Category Archives: Interior Department

Cub and Pup Slaughter Bill Passes Senate and Other Folks Are Stalking You

What human beings are capable of doing to one another can be supremely egregious, but what we’re capable of doing to the rest of the animal kingdom defies comprehension at times, and March 21, 2017 was one of those moments.  The Senate of the United States of America voted in favor of HJR 69, otherwise known as the Cub and Pup Slaughter Bill, or more exquisitely politely the “non-subsistence take of wildlife in Alaskan wildlife refuges.”  For the record, Senator Dean Heller (R-NV) voted in favor of the bill, Senator Catherine Cortez Masto voted against it. [Vote 92]  The bill makes it perfectly AOK to track down and slaughter bear cubs and wolf pups in a Wildlife REFUGE.

As if stalking cubs and pups isn’t bad enough, the self-same Senate voted in favor of Senator Jeff Flake’s bill to allow Internet Service Providers to sell your information to whomever. SJRes 34 “disapproves” a rule protecting our privacy as customers from whomever for whatever purposes.  Thus we may be stalked to our lairs by advertisers unknown for the purpose of targeted messages and other forms of commercial relations. However, it might not end there. Who knows?  Once more, Senator Dean Heller voted in favor of Customer Hunting (that would be US with targets on our backs) and Senator Catherine Cortez Masto voted against this form of hunting. [Vote  94]  Senator Bill Nelson commented:  “With today’s vote, Senate Republicans have just made it easier for American’s sensitive information about their health, finances and families to be used, shared, and sold to the highest bidder without their permission,” he continued.” [Hill]

At this rate it won’t be too long before we can empathize with bears and wolves?

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Filed under Congress, Heller, Interior Department, Internet, Nevada politics, Politics

Amodei’s Land Grab

Amodei Privatization Land “Congressman Mark Amodei will give an update to the Elko City Council Tuesday on possible issues that might impact the City and Elko County, according to Assistant City Manager Scott Wilkinson.

Amodei’s topics have not been outlined for the City. However, past subjects have included lands issues and sage grouse.” [EDFP]

If he’s set on discussing land issues, then we might guess he’s off to thread another precarious choice between the Bundyite Bunch and the BLM.  Back in late April, 2014 Representative Amodei was praising the BLM for backing off the confrontation with the Rampant Bundys, recalling his words:

“That is a leadership-type thing where you say, ‘We are getting our butts kicked and we are taking our team off the field and getting out of the stadium,'” Amodei said, according to the Reno Gazette-Journal. “It’s not a win, but probably the right thing to do under the circumstances.” [LVSun]

Two years later Amodei’s tone changed, he didn’t support the Bundys and he definitely didn’t want to be labeled anti-park:

“Amodei, however, said the (1) report attempts to use the Bundy sideshow to score political points rather than take a serious look at important issues such as (2) land access, ecosystem health and local economies.

“They don’t speak for me on anything to do with public lands,” Amodei said of Bundy and his acolytes. (3) “I want it to be about the resources, not about some guy who is or isn’t paying his grazing fees.” [RGJ] (numbering added)

Parse with us now. (1) When faced with a report bearing uncomfortable factual inclusions, such as Amodei’s opposition to funding and maintaining national parks and monuments, deflect the issue to the Bundy Bunch – who want no federal involvement in public land administration (grazing, forests, parks, monuments, …) and announce one’s inclination to talk about substantive land issues.  The 2nd District Representative had an opportunity to vote on the SHARE Act, a privatization proposal in Congress this year, but was absent for the vote.

“Representative Rob Wittman (R-VA) sponsored H.R. 2406, the Sportsmen’s Heritage and Recreational Enhancement (SHARE) Act of 2015, which contains harmful measures undermining the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the Wilderness Act, and other bedrock environmental laws. The bill includes language that could allow the use of motorized vehicles, road construction, and other forms of development within protected wilderness areas, and it blocks input from public stakeholders in National Wildlife Refuge management decisions. This legislation also includes provisions that would weaken the EPA’s ability to regulate toxic lead in ammunition, fishing equipment. Additionally, this bill would undermine international commitments to combat ivory trafficking, thwarts our ability to effectively manage marine resources, and cuts the public out of management decisions impacting hundreds of millions of acres of public lands. On February 26, the House approved H.R. 2406 by a vote of 242-161 (House roll call vote 101). NO IS THE PRO-ENVIRONMENT VOTE.” [LCV] (emphasis added)

(2) Representative Amodei has the big three listed — “land access, ecosystem health, and local economies.” However, in terms of access notice the underlining in the SHARE bill – when management decisions are to be made the PUBLIC is cut out of the process. This raises the question that if we are speaking of public access to public lands and the public is cut out of the management decision process, then whose access are we talking about?  Since the GOP sponsored bill passed the GOP controlled Congress, then it’s reasonable to assume the GOP doesn’t want input from PUBLIC organizations concerning management decisions – leaving the field (literally?) to the mining, logging, privatization, and other commercial interests?

And, if rivers are dredged or fouled, forests are cut down, wildlife is endangered, hunters are denied access, fishing enthusiasts are turned away, then it must be for the sake of the “local economies?” Unfortunately, Representative Amodei’s comments as reported offer no explication of his priorities.

(3) But then, there’s Representative Amodei’s infamous quote: “…we do understand their frustration with increasingly heavy handed federal agencies that continue to violate the rights of hardworking American farmers and ranchers.” [RGJ] Are heavily armed men taking over a federal wildlife refuge and threatening violence just “frustrated?”  So, perhaps it would be logical to infer that Amodei’s heart is with the “frustrated” members of those “local economies” which seek to exploit public resources?

Amodei is quick to cite his support for the National Park Service budget, and his support for the hazardous fuel mitigation efforts on public lands, but part of what got him on the Anti-Park list is explained: “Amodei landed on the list for sponsoring legislation that would give the state control of 7.2 million of the approximately 58 million acres of federally controlled land in Nevada..[RGJ]

It doesn’t take too much imagination to see that cash strapped states (like Nevada) might not eventually want to capitalize on the exploitation of public lands in the state, quite possibly at the expense of small ranching concerns, outdoor sports participants, and wildlife in particular.

A sneak peak might be on display with his bill to place BLM lands in trust with Nevada tribes:

“The House Natural Resources Committee approved the Nevada Native Nations Land Act, H.R. 2733, which Amodei introduced to provide more opportunities for economic development and protection of natural resources in the regions.

“(Wednesday’s) vote puts us one step closer to placing Nevada public lands back into local control — rather than in the hands of Washington bureaucrats,” Amodei said. “My bill carefully balances the unique needs of our Nevada tribal nations with those of local ranchers, land owners and businesses.” [RiponAdv] (emphasis added)

There he goes again, getting land out from under the “Washington Bureaucrats.”  The only salvation in this legislation is that Native Americans, who generally have a better standard of stewardship than the Koch Brothers,  are the ones holding the lands in trust.  We might also safely conclude that this “one step” is the first of many in which Representative Amodei seeks to place Nevada public lands under local control.

From local it’s one more step to private.

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Filed under Amodei, Interior Department, koch brothers, National Parks, Native Americans, Nevada politics, public lands, Reservations, Rural Nevada

Department of No Surprises: From Charleston to Murrieta to Washington, D.C.


Murrieta protest 2

In July, 2014 protesters gathered to block DHS busses carrying Central American women and children in Murrieta, CA.  It was ugly, and unnecessary, and gave the town a dismal national reputation. [HuffPo]  Murrieta is in the 42nd Congressional District, with a 46.6% white population, 36.2% Hispanic,  5.1% African American, and 8.8% Asian American. The district has been consistently Republican since 2003.  So, why review this information today?  Because the Representative from this California district, Ken Calvert, has raised the bloody flag in the halls of Congress.

“The amendment to the House’s Interior and Environment spending bill would allow for the display of Confederate flags at national cemeteries managed by the National Park Service (NPS) even though members voted to ban the practice earlier this week. It would counteract another amendment to the same bill blocking the service from selling Confederate flag memorabilia in gift shops in the future. 

Rep. Ken Calvert (R-Calif.) offered the amendment in the closing minutes of floor debate on the spending bill Wednesday night. He made only a token statement in support of the amendment before setting up a roll call vote on it for Thursday.” [The Hill

Even though Representative Calvert’s amendment hit the floor during the waning hours of the Congressional day, it drew fire overnight when House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD) commented:

Hoyer called the amendment, introduced by Rep. Ken Calvert (R-Calif.) Wednesday night on a spending bill, “appalling.” He challenged House Republicans to vote against it and preserve amendments banning Confederate flag sales at national parks and displays at national cemeteries.

“That racist, divisive flag of slavery, segregation, and secession is not an appropriate symbol to sell or fly in our national parks and cemeteries run by the National Park Service,” Hoyer said in a statement early Thursday. [The Hill]

Representative Hoyer wasn’t the only member of Congress appalled by the  Calvert amendment.  Minnesota Rep. Betty McCollum retorted: “After the murder of nine black parishioners, I never thought that the U.S. House of Representatives would join those who would want to see this flag flown by passing an amendment to ensure” the continued flying of the Confederate flag, McCollum said.” [Roll Call]

Thus evaporated any remaining Democratic support for an otherwise unlikeable Department of Interior appropriations bill.  Representative McCollum wasn’t alone; several other Democratic party Representatives took to the floor to lambaste the idea of voting on the Calvert amendment today, July 9, 2015. [The Hill]

Representative Calvert offered an explanation for his amendment, saying he had been asked by Representatives from southern states to introduce it, and there were Republican members of the House who would not support the Interior Department’s appropriation bill be cause of earlier language banning the CSA battle flag in grounds under DoI administration. [The Hill]

And now we come to the totally predictable part of the story – encapsulated by the remarks of Speaker John Boehner (R-OH):

Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) told reporters the spending bill had been pulled to avoid the issue from becoming a “political football.” “That bill is going to sit in abeyance until we come to some resolution,” he said.” [The Hill]

This, from the Speaker who said only days ago in the immediate aftermath of the Charleston Church massacre, that Congress would be “the adults in the room.”

So, we have yet another major piece of legislation sitting “in abeyance” while the House Republicans engage in their internecine battles over whether or not to allow the pennon of slavery, Jim Crow, segregation, and racism to flap on federal grounds.  Additionally, it truly is remarkable that yet again House Republicans have slipped their own poison pill into what was one of their own bills.

This seems less like gridlock between two adversarial parties, and more like what happens when a single party with a majority in Congress cannot control its own caucus.  The Democrats should be perfectly pleased that an appropriations bill which stripped the EPA of essential authority to regulate clean air and clean water is “in abeyance.”  Republicans who wanted to dismantle the EPA’s authority to control pollution may be wondering how and why a California Representative could so easily thwart their plans with a truly insensitive and racially charged amendment on behalf of his southern brethren.

We may have to look no further than the angry faces of the anti-immigrant protesters in his district – Welcome Back to Murrieta?

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Filed under anti-immigration, Appropriations, conservatism, ecology, House of Representatives, Immigration, Interior Department, pollution, racism, Republicans

The Bundy Boys Join the Circus

AB 408

Remember the Bundy Boys?  Wonkette hasn’t forgotten the Fiore Forays into governmental mismanagement, nor have too many other people.  Now, the flags are flying again, for Freedumb!, in the form of AB 408, a singularly silly bill put forth by the usual group of Tea Partying Fanatics: Assemblywomen Fiore, Dooling, Shelton, Titus, and Seaman. Yes, it’s Ladies’ Day for AB 408, with some fellows tossed in as co-sponsors.  The ladies would like to kick the Feds out of Nevada:

“AN ACT relating to public lands; prohibiting the Federal Government from owning or regulating certain public lands or the right to use public waters; requiring the State Land Registrar to adopt regulations that provide for the appropriation and registration of grazing, logging, mineral development or other beneficial use rights on public lands; requiring the State Land Registrar to sell permits for grazing, logging, mineral development or other beneficial uses on public lands for which such rights are not registered and appropriated; requiring the board of county commissioners of each county to impose a tax on profits from the beneficial use of public lands;…”

Translation: Any rancher who doesn’t want to pay grazing fees for the use of public lands doesn’t have to.  And, we can go one step further – any mining company or logging enterprise can have the State Land Registrar sell off Nevada’s minerals and timber resources at will.  It’s privatization, as they say, on steroids.

What the Tea Bag Biddies seem to have forgotten is that there are other people using those lands too – not just the likes of Cliven “I want to tell you one more thing I know about The Negro” Bundy – and they aren’t hikers and tree huggers, they’re other ranchers.   If the Bundy ilk are allowed to over-graze range lands the land isn’t just Bundy’s problem, it becomes a problem for other ranching operations in the area which might want to use the land eventually.  This isn’t the only thing the Tea Bag Biddies seem to have overlooked.

There is more to BLM land management operations than protecting wildlife, there’s the part wherein the BLM is involved with wildland fire fighting, fuel mitigation, and related issues; combined with programs to manage energy resources, communication right of way and access, and hunting and fishing access.  Then, there’s that pesky bit of Constitutional History, in the act admitting Nevada into statehood:

“Third. That the people inhabiting said territory do agree and declare, that they forever disclaim all right and title to the unappropriated public lands lying within said territory, and that the same shall be and remain at the sole and entire disposition of the United States; …..”

So, the terms of AB 408 are ultimately selfish, deliberately narrow, and most probably unconstitutional – and Ammon Bundy, litigant in a relatively new phony lawsuit against the Feds, is gathering support from the Tea Bag Biddies in the Legislature. [LTN]  And, they’ll be hoping for some company. Company who share the Bundy fictional version of the country:

“The natural resources of America are being stolen from the people and claimed by the federal government. Everything we eat, wear, live in, use and so on comes from the earth. If we lose access to the land and natural resources we become beggars to those who control access. Without doubt this is the greatest immediate threat to the individual person and people as a whole. More lives, liberties and property can be taken under this threat than any other we see.”  [RReport]

No statement could make it more abundantly evident that the Bundy Brigade sees itself as separate from the other 320,000,000 people in this country.  For all the blathering about Constitutional-ism, the Brigade appears to have forgotten the first words of the hallowed document: We the people of the United States, on Order to form a more perfect Union…”  We the people form the government. Not “we the Bundys.”  A rough translation of Bundy-ism might be: What’s mine is mine and what’s yours is mine too.

And lest we forget, it was this same general philosophy which attracted support from the two Bundy-ites who killed Officers Alyn Beck and Igor Soldo, in Las Vegas, NV in June 2014. 

The bill will get its hearing, and should get nothing more. 

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Filed under Constitution, Hate Crimes, Interior Department, Nevada, Nevada legislature, Nevada politics, public lands, Rural Nevada

>Heller Amendment to Interior Dept. Appropriations Bill Defeated


Representative Dean Heller’s (R-NV2) NIMBY amendment to H.R. 2996 (Department of Interior and Related Agencies Appropriations for FY 2010) to prohibit the construction of an interagency fire center in Carson City was defeated 202-225. [roll call 467]

My amendment prohibits the site-specific construction of a Bureau of Land Management facility in a residential neighborhood in Carson City, Nevada. It is also of note that this amendment solely impacts my district. In Nevada, approximately 85 percent of the land is controlled by the Federal Government; 67 percent of this land base is controlled by the Bureau of Land Management. In other words, they own about 48 million acres of property within the State of Nevada.”

The problem at this point is that at the intersection of South Edmonds and Koontz Streets there is a residential area to the west of Edmonds, but nothing developed east of Edmonds. Therefore, the proposed station and training classrooms will not be “in” the residential neighborhood. The locals appeared to be upset by the idea that they wouldn’t have access to some federal property east of Edmonds that’s “open space.” [KTVN] By “open space” the residents are not referring to trees and grass; the location under consideration is now brush and weeds. It might not be too far off the mark to suggest that the residents would like to do some four-wheeling and dirt bike riding on the acreage – which is altogether unsuitable at present for Easter Egg Hunts and Pick Up Softball games.

The Bureau of Land Management is currently in the comment phase for a proposed interagency fire center on approximately 15 acres of Federal land in Carson City, Nevada, near a large neighborhood. While I, along with my constituents, support the construction of the interagency fire center and believe the facility will help with combating catastrophic wildfires, BLM’s proposed location for this particular facility is problematic. The proposed location is in a community of nearly 300 homes. Local residents are opposed to the location, and the Carson City Board of Supervisors, our county commission, recently passed a resolution voicing its opposition to the proposed location of the fire center. The BLM has under consideration multiple sites for this particular facility, all of which are better suited than the chosen location. Madam Chairwoman, my amendment prohibits the funds for the construction of this facility at this specific 15-acre location in Carson City and allows for the facility to be built at any of the alternative sites in the area. I want to express my support again for an additional interagency fire center in Nevada; it just doesn’t make sense to build this facility in a residential neighborhood.” (emphasis added) Whatever sites the BLM may have had under consideration, the site at the intersection of Edmonds and Koontz isn’t IN the residential neighborhood, however much Rep. Heller may have tried to convince his colleagues in Washington otherwise. No, the BLM is not trying to locate the fire agency facility in the middle of the cul-de-sacs.

The appropriations bill passed 254-173, with all members of the Nevada delegation voting in favor of it. [roll call 475]

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Filed under Heller, Interior Department

>Bumpy Things That Go Scared In The Night: Guns, Terrorists, and Late Night Confirmations

>The Gun Lobby’s use of the amendment procedures in Congressional legislation wasn’t confined to the now well publicized addition to allow firearms in national parks, there is also the example of the amendment attached by Senator John Ensign (R-NV) to the DC voting rights bill – that no one wants to talk about. As a gun owner I’m not generally in favor of copious and onerous regulation, however under the terms of Ensign’s amendment if the bill is approved then Washington, D.C. would be the only place in the country in which people could cross state lines to purchase firearms, .50 caliber armor piercing ‘stuff,’ and military style assault rifles. A person might be excused for thinking that perhaps this would create a law enforcement nightmare for local officials? Not to mention national security? [WaPo] The bill has stalled, and no one seems ready to talk about Ensign’s Gun Lobby amendment. The insertion of some common sense appears to be in order. Who, if indeed anyone, would be in favor of creating a situation in which domestic or foreign terrorists seeking to attack the nation’s capital, and/or the leadership assembled therein, could find the most amenable regulations for the collection of firepower precisely in the heart of their intended target? And, speaking of terrorists and their plans:

OK, now what? The New York City Police have arrested four men who sought to bomb two Bronx synagogues, and to shoot down military planes at the Stewart ANG Base in Newburgh, NY. Messrs. Cromite, D.Williams, and O. Williams are native born Americans; Mr. Payen is a Haitian. They will be arraigned today in the Federal District Court in White Plains, NY. [NYT] But Wait! According to recent Right Wing Wet Pants Dance Talking Points aren’t our prisons unfit to handle terrorist suspects? [TP] Isn’t that what Senator James Inhofe was arguing a mere few hours ago? [TP] OMG, according to Hilzoy: We’re Doomed.

Not with a bang, but a wimper: “By unanimous consent, the Senate confirmed the nomination of David Hayes to be Deputy Secretary of the Interior, and Ines Triay to be Assistant Secretary Department of Energy.” Senate Calendar May 20. Thus much for the grandstanding of May 13, 2009 when Senator John Ensign and others supported the Bennett-Murkowski hold on Hayes’ nomination because of dispute over oil and gas leases. Department of Interior Secretary Salazar reportedly told Bennett he would review the leasing issue with an open mind. [Politico]

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Filed under Ensign, Gun Issues, Interior Department, Voting

>Ensign Maintains Perfect Filibuster Record: Hayes Nomination Fails Cloture Motion


Whatever happened to that wonderful old GOP line, “The President has the right to his own people?” Obviously, Hell hath no fury like Utah Senator Robert Bennett, whose energy company supporters are short some oil and gas leases; [NYT] and a willing bunch of obstructionists such as Senator John Ensign (R-NV) who preserved his 100% filibuster record on the confirmation of David J. Hayes to be Deputy Secretary of the Interior Department. [roll call 189] Hayes’ nomination failed the cloture motion on a 57-39 vote. “Prior to the vote, Reid pledged he would continue to file motions to move the nomination forward. Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) said of the vote: “David Hayes will be confirmed,” Reid vowed. “If I have to wait, I will, but David Hayes will be confirmed,” Reid said.” [NYT]

On the topic of Senator Ensign – not to be missed, “Johnny Casino rubbing up to the rubes” from The Gleaner, and “Guess Who Wants To Be President,” penned by the ever incisive Sebelius at Various Things and Stuff.

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Filed under Ensign, Interior Department

>Roadblock Republicans: Ensign backtracking? Vitter, Bennett Hold


Whatever Senator John Ensign’s (R-NV) concern might have been for the Armenians, it seems to have dissipated rapidly. Last month Nevada’s junior Senator was holding up the confirmation of Philip Gordon in the State Department, ostensibly to make a point about the Armenian Genocide. The Greek News is now reporting that Gordon’s confirmation is expected to reach the Senate floor very soon.

Senator David Vitter (R-NV) may still be holding up the confirmation of Craig Fugate to direct FEMA. [NYT] Vitter says he’s holding up the confirmation because he wants answers from FEMA about denying assistance to projects in Grand Isle, LA. [Ind] Recent reports from the area indicate that several projects are already finished – Grand Isle State Park reopened to the public on May 3rd . [Advo] Damage from hurricanes Ike and Gustav closed the park temporarily, but locals are now touting the deep sea salt water fishing and the B&B rentals. [Advo] At one point the mayor of Grand Isle was told he could not build a gym – to which he is reported to have responded, “How could he run a community without services?” [] The state of Louisiana appears ready to fund the rebuilding of the local library. [TDC] There are, however, some proposed 4,000 project worksheets remaining, of which FEMA reported only 35 in dispute. Another bone of contention is the rebuilding of Charity Hospital in New Orleans; FEMA is offering to fund $129 million which local officials feel is insufficient. [] Somehow, disputes over 35 projects, a gymnasium, and who will fund the rebuilding of Charity, might pale in comparison to having FEMA leaderless with three weeks to go before hurricane season?

Senator Robert Bennett (R-UT) gives every appearance of having put retaliatory holds on the confirmation of two Interior Department nominees because of Interior Secretary Ken Salazar’s decisions regarding 77 oil and gas leases he shelved after a federal judge halted progress on a disputed December 19, 2008 auction. [SLT] Bennett has holds on David Hayes, nominated as assistant secretary, and Hilary Tompkins, the nominee to be solicitor for the Interior Department.

Senators Ensign and Vitter have 100% votes in favor of sustaining filibusters in the Senate, Senator Bennett maintains a 33% rating. Perhaps his hold on the two Interior Department nominees will redeem his low ranking and increase his popularity with GOP spokesperson Rush Limbaugh? [Filibusters]

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Filed under Ensign, FEMA, filibuster, Interior Department

>Senator No Strikes Again; Overnight Express News Roundup


Senator John Ensign (R-NV) was one of only 23 members of the U.S. Senate to vote against the confirmation of Christopher Hill to be the next ambassador to Iraq. [roll call 159] Ensign was included in an even smaller group of 17 members who voted against terminating debate before the confirmation vote. [roll call 158] The Nevada junior Senator was following the lead of Senator Sam Brownback (R-KS) who accused Hill of overstepping his authority and failing to emphasize North Korea’s human rights abuses. Hill’s nomination was supported by Central Command chief Gen. David Petraeus, and the U.S. military commander in Iraq, Gen. Ray Odierno, as well as the U.S.’s previous ambassadors to Iraq. [CQP] Senator John Kerry (D-MA) questioned how Hill might have been responsible for not highlighting North Korea’s human rights abuses since Hill was acting on instructions from the Bush White House. [NYT]

Speaking of diplomacy, Secretary of State Hillary R. Clinton met with the Dutch Foreign Minister Maxime Verhagen on April 20th and stated: “…we will work on clarifying the legal authorities that exist. There will be, at our request, a meeting of the international piracy contact group in New York City in early May, in addition to the meeting that will be held shortly in Brussels. We’re going to have to determine the best way to bring pirates to justice after they’re captured. And there will have to be additional discussion about this at NATO as well.” [full text] Refreshing, isn’t it, to have a Secretary of State who speaks of “legal authority,” “international groups,” and “bring (them) to justice,” all in one sentence.

And, speaking of Cabinet Officials, seems like a few are getting into blogging – Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood’s picked out a good name for his – “The Fast Lane.” And, who but a Transportation Secretary would write of a “sunny and warm start for the paving season.” Secretary of the Department of the Interior is calling his efforts “Guest Editorials.” Probably the least inventive name for a blog comes from Arne Duncan, Secretary of Education, who’s writing at Blog. But, hey, at least he’s doing one. The Department of Homeland Security posts a “Leadership Journal” which has just about all the elements of a good blog, just not the title. Secretary Clinton’s “DipNote” earns DB’s ‘second place’ prize for a title, and even offers a Twitter section. As for the rest of the Cabinet, they seem to be content with the press release notes – but how much more fun would it be if the Treasury Department posted on “Money Talks,” or the Commerce Secretary was posting to “BusyNess” with ‘Nessie’ coming out of the Loch Ness mist in the banner?

So, while we’re speaking of Cabinet officials, where were the cable news networks today (or just about any day this week for that matter) when the following officials made some news? The Secretary of Commerce, Gary Locke, was addressing the Second Biennial Industry Summit of the Motion Picture Association of America on April 21, talking about how to address the impact of counterfeiting and piracy on the industry. He publicized a new web site, “Stopfakes.Gov” to assist the industry and to keep members of the public better informed on the subject.

Did we hear anything about the former military official who pleaded guilty to participating in a bribery conspiracy involving a $206 million telecommunications contract in Korea? Probably not. Perhaps the best way to keep informed on what the Justice Department is doing besides the Cable News Obsession Du Jour is to hit their “Other News” at the web site. Earth Day’s coming up, and the Department of Defense released its story of efforts on board the USS Abraham Lincoln to recycle waste, and the Navy’s Operation Change Out – replacing 12,358 incandescent bulbs with Energy Star fluorescents. [DoD] This was a nice little piece, too bad the corporate media didn’t pick it up. If you didn’t click on the USDA’s webpage you probably missed the story about the Department’s celebration of Earth Day by awarding $144.3 million for rural infrastructure projects. Nor, would you have known about the upgrade and refitting of the Coast Guard’s fleet of 12 “high endurance” cutters unless you hit the Department of Homeland Security’s news section. Did the corporate press make much note of Secretary Clinton’s six hour visit with the President of Haiti? Or, the joint news conference that followed the session – for more than what was visible on the TV screen see the DipNote report. This paragraph ought to answer the question: Why do more people seem to be getting their news from the Internet?

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Filed under Clinton, Defense Department, Ensign, Interior Department

>The Sunday Punch: Smokey the Bear Gets Burned: Republicans Cut Forest Service Capital Projects and NPS funding from Stimulus Bill


The Tinder Box

Back in 2006 the National Park Service had an annual budget of $2.2 billion which was supposed to cover construction projects as well as its annual operational costs. Worse yet, when inflation was factored into the operational budget, the Park Service had less funding during 2005 than it did in 2001. [ConAff] The Bush Administration and its Republican allies in Congress found nothing wrong with raising park fees (up to $25.00 at Glacier, Grand Teton, Yellowstone, and Grand Canyon) and shutting down visitor centers (Rocky Mountain NP).

So, Glacier National Park no longer provided potable water at three campgrounds, Yosemite NP which once had 45 seasonal rangers cut back to 8, Acadia NP didn’t fill 14 jobs for educational guides and law enforcement officers. Acadia also cut 20 ranger led interpretive programs. In a move that should have provoked some patriotic reaction in a flag lapel pin wearing Congress, the Gettysburg National Military Park cut staff tasked with maintaining more than 100 historic structures, including the Civil War cannons. [ConAff]

After all, the former President and his allies in Congress argued, the National Park Service could raise fees and auction off concessions, and the National Forest Service could raise funds by selling off “unwanted” federal lands and collecting fees from logging and other extraction operations.

This situation stood in stark contrast to the campaign pledge Mr. Bush made in a stop along the Skykomish River in Monroe, WA during his 2000 run. Bush blamed the “Clinton-Gore administration for letting the maintenance lag in the 390 unit National Park System. He told his audience that he would eliminate withing five years (by 2005) the NPS’s $4.9 billion major maintenance and resource protection backlog. [DeseretNews] The National Park Service is responsible for 22,000 campgrounds, 21,000 buildings, 17,000 miles of trails, 10,000 miles of roads, 5,000 homes, and 3,000 water treatment facilities. Maintenance actually fared better under “Clinton-Gore.”

During the second Clinton term (FY98-FY01) funding for programs addressing the backlog of park maintenance projects for facilities, construction, and demonstration programs, showed an average increase of 12.8% annually. Funding for the backlog during the Bush Administration increased only 7.4% annually for the same programs. If 12.8% didn’t make a dent in the maintenance backlog, then 7.4% certainly wasn’t going to. Although the Facility Condition Index project isn’t complete, it already indicates that approximately $3 billion will be needed to restore appropriate park facilities to their “designated conditions.” Note, that the maintenance backlog isn’t the only problem, the NPS was significantly behind the curve in terms of its operating budget, by about $600 million. [NPCA]

By 2007 the NPS had a summary available for Congressional testimony concerning its backlog. Of the 15,466 buildings under the jurisdiction of the NPS it would take about $1.3 billion to take care of their deferred maintenance. Overdue trail maintenance would cost about $469 million, and another $4.3 billion would be needed to bring NPS roads up to standard condition. [NPT] Needless to say, one doesn’t have to resort to “naming rights” for national parks and raising fees for visits, our government could be putting out requests for bids from interested construction companies to perform the building and road maintenance; and, their management could be out hiring workers.

Meanwhile back in the Forest: The House version of H.R. 1 called for spending $1.7 billion for “projects to address critical deferred maintenance needs within the National Park System, including roads, bridges, trails and for other critical infrastructure projects. Including $200 million for the preservation and repair of historical and cultural resources within the NPS. Even the $1.7 billion the GOP decried as “too wasteful” didn’t come near the $4.3 billion actually needed to repair current NPS roads and bridges.

The National Forest Service would have gotten $650 million for reconstruction, capital improvements, decommissioning, and maintenance of forest roads, bridges and trails, alternative energy technologies, energy efficiency enhancement and deferred maintenance at Federal facilities, remediation of abandoned mine sites, removal of fish passage barriers, and other critical habitat, forest improvement, and watershed enhancement on Federal lands and waters. [HR 1] The Republicans mocked these expenditures as “fishy” and “wasteful” while never actually declaring their opposition to the improvement and preservation of natural resources. To hear them tell it, they are “outdoor enthusiasts,” “gun owners who love to hunt” and “conservationists,” but ask them to actually vote in favor of specific measures to enhance those opportunities for others and they deride the proposals as “wasteful spending,” as if everyone could enjoy the so-called benefits of membership in the Safari International canned hunt club.

Fanning the Fires

As we’ve noticed previously in National Mall, National Disgrace, maintenance of National Park Service facilities in Washington D.C. hasn’t been appropriately funded. Making the matter worse is the fact that the National Mall and Washington Monument constitute only 2% of the property for which the NPS is responsible in the D.C. area. About 93% of the property managed is in the form of parks and parkways. A GAO audit of the parks in the D.C. area was generally positive, but also indicated some ongoing issues such as the closed marina at the Anacostia park, which was closed in 2000 because of lead contamination and had still not reopened. The GAO accessed facilities in East Potomac Park (Haines Point) and Theodore Roosevelt Island in “serious” condition, Those rated “poor” included Fort Bayard Park, Montrose Park, West Potomac Park athletic fields, Fort DuPont Park picnic area, Anacostia Park, and The Mall & L’Enfant Square.

In short, if a bill concerns public parks, public lands, and public properties, and doesn’t call for selling, leasing, mining, or logging them…the Republicans aren’t interested.

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Filed under Economy, Interior Department, National Parks