by Anne Hedges

“When you’re willing to compromise your principles you’ve given up. You abandon them. When you compromise nature, nature gets compromised.”

Conservation Pioneer Martin Litton who died on Nov. 30, 2014

These words were prescient of this week’s grand compromise to pass two great pieces of legislation and give the Northern Cheyenne their rightful land. But the cost is far too high, even for these important gains.

Upon close inspection the deal is reminiscent of 1990’s deal where wild lands advocates rightfully wanted to protect Yellowstone National Park from a gold mine on its borders but were willing to sacrifice the Otter Creek valley in eastern Montana to do so. Once again wild land advocates rightfully want to protect wonderful wild lands but they are willing to give up far too much. There are just too many awful provisions lurking in the shadows of this deal that is being inappropriately slipped it into a must-pass defense spending bill.

  1. The Signal Peak coal mine in Montana. Photo by Larry Mayer/Billings Gazette.

    The Signal Peak coal mine in Montana. Photo by Larry Mayer/Billings Gazette.

    Great Northern Properties gets its grubby hands on 112 million tons of coal adjacent to the Signal Peak mine. Great Northern has been wanting this coal for years as it knows developing the illegally obtained coal rights on Northern Cheyenne land would be difficult, if not impossible, to develop. The coal on the Northern Cheyenne reservation was omitted from the expansion of the Northern Cheyenne Reservation in 1900. Now the Signal Peak coal mine that sends most of its coal overseas to Asian markets can further expand, continue to pollute water quality in the area, cause subsidence of surface owners property, and be responsible for hundreds of millions of additional tons of climate changing carbon dioxide pollution. Wilderness is not immune to the effects of climate change so should we sacrifice the climate for wilderness designation?

  2. Two Wilderness Study Areas near Otter Creek will lose their designation as such and 14,000 acres of wilderness study areas in eastern Montana near the CMR National Wildlife Refuge will likely lose that designation from oil and gas development. Once again, eastern Montana lands are being sacrificed for protections in the western half of the state.
  3. The Apache tribe in Arizona has been fighting a proposed copper mine in its ancestoral homeland for many years. In one fell swoop, Congress wants to give international mining giant Rio Tinto 2,400 acres in the Tonto National Forest in Arizona. The area contains Apache burial grounds, important medicinal plants, and irreplaceable ceremonial grounds and cultural sites.
  4. Perhaps the most offensive and potentially dangerous component of the proposal is to to extend grazing permits from 10 to 20 years and allow the grazing licenses to be issued BEFORE completion of the environmental review processes under the National Environmental Policy Act. So much for look before you leap. It’s hard to fathom that oil and gas development could get any easier, but this proposal further streamlines federal approval of oil and gas leases.
  5. The proposal opens 70,000 acres of the Tongass National Forest in Alaska to a Native American Corporation that wants to log this irreplaceable treasure.

There’s so much more to be concerned about here than just these five items. The list is long. These ideas deserve honest debate, not to lurk in the shadows of a few good ideas. These aren’t defense department projects. For once I agree with the Heritage Foundation. These are land grabs that should be scrutinized in the light of day. Western Montana shouldn’t sacrifice eastern Montana…again.

 

10 Responses to " Top 5 Offensive Provisions of the Public Lands Rider "

  1. Matthew Koehler says:

    Thanks to MEIC for strongly speaking out, especially when groups like Montana Wilderness Association and The Wilderness Society are doing nothing buy cheerleading because they get a few thousands acres of Wilderness with the RMFHA bill, which ironically now includes the Wilderness Study Area releases you speak of.

    The fact that these groups cheerlead, and remain 100% about the rest of the 1,600 pages in this crazy bill is a testament to how far these groups have fallen when it comes to standing up for Montana’s Public Lands legacy.

    One small correction, the Grazing “Improvement” Act didn’t include the extension from 10 to 20 years. The reason we all got that wrong initially was because Tester and Daines’ very own press release said that was in the bill. It’s not actually, which makes one wonder if they, or their kid-staffers, actually know what’s in the 1,600 page package of pork-filled riders.

    However, for certain, the Grazing “Improvement” Act is still terrible. Here’s a quick analysis I put together today. Thanks to everyone who speaks up. And to those who work for groups like MWA, TWS, MT TU and NWF and remain silent, shame on you!!

    Public Lands Losses Far Outweigh Any Wins: Some Context??You may have seen the news of a supposed “Historic” day for Wilderness in Montana and America’s public lands legacy. For example: http://gftrib.com/1CFU2u7 and http://bit.ly/1FQmm99.

    For those who care deeply about the future of America’s public lands legacy, it’s very important for everyone to look at this 1,600 page pork-filled public lands rider package in its entire context, and what that means not only for Montana, but for America’s entire public lands legacy.

    For example, the Sierra Club clearly has stated: “We’re not happy about how this thing unfolded. The losses far outweigh the wins. We should not be privatizing federal lands at the behest of a mining company. We should not be privatizing public lands that are sacred to Native Americans.”

    Why would the Sierra Club say that? I mean, the Sierra Club is about as mainstream – and respected – as any conservation group in the country. You mean it’s not just “fringe environmentalists” and “obstructions” and those who volunteer or work for “pretend” groups that are opposed to this pork-filled public lands package?

    Well, read on and let’s look at some specifics.

    WILDERNESS

    There are a total of 6,397,000 unprotected Wilderness-eligible roadless acres in Montana. This public lands rider would protect only 67,000 acres in Montana as Wilderness. That means that this “Historic” “new hope for Wilderness” would amount to protecting just 1% of the total Wilderness-eligible roadless acres in Montana as Wilderness.

    Nationally, the number of Wilderness acres protected in this bill is even more pitiful. This ‘historic’ 1,600 page-long Public Lands rider attached to the National Defense Authorization Act would protect a whopping 0.2% of all remaining Wilderness-eligible roadless acres in the United States. Nothing says “Happy 50th Birthday Wilderness Act” than boldly protecting 0.2% of what remains, right?

    Nothing says, “We ended Montana’s 33 year Wilderness protection drought by boldly protecting 1% of the remaining Wilderness-eligible roadless acres in the state,” right? Maybe in another 33 years we can get another 1% of the Wilderness-eligible roadless acres in Montana protected as Wilderness, right?

    As you’ll see below, we must look at protecting 1% of the remaining Wilderness-eligible lands in Montana as Wilderness, and 0.2% nationally, in the context of what else is in the 1,600 page rider package.

    Also, keep in mind that the Rocky Mountain Front Heritage Act was changed at the last minute – in secret, back room horse-trading process between democrats and republicans – and now includes the release of 14,000 acres of Wilderness Study Areas in southeast Montana, near Lame Deer and Broadus. Plus the RMFHA also now calls for a new assessment of oil and gas drilling/development potential in two Wilderness Study Areas near the Charles N. Russell National Wildlife Refuge, south of Glasgow. So, very likely those two Wilderness Study Areas near the Charles Russell National Wildlife Refuge will be lost/undermined/compromised and opened for oil and gas development.

    So honestly, the end result of this supposed “Historic” public lands package may be a complete wash as far as Wilderness in Montana is concerned. Hey, but at least David Letterman – who has given generously to the Montana Wilderness Association – gets Deep Creek protected right adjacent to his property, right? And at least the Montana Wilderness Association and The Wilderness Society in Bozeman have those fundraising letters all set to mail out.

    PUBLIC LANDS GRAZING

    The so-called “Grazing ‘Improvement” rider in the bill – as was pointed out by a work colleague/public lands policy expert – is a complete roll back of environmental law and public input into public lands grazing permit renewals. Essentially, public lands grazing permits would now be renewed regardless of a NEPA analysis, public land health conditions and regardless of the impact on wildlife, including endangered species. ??“The only environmentally beneficial part of the Grazing Improvement Act — voluntary grazing permit retirement — was removed, making this bill a wholesale disaster,” said Erik Molvar, wildlife biologist with WildEarth Guardians. “This bill would make it harder for government agencies to manage livestock grazing on public lands, and create new obstacles to restoring damaged habitats where livestock grazing is currently degrading the health of our public lands.”

    Ironically, the Grazing “Improvement” Act all but ensures the US Fish and Wildlife Service will have to list greater sage-grouse under the Endangered Species Act as it completely circumvents the current process of revising land use plans by the BLM and Forest Service. In addition, extending public lands grazing permits to 20 years will continue the fleecing of U.S. taxpayers. A General Accounting Office (GAO) report found that federal land management agencies lose $10 for every $1 paid in grazing fees.

    PUBLIC LANDS GIVEAWAYS, RELEASES OR PRIVITIZATION

    The 1,600 page pork-filled rider also includes a number of public lands giveaways and privatization schemes, in which politicians such as Sen Murkowski (R-AK) and Sen Reid (D-NV) clearly pulled some strings to help their campaign contributors.

    The SE Arizona Land Exchange in the bill will give Native American lands to a foreign mining company and allows them to mine on these sacred lands. Specifically, the mining corporation is Rio Tinto, a foreign corporation that also happens to co-own a uranium mine with the Iranian government!!

    Rio Tinto formed a subsidiary called Resolution Copper that has fully acknowledged they will take this public lands in Arizona put in a massive copper mine and ship copper concentrate to China to be proceeded. But that’s not all!

    The Oak Flat SE Arizona Land Exchange is the only bill in this Congress that would give a Native American sacred site on public lands to a foreign mining company, would be the largest single loss of recreational opportunities on public land, and would circumvent the normal process of permitting mines located on public land. Learn more here: http://bit.ly/1yjGlJh

    A package of bills dealing with Nevada would seriously undermine the Wilderness Act by allowing a number of non-conforming uses, while 10,000 acres of public lands in Nevada currently managed by the BLM will be conveyed to the City of Yerington to facilitate mineral production.

    In Alaska some of the public lands pork includes a transfer/giveaway of 70,000 acres of the Tongass National Forest (including some amazing, ecologically important old-growth forests) to a private logging corporation for the purpose of cutting down the old-growth forests that were formerly part of the Tongass National Forest and shipping them to Japan and China.

    Another section of the rider extends an existing program to speed up and streamline processing of public lands oil and gas (i.e. fracking) permits by the BLM, sets the oil and gas permit processing fee at a flat rate for 10 years (a taxpayer giveaway to Big Oil) and adjusts the interest rate paid on oil and gas royalty (another taxpayer giveaway to Big Oil).

    Don’t be fooled by the politicians, industry spokespeople or the people who work for multi-million dollar conservation organizations. The Sierra Club is right on the money when they clearly state, “The losses far outweigh the wins.”

    What’s highlighted here is just sampling of some of the terrible riders that will undermine America’s public lands legacy that were included in this 1,600 page package. Once the public and public lands policy experts actually have time to review the entire 1,600 page bill you can bet there will be more pork-filled egregious examples of how Congress completely sold America’s public lands down the river to benefit their campaign contributors, and how a small handful of very well funded conservation groups remained silent and/or celebrated this “historic” package.

    Bottom Line: This public lands package attached as a rider to an unrelated National Defense Authorization Act will mean more public lands logging, grazing, mining, oil and gas development…and less public input, less protection for wildlife species and less science-based management overall.

    “Strikes the right balance?” “Historic?” Look at the details and decide for yourself if this is how to preserve and protect America’s public lands legacy.

    Thanks,

    Matthew Koehler
    WildWest Institute
    koehler@wildrockies.org

    • Curlew says:

      So, You Earth First , Monkey-wrenching THUGS Got Yours !
      There are a total of 6,397,000 unprotected Wilderness-eligible roadless acres in Montana. …And your coalition of Earth First THUGS want it All !

      ‘Bottom Line: This public lands package attached as a rider to an
      unrelated National Defense Authorization Act will mean more public lands
      logging, grazing, mining, oil and gas development…and less public
      input, less protection for wildlife species and less science-based
      management overall.’

      “Strikes the right balance?” “Historic?” YES !!

      Matthew Koehler
      WildWest Institute
      koehler@wildrockies.org
      Remember This: Protect Public Lands FOR The People, not from the People !!You, Matthew Koehler & your Group of Thugs are going to here that Often !

      butte59701.com
      Vintage Radio

      • curlew says:

        You Know When Scott Bosse of
        American Rivers in Bozeman, Wilderness advocate Steward Brandborg, &
        Matthew Koehler Are Angry, Upset, Disjointed, Fit – To-Be-Tied, All
        Grumpy & Crotchity, All Be-Side Themselves, and SCREAMING, It’s
        Got-A Be GOOD For Montana,Right?

        This Collection of Earth
        First, Monkey wrenching THUGS
        are all over the Forums
        with their Call-To-Arms bet there already trying
        to Strong-Arm, Bribe, & Threaten members of Congress or the State
        to Water-Down this action to their liking.

        The Scary part is that This Collection
        Of Earth First Thugs are not beyond calling to arms their other
        Misguided, Brain Washed, Fanatic members to resurrect the
        Good-old-days of Arson, Monkey wrenching, Sabotage, Tree
        Spiking, Road sitting, Road Destruction, Road Spiking, with no
        regard to property & Life.
        These THUGS know, (In their
        Warped Mind ), that their actions are Justified by Mother Nature or
        some such Warped Ideology.

        Scott Bosse of American Rivers in
        Bozeman, Wilderness advocate Steward Brandborg, & Matthew Koehler
        and the others are the American ISIS here in Montana and
        should be treated as such !

        “”There are a total of
        6,397,000 unprotected Wilderness-eligible roadless acres in Montana.
        This public lands rider would protect only 67,000 acres in Montana as
        Wilderness. That means that this “Historic” “new hope
        for Wilderness” would amount to protecting just 1% of the total
        Wilderness-eligible roadless acres in Montana as Wilderness.”

        …And The above Named, Will
        Do or Say Anything To Remove Your Right to
        Access any of it ! Just like ISIS

        So, To the American ISIS, Scott Bosse
        of American Rivers in Bozeman, Wilderness advocate Steward Brandborg,
        & Matthew Koehler Remember This: Protect Public
        Lands FOR The People, not from the People
        !!
        You’ll hear and see it Often !!

        Thanks For Listening.
        butte59701.com
        Vintage Radio
        Happy Holidays !

  2. j snell says:

    time to shut these inviro terrorists down , they hurt every hard working person in Montana with their narrow minded agenda, have seen the results for the past 75 years from these groups from out of state,

  3. Paul Stephens says:

    Tester is the biggest disappointment I ever voted for…. completely oblivious to the effects of what he is supporting..

  4. […] Plus the RMFHA also now calls for a new assessment of oil and gas drilling/development potential in two Wilderness Study Areas near the Charles N. Russell National Wildlife Refuge, south of Glasgow. So, very likely those two Wilderness Study Areas near the Charles Russell National Wildlife Refuge will be lost/undermined/compromised and opened for oil and gas development. Click here for more info. […]

  5. nu luna says:

    Yes, Thank You for speaking out.

  6. Melinda Gopher says:

    I have a great deal of hope humanity is turning a page. I get a sense of the political environment as something like this: the big energy companies want to rake up as much earth and destroy as much as possible before there is this broad consciousness that does take root in our policies on a large scale, addressing climate change. The big companies want to profit as much as possible before there is this transition in policy and the social environment changes. It is unfortunate Tester seems to be a full fledged Republican now. I also take issue with the manner coal partnered with Lawrence Tribe to attempt to undermine President executive action on climate change, treating him like a little kid. It is hypocrisy and paternalism thinly veiled as economic policy. I remain hopeful the will is there to counteract the free for all of public resources. We did it before and we can do it again.

  7. Roger says:

    Maybe you should learn to spell buddy!

  8. […] info: Some Context on the Defense Bill Riders: Public Lands Losses Far Outweigh Any Wins Top 5 Offensive Provisions of the Public Lands Rider Defense bill with wilderness & parks plus land giveaways beats cloture 85-14. 3 Dems & […]

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