Featured Photo: Lydia Stern
It’s almost a full-time job keeping track of the onslaught of short-sighted, irresponsible, anti-public lands legislation emanating from Washington, D.C. Currently there is a bevy of bad bills, all of which would impact Gunnison County public lands and your enjoyment of our national environmental heritage. This week we highlight three of those.
Rep. McClintock (R-CA), chair of the House subcommittee on federal lands, has introduced a bill, H.R. 865, to create a categorical exclusion for logging of federal lands where the governor has declared an insect and disease emergency. The most nefarious part of the bill would provide a categorical exclusion (CE) for timber sales that would be expected to generate revenue to offset the cost of the insect and disease-related logging. The CE for revenue-generating sales apparently could be used anywhere in the country, so people in Gunnison County could someday be surprised to see their favorite forest clear-cut without environmental review or public involvement because it was needed to pay for some logging of infested trees in California! This is the legislative equivalent of robbing Peter to pay Paul. (Right Photo) Yellow aspens on a crisp fall day. Photo: Brett Henderson
Rep. Chaffetz (R-UT) was forced to eat a heaping helping of humble pie when he unceremoniously pulled his own legislation that would have immediately disposed of 3.3 million acres of public lands, including four parcels in Gunnison County. But a companion bill introduced by Rep. Chaffetz, H.R. 622, remains a viable threat. H.R. 622 would “terminate the law enforcement functions of the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management.” This bill would reduce the ability of cash-strapped federal agencies to manage public lands, turning over law enforcement duties to local sheriffs’ offices. The result would be ad-hoc enforcement of the law on public lands by sheriffs who may not have the budget or inclination to protect them in the manner expected by the public and in the best interest of the environment. Ultimately, this bad legislation would make public lands less safe. (Left Photo) This past fall, HCCA and over 20 other local organizations enjoyed working with the Forest Service and BLM to clean up the Slate River Valley after a summer of heavy use. Photo: Beth Carter.
On February 7, 2017, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to kill a federal rule that gives Americans more of a voice in large-scale planning for projects on public land, including 8.4 million acres in Colorado. H.J. Resolution 44 would end the BLM’s “Planning 2.0” rule, a rule that strengthens the public’s role in public lands management. The action to kill the rule was launched by House Republicans, including Rep. Scott Tipton of Colorado. For Colorado and Gunnison County, the impact of a rollback of the BLM planning rule is potentially huge. Planning 2.0 provides opportunities for the public to engage in land use plans as they are being developed, increases public involvement, and incorporates the best available science to decide whether and where logging, mining and other activities happen on public land. (Right Photo) A beautiful bald eagle cruising on a winter day. Photo: Brett Henderson