08/1999 Legislative Update

08/1999 Legislative Update
August 1, 1999



American Land Sovereignty Protection Act

This bill, requiring Congressional approval for United Nations land designations on U.S. soil, passed the House by voice vote May 17. It was introduced as S. 510 in the Senate by Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R-Colorado) and six others, but there doesn’t seem to be any more enthusiasm for it this year than last year, when it died in a Senate committee without a vote.

Why is this bill important? Well, at a U.N. “sustainability” hearing April 22, Netherlands environment minister Jan Pronk proposed creating a “Green Interpol” to handle the investigation, policing, and prosecution of environmental criminals. Pronk claimed he had raised the idea during the February meeting of UNEP’s board and “several countries have expressed interest in it.” But the April meeting’s chair “commented that he could see some of the delegates shaking their heads.”



Climate Change

On May 1, German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder promised nuclear industry and union leaders that he will not force closure of any nuke power plants during the current legislative term. In overruling the environmentalist Green Party in his Green/Social Democrat government, Schroeder intimated it could take up to 30 years before the government closes all 19 nuclear plants. That’s a far cry from the closure of three or four plants before 2002 that the Greens had demanded. Schroeder: “I’m not crazy.”

Speaking of crazy, Mexico is exempted from the requirements of the Kyoto Protocol. A Los Angeles Times story reports the capital city, with 26,000,000 residents at 7,300 feet, violates particulate standards 52 percent of the year--but Mexico City has another kind of emissions to worry about, from its over 2 million registered and stray dogs. During the dry season, all that dung gets ground up into a fine powder where it combines with everything else. Bring on the salsa!



Endangered Species

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, among sweeping proposals to list prairie dogs and mountain plovers, has proposed something that makes sense. Thanks mostly to the animal-rights-inspired ban on mountain lion hunting and trapping, the California bighorn sheep population in the southern Sierras is down to 100 animals in five herds. The Fish and Wildlife Service says the sheep are “imminently threatened by mountain lion predation and disease” and wants an emergency listing of the animals as endangered so that the agency may act. Can you guess how?

The Colorado lynx introduction experiment is having problems: The first group of four, all hard-released, died. The rest were fattened up some before being released, but that’s still over 50 percent mortality in less than half a year. The remaining lynx are soon to be released, and if they do not do better, it will be tough to justify continuing the program.



Forestry

The Clinton Administration announced on April 14 a proposal to triple the number of prescribed burns in California’s National Forests, igniting a firestorm over just who gets to “dirty California’s air and by how much.” BLM wants to torch 45,000 acres this year, and the Forest Service wants to ramp up to 250,000 acres per year. Local air pollution officials are worried. Farmers may be forced to further restrict the number of acres of rice straw they burn each year. But the state Air Resources Board is planning new rules to accommodate the feds.

Meanwhile, the Forest Service announced its “roads moratorium.” Although the Tongass National Forest in Alaska was supposed to be exempted thanks to its wonderful new Forest Plan, the administration took another tack and revised the Plan to address appeals. The net result (1,500 jobs later) was another 30 percent cut in allowable harvest.

And, on May 5, in reaction to the agency’s mad dash to implement “closed unless open” roads policy, the House Resources Committee approved the Forest Roads Community Right to Know Act (H.R. 1523). This bill, sponsored by Representative Helen Chenoweth (R-Idaho), would prohibit all except life emergency closures without annual Forest Service meetings with local officials regarding pending road closures and a mandatory 90 days for public comment.



Grizzly Bears

In a flapdoodle that has been running nearly continuously since 1991, after yet another lawsuit-induced court-ordered review (Fund for Animals and the Biodiversity Legal Foundation), the USFWS has decided that uplisting grizzly bears as endangered in the Cabinet/Yaak/Selkirk ranges (3,600 square miles) of northwest Montana is “warranted but precluded” by more pressing needs such as listing “the Canada lynx and mountain plover.”

Other bear populations, however, are doing peachy. From 13 to 19 sows with cubs per year, the last three years have seen from 31 to 35 sows with cubs. This year there are 70 cubs. As a result, the Service is starting work on “conservation plans” for the day when the bears will be removed from the Endangered Species list. The plans will be out for public comment sometime this summer.



Property Rights

A bill (H.R. 1142) to establish the same right to compensation for private property owners as the Fish and Wildlife Service claimed and got ($26 million in private funds from Minneapolis-St. Paul airport backers for a runway extension) was heard before the House Resources Committee April 14. Even with 44 co-sponsors, and with such an obvious double standard underscoring the unfairness of Endangered Species Act and other government takings, the bill will have a tough row to hoe.

In Colorado, the state assembly passed a bill to Governor Bill Owens that limits the number of changes a zoning authority can make to a master plan after it has preliminary approval. It forces bureaucrats to say yes or no before the developer gets in too deep … and will prevent situations like the Del Monte v. Monterey debacle in California, where the planning board changed and changed and changed until finally, the developer sued, all the way to the Supreme Court, and won.



Recreation

After 28 years of “negotiations” over routing of the Appalachian Trail, Saddleback Ski Area is still in a fight. The Park Service and Greens want 3,000 acres on the summit, rendering 4,000 acres, or 75 percent f the skiable terrain, worthless for skiing. The federal law creating the Trail only allows the NPS to condemn a 1,000-foot corridor for the trail through Saddleback’s property, or 330 acres. Saddleback offered to donate twice that, 660 acres. As part of its belief that “skiers and hikers can co-exist,” the ski hill has allowed hikers on its private property, let them use the warming huts (like Vail did before the big arson), and even provided rescue services when needed. Interesting little fact: 74 percent of Trail hikers earn over $40,000 a year, while in Saddleback’s home county the average household income is $24,432, with 7.4 percent unemployment. Can you say selfish elitists?



Science

For the last several years, Greens have been raising Cain about--and funds from-- mysterious deformities found in frogs. Herpetologists (mostly undergraduates) at Hartwick College in New York have apparently found part of the problem: parasite organisms called trematodes. The high-dollar labs had discounted the idea, instead concentrating on UV radiation (the ozone crisis) or chemical imbalances (the pesticide crisis). Although UV and chemicals may still be factors, the lesson learned is that complicated problems don’t have simple answers.



Water

On April 15, the Wyoming Association of Conservation Districts filed a 60-day intent notice to sue over Al Gore’s Clean Water Action Plan. Wyoming has refused to develop a “Unified Watershed Assessment,” just one of 111 CWAP “key actions” the U.S. EPA wrote up under CWAP auspices. And that’s just one agency.

In retaliation against Wyoming, EPA withheld $700,000 in federal funding and, with the intent notice, will probably think of more. The notice asks for a withdrawal of CWAP until the federal government complies with laws including NEPA, the Clean Water Act, and many others. Meanwhile, EPA says Iowa left out 266 lakes and streams when it reported that only 54 waterways violate state pollution standards. The agency has ordered the state Department of Natural Resources to update its list of waterways that are “seriously polluted or unhealthy,” which may force the state to “craft expensive cleanup plans” for all 320 sites.



Wolves

As gray wolves prosper, rumblings of “delisting” have got Green activist groups in a lather. Twenty-one “conservation” groups wrote a letter to Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt urging him to retain full endangered status for the curs, calling on all Americans to “tolerate” wolves “wherever they choose to go.” But USFWS researchers are finding out that even fully protected wolves, such as those in northwest Montana, have a higher attrition rate than the experimental wolves in Yellowstone and Idaho.

In New Hampshire, the state legislature has passed a law prohibiting “human assistance” in wolf repopulation by the state. Natural recovery is still legal--only problem is that this is a symbolic law. When a federal law touches on the same subject as a state law, the federal law (ye olde Endangered Species Act) takes precedence.