Environmental Politics, Think
Environews: September 2011
Environmental news from around the state and the west.
The State of Utah has spent over $9 million trying to defend the indefensible and they still keep on losing.
— Former BLM Director Pat Shea, speaking about Utah’s RS2477 road claims September 24 is National Public Lands Day
Happy National Public Lands Day! NPLD, sponsored by the National Environmental Education Foundation (a public/private partnership) is a single-day event for volunteers to work on projects to enhance America’s public lands. Look for NPLD events at national parks, national forests, BLM sites and Utah state parks near you!
Pipeline deadline extended
The deadline for comments on a proposal to pipe groundwater from Snake Valley to Las Vegas, Nevada has been extended to October 11.
Utah Republicans support Great American Giveaway”
Utah Congressional Republicans (Representatives Rob Bishop and Jason Chaffetz and Senators Orrin Hatch and Mike Lee) have all signed on as supporters of a bill which would remove all protection for current BLM Wilderness Study Areas and U.S. Forest Service Roadless Areas. At a congressional hearing in July, former Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt used exceptionally strong language to oppose the “Wilderness and Roadless Area Release Act” which he called “the most radical, overreaching attempt to dismantle the architecture of our public land laws that has been proposed in my lifetime.” Babbitt testified that removing protections would “degrade backcountry hunting and fishing opportunities, increase fire risk, destroy recreation economies, impose increased water treatment costs, add to the Forest Service’s maintenance backlog and terminate time-honored and successful Wilderness Act procedures for lands administered by the Bureau of Land Management.” Babbitt went on to say, “H.R. 1581 should be titled ‘The Great Giveaway.’ The only beneficiaries of this legislation would be industrial timber and oil and gas corporations. The losers will be the American public, our children and grandchildren and generations to come.”
At the same hearing fanatically anti-wilderness Utah legislator Mike Noel (R-Kanab) inadvertently offered an excellent reason to renew your membership in the Southern Utah Wilderness Association. Noel testified, “I have some minimal influence over the use of public lands in my district. However, it pales in comparison to the influence of these wealthy foundations, and the grant-driven green groups such as SUWA that they support.”
House Republicans scientifically inept
Utah representatives Bishop and Chaffetz joined in a free-for-all, attaching numerous anti-environmental riders to the annual Interior Appropriations Act that allocates money for the BLM, Fish and Wildlife Service and the EPA. The riders would prevent enforcement of water pollution related to mountaintop removal mining, prevent greenhouse gas regulation, prohibit pesticide regulation, prohibit BLM wildlands management and re-open the Grand Canyon to uranium mining.
Speaking on the floor of Congress, Bishop mischaracterized the impacts of uranium mining as trivial: “Unlike other kinds of mining, this ore is found in little pipes, strips within the ground that go up and down,” Bishop said. “And what you need to do is simply bore into the pipe, find the ore in the middle, take it out, and then replace all the stuff back in. So once you are done with that mine, no one ever sees that it was there in the first place.”
Apparently Bishop is unaware that Utah is still trying to clean up radioactive tailings left from the last uranium boom. Objecting to the many “ideological and political provisions that are beyond the scope of funding legislation,” President Obama has threatened to veto the bill.
Wolf hunt lawsuit
Last year, a previous rider on another appropriations bill stripped endangered species protection from wolves. As a consequence, a devastating wolf hunt is set to begin in western states this September. The Center for Biological Diversity is trying to stop the hunt by challenging the legality of the rider. A press release from the center sums it up: “Wolves in the northern Rocky Mountains should be managed by science, not political meddling by Congress.”
Tim DeChristopher sentenced
On July 25, climate activist Tim DeChristopher was sentenced to two years in federal prison for a nonviolent act of civil disobedience to prevent a BLM oil and gas lease sale later found to be illegal. He was taken immediately into custody and is expected to be sent to Herlong Federal Prison in California. U.S. District Judge Dee Benson ruled that DeChristopher’s action was not necessary because he had other means of protest. Benson wrote in his decision, “DeChristopher could have filed protests during the 30-day protest period. DeChristopher could have also demonstrated with the environmental activists outside the BLM office. Moreover, DeChristopher could have involved himself with the coalition of environmental groups that filed a
federal lawsuit in the District of Columbia that eventually precluded the issuance of certain leases included in the BLM lease sale. Consequently, the court finds that DeChristopher’s necessity defense fails because there were reasonable, legal alternatives open to DeChristopher other than his alleged criminal acts.” In an eloquent statement to the court, DeChristopher schooled the judge on the role of civil disobedience in American society: “This is really the heart of what this case is about. The rule of law is dependent upon a government that is willing to abide by the law.” He ended his statement with a call for other activists to join the good fight saying, “At this point of unimaginable threats on the horizon, this is what hope looks like. In these times of a morally bankrupt government that has sold out its principles, this is what patriotism looks like. With countless lives on the line, this is what love looks like, and it will only grow. The choice you are making today is what side are you on.”