for somebody to turn around and charge the public for access to the same places for their own personal gain."

    Everything Parker and his staff, volunteers and partners do at the coast reserve is in support of the conservancy's mission: to preserve the plants, animals, and natural communities that represent the diversity of life on Earth by protecting the lands and waters they need to survive.

    "Our primary obligation is to the mission and to the people who gave us the money to do it," he said. Marketing is a Cooperative Effort, Ceri Larson Danes, Eastern Shore News, Sept. 10 [Note: In forwarding email commentary Scott Silver sagely notes: “How strange this is! The Nature Conservancy's privately owned lands are kept open to the public, free of charge, while public lands are increasingly put off limits to all except those willing and able to pay extra for accessing lands they already own.”]
Could it be that the Power Players are comfortable letting the focus be on planning while the real action is elsewhere? What other action are we missing out on?

Posted by Dave on September 13, 2005 at 04:23 PM | Permalink


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