Sunday, October 9, 2011

Facing the Funding Reality

Don’t count your chickens before they hatch

Money is a reality of life. I am not so naive to not understand that it takes money to accomplish conservation and protection. Lofty ideals though they may be, their societal value is burdened with a heavy cost. Capital is required to accomplish these objectives and certainly there could always be more to go around. It is with this rationale that people are marketing the NCA agenda. During various discussions with interested participants there are three main points that are repeatedly identified for potential revenue sources to compensate for the cost of this agenda.

The first and most widely touted potential source of added wealth is a congressional appropriation that would be tied to a congressional designation. It is true that some other NCA designations have gotten a congressional appropriation. However it is small in respect to the actual total cost of managing the area and the appropriation is actually estimated to decrease with time (see Red Rock Canyon NCA 2010 Business Plan).  It is time to face reality and recognize that a congressional appropriation is not going to happen in this economic climate. At a time when every other week we are faced with a government shutdown over debt ceilings, FEMA, the FAA or any other potential increase in spending, the belief of additional funding on top of the Interiors current budget is nothing more than failing to face the reality of our current circumstance.

One of the other lines of reasoning used to push the NCA agenda is that the higher level of protection will give Gold Butte higher standing when funding is allocated in the regions yearly budget from the Interior.  This means that there is no new money allocated to the BLM to manage the region, instead more will have to be allocated to Gold Butte because it deserves preferential treatment.  There is no doubt that Gold Butte is deserving however, there are many deserving public lands within the Southern Nevada District and none can afford to lose even one dollar of their current allocation. Let us not protect one at the sacrifice of the other. If the true intention is to truly provide better public lands management then “special” designations only mean other places are not special. This does not correspond with the holistic approach of responsible public lands management. It only draws out that these special designations have become a vehicle to drive an agenda for one particular interest.

SNPLMA money is drying up. This is money that resulted from the sale of BLM lands with the proceeds devoted to the acquisition of environmentally sensitive lands and other conservation initiatives. It was a great source of revenue while it lasted however it cannot be counted on as a reliable source for future funding. The graph clearly shows the trend.

Never spend money before you have earned it – Thomas Jefferson

Funding is a major component of any plan but it is not the only component. Reckless recognition, entrusting fate to chance in the vain hope of money, will work only to further complicate public lands management. Calling for a designation without first having a detailed management plan works only to expose the shortcomings of that designation and those calling for it.

A one, five and ten year plan has to be developed that identifies what needs to be accomplished and the costs of such plans. This way management can evolve with awareness to its short comings and labor to remedy itself. We need to prioritize the conservation efforts so as the budget adjusts other potential revenue sources can be identified. Private\Public partnerships can work together to fill in those resource gaps and accomplish those objectives that benefit the overall good of the area.

We need to move past vain political and self-interest and build a plan that will accomplish conservation and provide social benefit to the community and our public lands. This can be done not in ignorance of the cost but with conscious consideration of such.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Moapa Valley Town Advisory Board and Federal Lands

At our 2011 September Moapa Valley Town Advisory Board meeting we adopted with a unanimous vote, the following position letters to send to our elected representatives in Washington DC.

A member of the community who had recently moved to the valley made a comment about the Town Board taking time to deal with federal issues and public lands. For a person who grew up in the west, and especially when the vast majority of our state is controlled by the federal government, I am well aware of the significance that federal policy has on our daily lives. Its impacts are felt in a variety of ways. It doesn’t matter if it is mining regulation, wildlife and ecology policy, environmental policy, renewable energy regulation, recreational use policy, funding for our land management agencies or national parks or a diverse range of other policy initiatives. When it comes to our federal lands its management has a direct impact on our life. It is important for the local communities, who are closest to the land and aware of its impacts and uses, to send their views and concerns to their representatives.

I was proud to cast my vote in support for the following letters as a member of the Moapa Valley Town Advisory Board

Dear Senator Heller,

As stated in another letter, we deeply appreciate your attention to the issues that concern the citizens of Moapa Valley.  As the Moapa Valley Town Advisory Board, we are compelled to communicate the opinions of a majority of our residents; in particular, residents feel very strongly about S. 1087/H.R. 1581 – The Wilderness and Roadless Area Release Act of 2011.  Thank you for your continual work in regards to providing more public access and multiple use opportunities on public lands and in particular for co-sponsoring this bill as well as sponsoring S. 1554, prohibiting the establishment of national monuments without the express authorization of Congress. 

43 million acres of land have been locked up for decades even though these very acres were analyzed and determined NOT to be suitable for wilderness designation.  It is inconceivable that this refusal to release lands has gone on for so long and it is shameful that special interest groups have dictated public policy regarding public lands to such a drastic extent.  These two bills must be passed as they seek to return 43 million acres of public land back to the public.  Furthermore, these released 43 million acres must be released back to the designation they were before the wilderness study area designation. 

On a broader note, the Moapa Valley Town Advisory Board is quite concerned with the non-productivity of public land in general; we are addressing such, along with the Moapa Valley Chamber of Commerce, in a resolution which you will receive in the near future.  Decades ago, enterprising residents had the opportunity to develop a resource or a skill and turn that into a job that would support their family.  Today the burdensome nature of modern governmental bureaucracy is akin to walking on glue; after a few steps, you are so helplessly bogged down that giving up and quitting seems the only option.  We applaud your efforts, as well as that of the other Congressmen and Senators that created the Jobs Frontier Report.  We strongly support this report and the work being done to bring jobs back to the west and in particular, to the rural west.  We look forward to following this process, supporting real change that creates jobs, and actively helping in any way we can.  Thank you for your work to date on the economic issues that overshadow our lives.

Please support the Wilderness and Roadless Area Release Act of 2011; thank you for all you have done and are doing on our behalf

Dear Congressman Heck,

Thank you for the multiple times you have visited Moapa Valley, informed us of upcoming issues, and requested our opinions and concerns regarding such.  We deeply appreciate the time you and your staff have spent learning the concerns and thoughts of rural residents.  

As such, we respectfully submit the following for your use and request that you vote accordingly on the following public land issues/bills:
  1. Secretary Salazar’s letter to Members of Congress requesting identification of lands that may be appropriate candidates for congressional protection under the Wilderness Act:  

The Moapa Valley Town Advisory Board does not support wilderness designation of any kind and strongly requests that you forward no recommendations to the Secretary; we further request that your comments to the Secretary note that Clark County was involved in a thorough public lands bill in 2002.  It was our understanding, at that time, that this wilderness issue was over in our county.  Although our community felt that entirely too much land was designated as wilderness, we felt we could live with that—given that bill was the last public lands designation bill.  To our utmost sorrow, that is not the case as more wilderness in Clark County is proposed almost yearly.  IF Secretary Salazar feels that he must re-address the wilderness issue in our county, we request:
  1. Not one additional acre of wilderness be designated as the BLM does not recognize any lands in northeast Clark County as having wilderness characteristics,
  2. That the top of Virgin Mountain WSA be released back to the previous land designation as this area has been extensively used by humans for over 100 years and this land does not contain wilderness characteristics, per the BLM’s own documentation,
  3. That the Million Hills WSA be released back to its pre-WSA designation; this area is rich in minerals and therefore this area should be studied for possible mineral extraction which would benefit the local economies and our nation; additionally, the Million Hills WSA never contained wilderness qualities and as such should be released,
  4. The boundary to the Arrow Canyon Wilderness Area needs to be adjusted to the south side of the wash, at the very least.  The boundary is now in the middle of the wash which is confusing to everyone.  Also, this wash floods all the time; it is the main drainage that the Pahranagat and Double Wash drain into; since it floods all the time, the wash itself contains no wilderness qualities.  
  1. S. 407/H.R. 758 – National Monument Designation Transparency and Accountability Act:

The Moapa Valley Town Advisory Board respectfully requests that you support these bills and this concept:  that Congress and only Congress can establish monuments; designating monuments is an unchecked presidential power which should be restored to Congress.  We further request that the state legislature and governor of the state wherein a monument is proposed must also approve of such designation before it can happen.  States must have a say in how public land is managed; the federal government is too far removed from those living next to such lands and the states must be involved in this process.  
  1. S. 1473/H.R. 2745 – Mesquite Land Act:

The Moapa Valley Town Advisory Board recognizes that the City of Mesquite needs an amendment to clarify several minor issues relating to the period of time that they can purchase land and relating to their Virgin River Habitat Conservation and Recovery Plan and the Hydrologic Monitoring and Mitigation Plan; we therefore request that you support such bills AS LONG AS these bills or any other introduced bill or amendment does not contain language designating any portion of the Gold Butte complex as an NCA, monument, or wilderness.  Any such attempt to pass legislation regarding Gold Butte designation is strongly opposed by the Moapa Valley Town Advisory Board; such opposition is consistent with our previous positions in 2008, 2009, and 2010.   

If you have any questions or wish to discuss the above issues in more detail, please know that you are welcome at our town board meetings and in our community any time.  We deeply appreciate your diligence to our concerns and the work that you do on our behalf in Washington D.C.  Thank you,

Saturday, October 1, 2011

What is Protection

Wednesday September 28, 2011 the Deputy Secretary of the Interior, David J. Hayes came into mesquite Nevada. The Secretary came to discuss Gold Butte with the local stakeholders. The meeting was billed as an opportunity to talk about Gold Butte and setting the conservation priorities for the area.

Deputy Secretary Hayes started the meeting off by stating that Secretary Salazar and the Interior Department wants to promote special areas found within public lands and give them “special protections” and the recognition that they deserve. Deputy Secretary Hayes talked about Secretary Salazar’s letter that was sent to all Congressional Representatives asking for areas within their district that are deserving of special protection. He spoke in broad terms about the lofty ideals of conservation and of its importance. It is my opinion that the Secretary worked to set a tone for the meeting where people would feel comfortable sharing their views on what would be best for the area. However it was not hard to see through the thinly veiled bias of a political appointee.

The message that I delivered was that we need to take the politics off the table and work to build a sustainable future for Gold Butte. It will be after that plan is built that we can pursue the correct political avenue to accomplish that objective, not before. I consider the top down approach, of Washington pushing the agenda and seeking their own designation as disingenuous and backwards politics. This strategy does more to erode the public’s confidence that consensus, rather than politics, will provide a long term solution.

The use of broad terms to generalize complex issues acts only to stir the pot. It does not encourage people to seek the middle ground but rather to assume that their own unyielding interpretation and preconceived ideas are the only answer. It works only to corral the scope of people’s ability to think outside previous practice. This is especially the case when many of these words have a distinct connotation associated to them whether that be negative or positive. For example “protection” to one might mean Wilderness, and to the person next to you, that might mean protecting access to trails. If we cannot advance the conversation past politically charged and timeworn rhetoric then the standoff will continue.


After the meeting I had the opportunity to meet with the Mayor of Mesquite. The Mayor has a plan to put a group of the interested participants together to start anew at building consensus.  As I understand, his goal is to get everyone to the table on the premise of starting with a clean slate. At this point each item can then be discussed as to the pros and cons and its long term consequences on the sustainability of Gold Butte. It will be here that the community develops its long term vision of what they want to see Gold Butte become. It will be here at the community level where a reasonable solution will develop.

I support the Mayor’s plan for Mesquite to take the reins and build a community consensus. It will be at that point that we find the correct political avenue to push that agenda, not the other way around.