Tag Archives: public land

Amodei Privatization Promoter: This Time It’s Public Land

No trespassing public land Representative Mark Amodei (R-NV2) is happily promoting his notion that the state of Nevada should control more of the federal land within its borders; the Reno Gazette Journal poses some serious questions:

“U.S. Rep. Mark Amodei has started meetings to transfer millions of acres of public land in Nevada from the federal government to the state.

He is coming off an election win and, more importantly, he was Donald Trump’s Nevada campaign manager through controversy and celebration. Now he may have the juice to finally realize his longtime dream of transferring land controlled by the Bureau of Land Management to the state of Nevada.

While this may bring control over the land closer to home, it will also put Nevada taxpayers at risk and decrease options for outdoor enthusiasts.” (emphasis added)

For the moment, let’s focus on the taxpayers side of the ledger, as summarized in the Gazette Journal editorial:

“There are big costs borne by whoever controls these lands. A few examples include fighting wildfires covering tens of thousands of acres every year; defending lawsuits by ranchers and environmentalists over land use; and simply monitoring tens of thousands of square miles of open range for people who would abuse it. If sage grouse are ever declared an endangered species – as it very nearly was recently – use of the land would be blocked until the species recovers, creating costs and ending any potential revenues. In each of these cases, all American taxpayers currently foot the bills. Under new plans, Nevada taxpayers will be on the hook – either by increased taxes or decreased services.”  [RGJ]

First, a bit of supporting evidence for the Gazette Journal’s editorial position. The newspaper is correct – fire fighting is an expensive business.

The latest statistics available online concerning the total costs for fighting wildland fires show that Nevada had a lucky year in 2015 – California not so much so.  The “Rough” Fire which began on July 31, 2015 and wasn’t contained until October 12, 2015 cost about $120,930,243. [NIFC pdf]  However, a state needn’t be as unfortunate as California and Alaska were in 2015 to have high firefighting expenses.  The 2012 statistics show that Nevada’s Long Draw Fire cost $4,360,000 and the Holloway Complex Fire cost $9,166,719. The Bull Run Fire cost another $4,816,272.  [PSNIFC pdf]

It’s all well and good to complain vociferously about the BLM and the National Forest Service – until the fire starts, the winds increase, and the state (not the national) taxpayers are liable for the associated expenses.  It’s also well worth noting that wildland fires often require multi-agency coordination, such as that provided by the National Interagency Fire Center.  The NIFC includes the Forest Service, the BLM, the National Weather Service, the National Park Service, the BIA, the US Fish and Wildlife Service, and FEMA.  Consider for a moment the resources these combined agencies can bring to bear on a fire situation, and how these resources cannot be duplicated by a single state.  In 2015 the Nevada state fire assistance budget for the Division of Forestry was $1,348,200.  The Landscape Scale Restoration budget was $300,000. [FSUSDA.gov pdf]

The obvious way for the State to dodge responsibility for these kinds of expenses is to privatize (aka sell) the formerly public lands.   The Gazette Journal is also correct in citing Texas as an example of a loss of access to formerly public lands.  At present about 90% of the land in Texas is in private hands. [PWD pdf] The unique history of Texas creates a way to compare access in states with federal land management and a state with a traditional state and private management focus. [WOS] Loss of access in Texas spreads as urbanization, suburbanization, and resort development increase.

Anglers in California and Montana do well to hire guides, if for no other reason than not to get hit with trespassing charges in private waters. Want to hunt in Texas – there’s a map for that.  Idaho witnessed one of the more blatant examples of what happens under private ownership to the interests of hunters when ownership changes and the rules change along with it.  172,00 acres of land in Idaho were sold by the Potlatch Corp. to two Texas billionaires – who shut down hunting on their newly acquired property.

There’s something to be said for “freedom, private enterprise, individual responsibility,” and all the other catch phrases of modern Republican parlance.  There are other things to be said when the private owners cut off access to streams and rivers, hunting territory, snow mobile routes, hiking and horse riding trails, and historical or recreational sites.

There are also wildlife management questions to be answered if privatization is the result, even if access isn’t a leading issue.  Who protects the habitat for that which is hunted?  Who protects streams and habitat for trout, bass, and other pan fish?  Who raises the quail? How are these efforts to be coordinated?  Who pays for the coordination? Are these expenses shared nationwide, or is the expense posted to the state or to private entities?’

Privatization is a leading Republican banner …. leading straight for a barbed wire fence with a No Trespassing sign attached.

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Filed under Amodei, Nevada politics, Politics, public lands

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

Not Very Home On The Range? Romney and Public Land

Former Governor Willard Mitt Romney doesn’t seem very ‘home on the range,’ that is, he’s not sure what the purpose of public land might be.   He told Nevadans:

“So I haven’t studied it, what the purpose is of the land, so I don’t want to say, “Oh, I’m about to hand it over.” But where government ownership of land is designed to satisfy, let’s say, the most extreme environmentalists, from keeping a population from developing their coal, their gold, their other resources for the benefit of the state, I would find that to be unacceptable.” [TP]

A brief primer:  Public land is public — many people use it.  And, many of the people who use it run cattle. As in cows. As in hamburger. As in Americans consumed about 26.4 billion pounds of beef in 2010. [ersUSDA ]  The USDA adds the following information:

“Range livestock production is predominate in Nevada with well over half of the farms raising cattle or sheep. The highest concentrations of cattle are in the northern part of the State. Cow-calf operations are most common type of operation and Elko county ranks among the leading counties in the Nation in number of beef cows. Northern Nevada is also home to the vast majority of the sheep.”

In these counties conversations are often sprinkled with terms like AUM’s, that’s the grazing fee set for western states.  Nevada ranchers pay a $12.50 AUM.  There’s a formula for that here. Once the cattle and calves are raised for sale, quite often on public lands,  they account for 39.2% of the total agricultural output in the state.  The output isn’t making anyone rich, 81.2% of Nevada’s farms and ranches are family owned, and the net farm income is $137,760 (this figure includes other, larger producers of potatoes, hay, etc.) [USDA]

Mining takes place on public lands in Nevada. The BLM has a handy guide describing the process for a mining company to get approval from the agency for mine operations in Nevada.  (link pdf) And, the agency notes that one very common reason for application approval delay is that the operators have provided insufficient baseline data on the proposed operation.  No one is keeping anyone away from the Gold.

Hunting and fishing happen on public lands. The Nevada Department of Wildlife is funded in four categories, and the department describes its income as follows:

“The license dollars that come in each year are used as match to the federal funds. For instance, most federal dollars require a 3-1 state match; for every $3 of a project we do using federal funds, we must add $1 of state dollars, or volunteer hours, or in-kind match (donations). In addition to license dollars a variety of other sources are also used as match, for instance nonprofit grants and Question 1 bond dollars can also be used for state match, as well as volunteer hours and in-kind match (donations of equipment.)”

We will gladly sell you a hunting license, a trapping license, a fishing license, and we will register your boat.  Nevada also sells duck stamps, trout stamps, deer tags, upland bird tags,  and mountain lion tags.  [See more]  Then we would be pleased if you stayed in our motels, bought gas from our service stations, ate in our restaurants, and purchased food from our local groceries.  We would politely ask that those happily hunting and fishing in our climes would listen when we tell you  “You can’t get there from here,” so we don’t have to engage in search and rescue attempts to find you.

What former Governor Romney appears to be grousing about are claims that wilderness areas prevent other commercial operations.  However, sauce for the Sage Hens  is also sauce for the Hungarian Partridges — and if a commercial operation invades a hunting area then there’s obviously a trade off in economic terms.  When the numbers are crunched, the total acreage set aside as wilderness in Nevada comes to 731,367, which sounds like a very big number until we convert the 109,806 square miles of this state into acreage and the number comes up as 70,275,840 acres. Thus the Wilderness designation applies to only 1.04% of our total land area.  Surely that isn’t too much to reserve for hunters, the hikers, and the fishing fans.

But, there’s nothing like getting a zinger into a GOP exchange about those “extreme environmentalists” to spice up a Republican plug for promoting the interests of polluters and exploiters.  Perhaps it’s too much to ask that GOP presidential candidates detach the epithets from words like environmental and ecological?

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Filed under 2012 election, Mining, Nevada economy, public lands, Romney