The Damage Done by Trump’s Department of the Interior

by Elizabeth Kolbert as published in The New Yorker

Under Ryan Zinke, the Secretary of the Interior, it’s a sell-off from sea to shining sea.

“Killing Innocent Animals is KOOL!” ~ Dinky Zinke

On his first day as Secretary of the Interior, last March, Ryan Zinke rode through downtown Washington, D.C., on a roan named Tonto. When the Secretary is working at the department’s main office, on C Street, a staff member climbs up to the roof of the building and hoists a special flag, which comes down when Zinke goes home for the day. To provide entertainment for his employees, the Secretary had an arcade game called Big Buck Hunter installed in the cafeteria. The game comes with plastic rifles, which players aim at animated deer. The point of the installation, Zinke has said, is to highlight sportsmen’s contribution to conservation. “Get excited for #hunting season!” he tweeted, along with a photo of himself standing next to the game, which looks like a slot machine sporting antlers.

Nowadays, it is, in a manner of speaking, always hunting season at the Department of the Interior. The department, which comprises agencies ranging from the National Park Service to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, oversees some five hundred million acres of federal land, and more than one and a half billion acres offshore. Usually, there’s a tension between the department’s mandates—to protect the nation’s natural resources and to manage them for commercial use. Under Zinke, the only question, from the redwood forests to the Gulf Stream waters, is how fast these resources can be auctioned off.

One of Zinke’s first acts, after dismounting from Tonto, was to overturn a moratorium on new leases for coal mines on public land. He subsequently recommended slashing the size of several national monuments, including Bears Ears, in Utah, and Gold Butte, in Nevada, and lifting restrictions at others to allow more development. (In December, acting on these recommendations, President Donald Trump announced that he was cutting the area of the Bears Ears monument by more than three-quarters and shrinking the Grand Staircase-Escalante monument, also in Utah, by almost half.) Zinke has also proposed gutting a plan, years in the making, to save the endangered sage grouse; instead of protecting ten million acres in the West that had been set aside for the bird’s preservation, he’d like to see them given over to mining. And he’s moved to scrap Obama-era regulations that would have set more stringent standards for fracking on federal property.

All these changes have been applauded by the oil and gas industries, and many have also been praised by congressional Republicans. (Before Zinke became Interior Secretary, he was a one-term congressman from Montana.) But, to some members of the G.O.P., Zinke’s recent decision to open up great swaths of both coasts to offshore oil and gas drilling represents a rig too far.

Last week, Zinke backtracked. Following a brief meeting with the governor of Florida, Rick Scott, at the Tallahassee airport, the Secretary said that he was removing that state’s coastal waters “from consideration for any new oil and gas platforms.” The move was manifestly political. In the past, Scott has supported drilling for oil just about everywhere, including in the Everglades, but, with Trump’s encouragement, he is now expected to challenge Florida’s senior senator, Bill Nelson, a Democrat, in November.

“Local voices count” is how Zinke explained the Florida decision to reporters, a remark that was greeted with jeers from elected officials in other states, who noted that some “local voices” were more equal than others. “Virginia’s governor (and governor-elect) have made this same request, but we have not received the same commitment,” Senator Tim Kaine, Democrat of Virginia, tweeted. “Wonder why.” Walter Shaub, the former head of the Office of Government Ethics, noted that the Florida coast happens to be home to Mar-a-Lago, Trump’s winter White House cum dues-collecting club. He suggested that the Secretary “look up ‘banana republic’ ” and then “go fly a Zinke flag to celebrate making us one.”…(CONTINUED)

https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2018/01/22/the-damage-done-by-trumps-department-of-the-interior/amp?__twitter_impression=true

The Private Company Selling Off America’s Public Lands

story by Mya Frazier as published on OutsideOnline.com

EnergyNet, an online auction company from Amarillo, Texas, is set to make a fortune from oil and gas leases.  And good luck finding a way to protest.

When Texas oilman Bill Britain started the auction site EnergyNet in October 1999, it wasn’t exactly a state-of-the-art operation. Its homepage used a generic design template, an add-on to the Virtual Auctioneer software Britain bought from a Dallas firm. Like hordes of other entrepreneurs at the time, Britain hoped to bring the billion-dollar auctioneering model of eBay to an industry where he had a toehold. A decade and a half after graduating from West Point, Britain had started J-Brex Co., an Amarillo-based energy company, and had oil wells scattered all over Texas. If there was one thing he knew well, it was how to buy and sell drilling leases.

Britain boasted of “changing the way the oil and gas industry did business.” He pitched his auctions as “ON LINE REAL TIME,” but the technology was hardly game-changing—bidders were notified by email when they were outbid—and his timing, at the apex of the dot-com bubble, was terrible. “It burst almost the moment we got started,” Britain recently told Forbes.

Despite such inauspicious beginnings, by 2012 EnergyNet had become one of the industry’s biggest auction sites for oil and gas leases, even if overall sales on the platform were relatively modest. But over the next couple years, Britain began inking exclusive contracts to host lease auctions of public lands, including with state land agencies and, most notably, in 2015 with the Bureau of Land Management.

The platform took off. Less than a year into the Trump administration, transactions have risen to $1.25 billion. About half the transactions through the first three quarters of 2017, or about $600 million, were leases of public lands.

EnergyNet typically earns a 2 percent commission with state agencies; federal land commissions are set at 1.5 percent. By October of 2017, EnergyNet had earned an estimated $9 million auctioning off America’s public lands, based on an Outside analysis. Once fourth-quarter transactions are finalized, earnings could potentially rise to $15 million or more. (EnergyNet, a private company, doesn’t disclose profits.)

Donald Trump campaigned on the promise to unleash America’s estimated $50 trillion in untapped shale, oil, and natural gas reserves—a vision now being executed by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. Once-protected national monuments, like Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante, are now vulnerable to drilling. And Britain’s once-obscure auction site provides the platform through which this massive opening of federal lands for energy extraction will happen—all without the pesky problem of public protests.

So how did a private company become the biggest seller of America’s public lands?…(CONTINUED)

https://www.outsideonline.com/2269336/obscure-texas-company-selling-public-land

The BLM: Who’s running the show?

Since the BLM has removed state websites and staff directories from the internet, and they now have only one portal for very limited information for the public, we thought we’d give you a quick update on who’s running the Bureau of Land Management at national and state levels.  Source:  BLM

Brian Steed   Brian Steed

Deputy Director, Programs and Policy, Bureau of Land Management

Exercising Authority of the Director

Brian Steed is the BLM’s Deputy Director for Programs and Policy, exercising authority of the director. Before joining the BLM in October 2017, Steed served as Chief of Staff for Representative Chris Stewart of Utah. Before that, he taught economics at Utah State University and was once a deputy county attorney in Iron County, Utah. Read the full biography

Michael Nedd   Michael D. Nedd

Acting Deputy Director, Operations

Michael D. (Mike) Nedd is the Acting Deputy Director of  Operations.  Prior to this appointment he served as Assistant Director for the BLM’s Energy, Minerals & Realty Management Directorate. In this capacity he provided vision and leadership for developing and implementing programmatic policies, guidance, oversight, and human and fiscal resources for the BLM’s renewable energy, fluid and solid minerals, lands and realty, and cadastral survey programs. Read the full biography

Official photo of BLM Alaska Acting State Director Karen Mouritsen   Karen Mouritsen

BLM Alaska Acting State Director

Karen Mouritsen was an attorney practicing law for DOI, but she was motivated to make a career change to the BLM after serving on detail as an Associate District Manager and learning how challenging and rewarding it is to work together as a team with many talented BLM employees.  Read the full biography

Photo of BLM Arizona State Director Raymond Suazo   Raymond Suazo

BLM Arizona State Director

Ray Suazo is the BLM Arizona State Director, responsible for leading a staff of nearly 500 employees and the management of more than 12 million surface and 17 million subsurface acres of public lands in Arizona. Ray joined the BLM Arizona State Office in 2006. He served as Chief Information Officer, Deputy State Director for Business and Support Services, and Associate State Director before his appointment as the Arizona State Director in 2011.   Read the full biography

BLM California State Directory Jerry Perez   Jerome E. Perez

BLM California State Director

Jerome E. Perez is the California State Director for the Bureau of Land Management. He previously served as the State Director for BLM Oregon/Washington and as the Deputy Regional Forester of the U.S. Forest Service’s Intermountain Region. Read the full biography

Shoop_Acting CO SD   Greg Shoop

Acting BLM Colorado State Director

Greg Shoop has worked for the BLM on and off since 1977. He has been BLM Colorado’s Associate State Director since 2014 and is currently serving as its Acting State Director. Read the full biography.

Acting State Director Mitch Leverette   Mitch Leverette

BLM Eastern States Acting State Director

Mitch Leverette started his BLM career 30 years ago as a staff geologist in the BLM California State Office.  He worked in the California State Office for over 17 years working across several mineral programs and positions.  Mitch started working in the Washington Headquarters in 2004 as Deputy Division Chief for Solid Minerals and was promoted to Division Chief in 2008.  Read the full biography

Acting BLM Idaho State Director Peter Ditton  Peter Ditton

Acting BLM Idaho State Director

Ditton attended Montana College of Mineral Science and Technology where he graduated with a degree in geological engineering.  He began a career with the BLM in the cooperative education program out of Great Falls, Montana working as a petroleum engineer.  He has worked in DC and a number of states including Alaska, California, Idaho and Arizona.  Ditton has also held a number of detail and full-time positions including: petroleum engineer, planning coordinator, field and district manager, Associate State Director for Alaska and Idaho, California State Director. Read the full biography

Jon Raby, BLM Montana-Dakotas   Jon Raby

BLM Montana-Dakotas Acting State Director

In Montana-Dakotas, Raby will oversee more than 8 million acres of public land and over 47 million acres of federal mineral estate in Montana, North Dakota and South Dakota.  HIs career includes over 20 years with the BLM in Oregon, Montana and Washington D.C. In addition to the BLM, Jon has also worked for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Forest Service.  He has also been the BLM Liaison to the Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Land and Minerals Management, and the Chief of Staff in the BLM Director’s Office in Washington, D.C.   Read the full biography

BLM Nevada State Director John Ruhs, Reno, Nevada, BLM photo   John Ruhs

Nevada State Director

John Ruhs has served as the Ely District Manager and Winnemucca District Fire Management Officer. In addition to his work in Nevada, John has also served as BLM’s Senior Special Assistant in Washington, D.C., and District Manager of the High Desert District in Wyoming. He has also worked for the BLM in Colorado, Idaho, and Oregon. Read the full biography

Aden Seidlitz   Aden Seidlitz

Acting BLM New Mexico State Director

Aden Seidlitz began his BLM career in 1983 as a Petroleum Engineer in Wyoming, a Petroleum Engineer/Program Leader at the Alaska State Office, and a Supervisory Petroleum Engineer in Montana.  He became an Acting Area Manager, then Associate Field Manager and then an Acting Field Manager in Montana.  He worked as a Field Manager in Utah and became BLM’s Chief for the Fire Planning and Fuels Management Division in Boise, Idaho, and then became the BLM Boise District Manager.  Aden was selected as the New Mexico Associate State Director on 2012, and is now Acting State Director.  Read the full biography.

Jamie Connell, BLM Oregon-Washington State Director   Jamie Connell

BLM Oregon-Washington State Director

Connell received her B.S. in Petroleum Engineering from Montana Tech in 1985, and began her BLM career as a petroleum engineer in Miles City, Montana. Connell’s managerial experience includes stints for the BLM and the U.S. Forest Service in locations across the West, including Great Falls and Malta, Montana; Boise, Idaho; and the cities of Montrose, Silverthorne, Glenwood Springs, and Grand Junction, all in Colorado. Connell most recently served as the State Director for BLM-Montana/Dakotas.  Read the full biography

BLM Utah State Director Ed Roberson. BLM photo   Ed Roberson

BLM Utah State Director

As BLM Utah State Director, Ed Roberson, who has had a 37-year career with the BLM.  He was most recently Director of the BLM National Operations Center in Denver. Roberson also served in top BLM roles in New Mexico, and held senior level positions in Washington, D.C., including a seven year tenure as the BLM Assistant Director for Renewable Resources and Planning.  Read the full biography

Official photo of Wyoming State Director Mary Jo Rugwell.   Mary Jo Rugwell

BLM Wyoming State Director

Mary Jo Rugwell was selected as the state director for the Bureau of Land Management in Wyoming. She had been acting state director for about a year and a half prior to being chosen. Mary Jo served as the Associate State Director in Wyoming for over two years. She  is a native of Cheyenne, WY.  Read the full biography

 

Please sign petition to rectify the heavy impact of livestock grazing on public lands

photo:  Western Watersheds Project

Please sign this petition HERE.

SOURCE:  Petitions.whitehouse.gov

We the people ask the federal government to Call on Congress to act on an issue:

Livestock Grazing on Public Lands Rectify the Heavy Impact

Created by T.B. on November 23, 2017

Reductions will address ecological problems caused by commercial livestock grazing such as:

● displacement of wildlife, reduction of wildlife populations;
● degradation is occurring to the land;
● transmission of pathogens;
● degradation is occurring to plant communities;
● native wildlife are killed to advance the interests of public lands ranchers;
● livestock are damaging to sensitive wetlands or riparian areas; or
● Ruminant grazing contributes to the nitrogen load in streams as well as nitrous oxide gasses also
a greenhouse gas.

This Land Is No Longer Your Land

Source:  Bloomberg

The fight over preserving public land during the Trump era is taking a strange, angry twist in Montana’s Crazy Mountains. Both sides are armed.

In Park County, Mont., North Fork of Horse Creek Road with a “No Forest Service Access” sign.  Photographer: THOMAS PRIOR FOR BLOOMBERG BUSINESSWEEK

by Monte Reel, Bloomberg

Brad Wilson is following a forest trail and scanning the dusky spaces between the fir trees for signs of movement. The black handle of a .44 Magnum juts prominently from his pack. If he stumbles on a startled bear at close range, the retired sheriff’s deputy wants to know the gun is within quick reach, in case something stronger than pepper spray is needed. Wilson isn’t the type who likes to take chances; he’s the type who plans ahead.

Before setting foot on this path, he unfolded a huge U.S. Forest Service map and reviewed the route, Trail 267. He put a finger at the trailhead, which was next to a ranger’s station, then traced its meandering path into the Crazy Mountains, a chain in south-central Montana that’s part of the northern Rockies. Like many of the trails and roads that lead into U.S. Forest Service land, Trail 267 twists in and out of private properties. These sorts of paths have been used as access points for decades, but “No Trespassing” signs are popping up on them with increasing frequency, along with visitors’ logs in which hikers, hunters, and Forest Service workers are instructed to sign their names, tacitly acknowledging that the trail is private and that permission for its use was granted at the private landowners’ discretion.

Wilson hates the signs and the logbooks, interpreting them as underhanded attempts by a handful of ranchers to dictate who gets to enter federal property adjacent to their own. Several of the owners operate commercial hunting businesses or rental cabins; by controlling the points of ingress to public wilderness, Wilson says, they could effectively turn tens of thousands of acres of federal land into extensions of their own ranches. That would allow them to charge thousands of dollars per day for exclusive access, while turning away anyone—hikers, anglers, bikers, hunters, locals like Wilson, or even forest rangers—who didn’t strike a deal.

Wilson, 63, is out on the trail to show me how the paths weave through private plots before reaching a destination he loves, and to show me why he loves it: The pebbled trout streams are crystalline, the elk run rampant, and painterly snowcaps break the big sky. The ranches along the way are pretty great, too, the kind of real estate that inspires—and, if acquired, perhaps even satisfies—the hunger a lot of people feel for scenic refuge. Many of the landholders are newcomers from out of state, though some old-timers remain—families that earned their deeds generations ago, the principal paid by ancestors who shivered through pitiless winters in tar-paper shacks. Wilson has been hiking and hunting the Crazies since he was a little kid, but only in the past year or so, he says, have the private ranchers seemed more like obstacles than neighbors. “They could shut down pretty much the whole interior of the Crazy Mountains, as far as I can see,” he says.    Read the rest of this article HERE.

House Committee Chairman Attacks Reporter for Doing His Job

By Greg Zimmerman as published on Medium’s Westwise

Rep. Rob Bishop goes after Washington Post’s accurate account of Bishop’s legislative agenda

Utah Congressman Rob Bishop, chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, has made no secrets about his disdain for America’s foundational conservation laws.

On the Endangered Species Act: “I would be happy to invalidate [it].”

On the Antiquities Act: “It is the most evil act ever invented.”

On the Land and Water Conservation Fund: it is a “slush fund” and we should instead “plow some money back into [the oil and gas industry] to make sure that it’s there.”

(See the bottom of this post for for a summary of each law and its importance to American conservation.)

Even though these positions are extremely unpopular with voters across the West and the American public, Congressman Bishop has built his political career proudly working to undermine national public lands and weakening or invalidating a slew of environmental laws.

That’s why it was so bizarre when the House Natural Resources Committee personally attacked a Washington Post reporter for simply writing a story about Rep. Bishop’s agenda. Darryl Fears, a reporter with more than three decades in the news business, published a piece about the congressman’s work on the Endangered Species Act. The article is summarized by the story’s headline:

Fears is reporting on the five pieces of legislation (HR 717, HR 3131, HR 1274, HR 2603, HR 424) that Rep. Bishop has moved through his committee to accomplish the stated goal of defanging and, ultimately, “invalidating” the Endangered Species Act.

Rather than owning his agenda, Rep. Bishop and his staff at the House Natural Resources Committee decided to attack Fears and his reporting. In its weekly email blast — The Source — the committee doesn’t dispute the accuracy of Fears’ story, but nonetheless accuses him of “fervently [swallowing] the tired shticks of the radical Left.”…(CONTINUED)

View story at Medium.com

Livestock grazing extremists obscure real-world solutions

by Debbie Coffey

In my opinion…

We need to find a fix for the unhealthy populations of non-native, domestic cattle and sheep on public lands.

Imagine a proposal to introduce privately owned livestock onto the public lands of the American West.  The owners of the privately owned livestock would successfully gain use of 229 million acres of public lands in the West.   The livestock would be owned by a politically powerful industry that attracted a passionate following — people who love using public lands for their private profit so much that they influence the federal management of their privately owned animals so that they would rarely, if ever, be restricted by law.  Some of them would be so passionate that they would take over and occupy government buildings for 41 days, and end up costing taxpayers at least $9 million, including $2.3 million on federal law enforcement and $1.7 million to replace damaged or stolen property.

The downside of these privately owned livestock would be that they destroy native vegetation, damage soils and stream banks, and contaminate waterways with fecal waste.  After decades of livestock grazing, once-lush streams and riparian forests have been reduced to flat, dry wastelands; once-rich topsoil has been turned to dust, causing soil erosion, stream sedimentation and wholesale elimination of some aquatic habitats; overgrazing of native fire-carrying grasses has starved some western forests of fire, making them overly dense and prone to unnaturally severe fires.  Not to mention that predators like the grizzly and Mexican gray wolf were driven extinct in southwestern ecosystems by “predator control” programs designed to protect the livestock industry.

Livestock grazing of privately owned livestock on public lands is promoted, protected and subsidized by federal agencies.  A new analysis  finds U.S. taxpayers have lost more than $1 billion over the past decade on a program that allows cows and sheep to graze on public land.  Last year alone taxpayers lost $125 million in grazing subsidies on federal land.  Had the federal government charged fees similar to grazing rates on non-irrigated private land, the program would have made $261 million a year on average rather than operate at a staggering loss, the analysis finds.

Costs and Consequences: The Real Price of Livestock Grazing on America’s Public Lands

Just imagine what would happen if this livestock industry continued to thrive while all other natural resources were exhausted and while wildlife starved, died of thirst or became extinct.

Clearly, this is a difficult scenario to support.  Congress needs to overhaul the outdated livestock grazing program and reign in the use of livestock grazing on public lands.  These “welfare ranchers” treat public lands as if they are their own private lands and don’t want to share public lands with wildlife (unless that wildlife can be hunted).  The Bureau of Land Management is supposed to to “maintain a thriving natural ecological balance and multiple use relationship” but it heavily favors the livestock grazing industry, even though livestock grazing has damaged 80 percent of the streams and riparian ecosystems in the West.

There are currently very powerful lobbying efforts using misinformation to convince Congress to “euthanize” (kill) or sterilize over 46,000 wild horses and burros in BLM holding facilities, and tens of thousands more on public lands.  But what about the millions of privately owned cattle and sheep on public lands?

There was recently a secretive meeting (closed to the public) in Salt Lake City, Utah, called the National Wild Horse & Burro Summit.  The only groups invited were special interest groups that promote livestock grazing, and academia/universities who rely on money from these special interest groups and government agencies who favor these special interest groups.  The Summit focused on the supposed damage done by wild horses and burros on public lands, while ignoring the real source of the widespread and well documented damage to water and rangeland ecosystems:  domestically owned livestock.   Since they talked about killing our wild horses and burros, this conference was aptly dubbed the “Slaughter Summit.”

Cattle slurping up water in the West (photo: EPA)

Go to the websites of the livestock industry, and you’ll notice that there’s no mention that millions of domestically owned livestock graze on public lands and overgraze or harm wildlife species.  There is no mention that cattle and sheep are not native to North America, since they arrived on Spanish and English ships about 500 years ago.

These extremists try to justify their interests by claiming they grow food, but only 3% of beef grown in the U.S. is grazed on public lands.  Most privately owned livestock graze on privately owned land.

The wild horse & burro population estimates used by these special interest groups are compiled by the BLM and have been found to be scientifically impossible, since the BLM, per its own population estimates, has claimed some wild horse herds increased by as much as 750% or 1250% in only one year.

Fringe “cowboys” have been effective at lobbying for the slaughter of old, unadoptable – or really any – horses.  The BLM has taken away over 22 million acres from Herd Areas, which were supposed to be the federally protected areas for wild horses and burros, and allows livestock grazing on most of the remaining, smaller Herd Management Areas (in addition to millions of other acres on public lands).

It’s easy for people in the other 40 states to be swayed by the livestock grazing extremists.  They look like real cowboys.  But many “ranchers” are large corporations.  Their efforts are responsible for the current situation, in which taxpayers support their private businesses of grazing millions of privately owned livestock on public lands, leaving us with no end in sight, not in numbers, not in funding, not in ecological damage.  What is a real-world solution?

Along with Wanting to Slaughter America’s Wild Horses and Burros, Ryan Zinke is Erasing ‘Public’ from Lands He’s Meant to Guard

as published in The Seattle Times

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s actions show his priority is to fossil-fuels companies and whether they will be able to profitably access the public lands they’ve long relied on for cheap natural resources.

‘Dinky’ Zinke, “I’ve had a hankering to slaughter those wild horses and burros for years. Just check my past record, it speaks for itself you turkeys.”

Shortly after taking office in March, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke declared his department would work on increasing access to America’s public lands. This sounded laudable — of course it should be easier for Americans to visit and enjoy our forests, mountains, deserts and rivers. But there was a catch: Secretary Zinke wasn’t really interested in making it easier for families to visit our public lands, only in greasing the skids for the industries that exploit those same lands.

Last week the National Park Service announced it intends to raise the entrance fees at the 17 most popular national parks to $70 per vehicle starting next year. This would almost triple the entry fee to Mount Rainier and Olympic national parks, the two parks in our state that would be impacted. The price of a weeklong entry pass for a noncommercial vehicle would go up to an astounding $70 under the proposal, from the current $25.

This proposal, if implemented, will be a de facto barrier to entry for many of us wishing to visit some of the country’s grandest landscapes. National Parks visitation already skews whiter and older than the general population. The Interior Department has acknowledged this must change if our national park system is to remain relevant. But raising entrance fees by 180 percent will only further skew the demographics of park visitation.

Two other moves by Zinke show he is worried whether fossil fuels companies will be able to profitably access the public lands they’ve long relied on for cheap natural resources.

Back in March, Zinke rescinded the federal moratorium on coal leases on public land. The halt had no effect on existing coal leases or mining but prohibited the Interior Department from offering new leases. The moratorium had been put in place last year by Sally Jewell, the previous Interior Secretary under President Barack Obama, so that the department could evaluate coal’s impact on climate change (40 percent of U.S. coal comes from public lands).

Zinke, however, scoffed at the notion of a societal cost of carbon and claimed the moratorium was unnecessary. He quickly cleared this impediment to coal companies’ access to the resource under public lands.

Then, in August, he repealed an Obama administration rule that ended a scam coal, oil and gas companies had long relied on to make deceitfully small royalty payments to the federal treasury.

The rule put an end to the practice of these companies extracting natural resources from public lands, selling the resources to affiliated companies at artificially small markups, and then having the affiliates resell the materials at a substantially higher price. Royalties paid to the public were calculated on the low initial sales price to the affiliates rather than on the price of the resource on the open market.

After receiving “numerous comments from the regulated community,” Zinke repealed the rule. Fossil-fuels companies can once again shortchange the public out of its royalties.

What truly rankles about Zinke’s selective concern for public-lands access is that the additional revenues raised from jacking up park entrance fees would be more than lost by canceling the rule that had fixed the royalty scam. Interior estimates higher entrance fees would raise an additional $70 million, while Taxpayers for Common Sense has calculated lost annual revenue from reopening the royalty loophole at $75 million.

We can expect to see more examples of this one-sided concern for public lands access. Last month came reports that President Donald Trump will follow through on Zinke’s recommendation to shrink Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments. Shrinking the monuments would open up additional public lands to fossil-fuels development while doing nothing to make those lands more accessible to the general public.

Be aware, when Zinke talks of improving public access to federal lands, he has an extremely narrow subset of the public in mind.

 What can we do? The good news is there’s still time for the public to fight back the proposed fee increase, as the National Park Service is taking comments until Nov. 23. More broadly, Congress needs to prohibit the Department of the Interior from giving special access to the fossil-fuels industries through rules that enable and encourage profiteering on our public lands.

Congress Targets our Wild Horses and Burros

Many thanks to Susan Wagner, Pres. of Equine Advocates, for writing this excellent OpEd for the New York Daily News.

SOURCE:  New York Daily News

photo by Carol Walker of Wild Horse Freedom Federation

by Susan Wagner, Pres. of Equine Advocates

Special interests in the ranching, oil and gas and mining industries and the lawmakers who do their bidding have a nefarious but underreported agenda: to round up and destroy the wild horses and burros on America’s public lands.

This is not the first time they’ve tried, but this time, the stars are aligned in the worst way, and they just might succeed.

First, some quick history. Back in the 1950s, wild horses were at the brink of extinction. They had no federal protections. People known as Mustangers were chasing, rounding up and selling them for slaughter by the thousands. Anyone who has seen the classic 1961 Clark Gable and Marilyn Monroe film “The Misfits” has a sense — albeit a sanitized, Hollywood sense — of this dirty work.

That changed when activist Velma Johnston, famously known as Wild Horse Annie, inspired the passage of the Wild Horse Annie Act in 1959, which provided some protection for these animals. That law was followed by even stronger legislation — the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971. It expressly prohibited the hunting, capture, injury and disturbance of wild horses and burros.

Over the years, however, lawmakers have chipped away at this legislation, removing many of its vital protections. Tremendous damage was done by the 2004 Burns Amendment; it passed without so much as a hearing and permitted the sale of these animals for commercial purposes. Many ended up at slaughter.

The biggest threat to wild horses today is a group of ranchers — known as “welfare ranchers” — who use federal lands to graze their cattle. They have made it clear that they want the horses and burros gone. They believe they are entitled to the land and water rights for their livestock.

Though they style themselves as independent pioneers, these ranchers are given huge subsidies by the federal government, enabling them to lease our public lands for a pittance, while the wild horses and burros are rounded up and sent to holding facilities operated by the Bureau of Land Management, a division of the the Interior Department.

According to the Center for Biological Diversity, this program has cost the American taxpayer more than $1 billion over the past decade and is “ruinous to the public lands and the wildlife that inhabit it.”

There is no doubt that our wild horses and burros can be managed humanely, but that is not what is going on. Nearly 50,000 healthy animals are now being held captive in Bureau of Land Management holding facilities. Many suffer and die horrible deaths during the roundups, which are cruel and unnecessary.

Making matters worse, a five-year investigation released in July by the Wild Horse Freedom Federation accuses the bureau of deliberately trying to deceive American taxpayers and members of Congress about the costs and consequences of their actions.  READ THE REST OF THIS ARTICLE HERE.

 

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Mike Hudak’s video “Ranching’s Other Victims: Free-living animals”

The video below by Mike Hudak was done in 2010, but it still applies today and is worth watching.  We also recommend you go to mikehudak.com  and read his book, “Western Turf Wars.”