Showing posts with label public lands. Show all posts
Showing posts with label public lands. Show all posts

June 04, 2015

The Conspiracy to Take Away Public Lands

John Gale from Backcountry Hunters and Anglers speaks to a rally
at the Colorado State Capitol in February 2015 (Durango Herald).




There is a threat to public lands in the West, and the mainstream media are largely igoring it. Even HighCountry News is ignoring it, but then HCN more and more  focused on California — that must be where the big donors are).

Unlike the so-called Sagebrush Rebellion of the mid-1980s, this is stealthier.

State legislatures in places like Colorado and Montana are seeing bills introduced urging that public lands administered by the federal government — Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, Fish and Wildlife Service, maybe even National Parks Service — be turned over for the states for management.

Doing so would be “more efficient,” “closer to the people,” whatever. The states, of course, would not be able to take care of them.

Can you imagine Colorado footing the bill for a bad forest fire season? Even my state representative, Jim Wilson, R-Salida, who strikes anti-Washington poses (“Personally, I would like to see the Feds out of the picture”) admits it:
If the Federal government were to give the land to the state of Colorado, how would we be able to afford the management costs?  I doubt that the Federal government would give back to the Colorado all the public tax dollars that are spent annually on those lands.  Not to mention the PILT (Payment In Lieu of Taxes) dollars that are used by Colorado counties to fund essential services as well as education.  And, to sell and/or develop the land to afford to manage the land is like eating your seed corn...not a sustainable practice!
But this stealth movement keeps puttering along.

You can imagine the scenarios if a state with a lot of public land, such as Utah, got ahold of it. Everything would be wide open — even more than now—to leasing for drilling and mining. Wildlife, water quality, etc., would not be be merely in the back seat; they would be clinging to the rear bumper of the development-mobile.

Since the state always is short of money (roads! schools! Medicaid!) the pressure would be on to start selling. The buyers would line up:

(a) energy companies
(b) mining companies
(c) rich people wanting huge ranches (doubling as private hunting grounds
(d) other land developers

So who is bankrolling this movement. My bet is (a).

There has been some media coverage, but it is isolated. No one is connecting Montana with Colorado, for example.

Some sample headlines:

Colorado Wildlife Federation's "Public Lands Update":
Throughout the 2015 legislative session of the Colorado General Assembly, CWF defended public lands managed by the US Forest Service and BLM from two bad bills: Senate Bills 15-039 (an attempt to confer concurrent state jurisdiction over federal lands) and 15-232 (to study how the state could manage these lands). Both bills were rejected. Colorado, as well as other western states where similar bills have been proposed, does not have the financial resources or personnel to take over management of a huge additional 23-million acre portfolio of public lands that are managed by BLM and US Forest Service. The likely outcome from such transfers would be sales of some of these irreplaceable lands to private interests.
 "[MontanaGovernor Steve] Bullock Vetoes Federal Land Task Force Bill
"A careful reading of the bill … reveals that the transfer of public lands is still very much in the sights of the task force,” Bullock’s veto letter says. “My position on this issue is crystal clear: I do not support any effort that jeopardizes or calls into question the future of our public lands heritage.”
If you backpack, hike, hunt, fish, look for mineral specimens, collect mushrooms, take photos, or do anything else on public lands, imagine losing that access. You would be no better off than a Texan.

June 04, 2014

Cannabis and Water Law: A Western Reportorial Twofer

Despite the huge importance of water issues in Colorado — headwaters of four or five major rivers (depending how you count) and home of more water lawyers than anyplace — news outlets often don't cover water issues well.

On my first reporting job, at the now-vanished Colorado Springs Sun, it seemed like my colleagues found water issues to be arcane and scary. "Water is hard," to paraphrase Teen Talk Barbie

On my second reporting job, I sat out to educate myself — with not a little help from the late Charles "Tommy" Thompson, long-time general manager of the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District — or as I liked to think of it, the secret government.

The concepts of Colorado water law are fairly simple, but their permutations are endless, and the system operates like warring tribes — if you don't fight, you lose.

But add cannabis culture, and suddenly water issues are not just vital, they are sexy!

"Water District Votes Dry on Pot" (mostly paywalled)

"[Pueblo West] water available for pot growers; St. Charles Mesa keeping moratorium"

"Pot Shop Battles for Water Supply

But this is all the legal stuff. Drought-stricken California sees legal, semi-legal, and outlaw grows using up water and polluting streams:

"Pot Farm Pollution: Too Dangerous to Deal With?"

"Study Finds Medical Pot Farms Draining Streams Dry"

January 09, 2012

Why the NRA is Wrong on Public Lands

You would think that a magazine called American Hunter would be interested in preserving high-quality wildlife habitat. But you would be wrong.

American Hunter is published by the National Rife Association. Now generally I support the NRA, or I would not have paid for a life membership.

Not only does the NRA support 2nd Amendment issues, although not always as quickly and nimbly some would ask, but it works in the background in many ways for the shooting sports. They make insurance affordable for small local shooting ranges, for example.

But when it comes to public lands management, you have to wonder who they are working for.

Example: an article in the December 2011 by J.R. Robbins, managing editor of their hunter's rights department, titled "NRA Backs Bill to Increase Hunter Access."

Now reading that, you might think that Robbins was talking about areas to which hunters did not currently have access. But you would be wrong, again.

Hunters have access to these Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management lands. I hunt them. My friends hunt them.

So what is the NRA's problem here? Simple, these are Inventoried Roadless Areas. They are managed as wilderness areas.

Here in Colorado, for example, those are good spots for elk. All kinds of studies show that the more roads you have, the fewer elk will stay in the area (see p. 4). (Here is one for Roosevelt elk in Oregon—PDF download.)

And what the NRA wants is motorized access. Rmmm rmmm roar!

Why? Look the advertisers. Back cover: Cam-am ATVs. Inside: a full-page add for Yamaha ATVs, and a third-page ad for Moose ATV batteries, plus a 1.5-page gushing "advertorial" review of the Ford 150 pickup truck.


The NRA Is a very top-down organization. They don't have boots on the ground. There are scores of members in my little county, but no one asks our opinion on roadless-area management. Nor do they have a volunteer network following these issues the way that many conservation groups do.

Ducks Unlimited knows that you can't hunt waterfowl without wetlands. Trout Unlimited knows that you can't fish for trout without cold, clean waters.

Evidently the NRA knows that you can't sell ATV advertising unless you are consistently anti-roadless area.

I will never forget the time that I attended a senator's public meeting on one roadless area in Chaffee County. The NRA's state representative, some guy from Denver who looked like he did not get outdoors very often, got up and gave the official line: roadless bad.

He was followed by a number of local hunters who all said some varietion of the same thing: "I'm an NRA member too, but I am in favor of the proposed wilderness designation because it is good for wildlife — and I don't mind walking."

Who do you think impressed the senator more?

So you might think that a hunting magazine would want to protect the future of hunting through the protection of wildlife habitat—public-lands habitat which can be hunted right now and which does not need "increased acess."  But not when it's the NRA's magazine.

February 06, 2011

'Mustang Mythology'

Conservation writer Ted Williams takes on the "feral-horse lobby" in Audubon magazine.
A feral horse is a far greater threat to native ecosystems than a cow. When grass between shrubs is gone cows move on; horses stomp the shrubs into the dirt to get the last blade. What’s more, when cattle deplete forage they’re moved to new allotments, and they’re taken off the range in winter. But horses pound vegetation all year. And because horses live on range incapable of consistently sustaining them they sometimes starve and, in the process, cause the starvation of such sensitive desert creatures as sage grouse, bighorn sheep, Gila monsters, pronghorns, and desert tortoises. Not only will horses beat springs and seeps into mud holes, they’ll stand over them, running off wild ungulates, people, and even sage grouse.

The feral-horse lobby dismisses these facts as fiction concocted by the BLM on behalf of the cattle industry.
Some follow-up here on his blog.

Like many Colorado journalists, I once wrote my obligatory news feature on the program in which state prison inmates in Cañon City work with wild horses to make them adoptable.

But there are thousands more horses than there are people who want them. And slaughtering them has been made almost impossible. So they end up in corrals.

Yet the mythology persists.

September 10, 2010

Dog Rules Lead to Conflict with Division of Wildlife

Some northern Colorado residents are upset with a Division of Wildlife decision to ban all dogs—except those engaged in hunting—from two state wildlife areas, Lon Hagler and Lonetree Reservoir. (Note sentence in red on the linked pages.)

As reported in the Loveland Reporter-Herald,

State officials have said the ban was the result of complaints from neighbors and hunters about aggressive and unruly off-leash dogs.

The local wildlife manager received 15 complaints over two years, and her boss took seven in the same period, state officials have said.

The meetings were public, but the residents who have come together to try to reverse the ban say they never knew the proposal was even out there.

The information was posted ahead of time on the Colorado Division of Wildlife website. But it was not easy to find.

Loveland resident Connie Kogler — one of the leaders of the Stop the Dog Ban committee — said it took her two full days of digging on the website to find anything.
Now there is an online petition to get the CDOW to reverse its decision.

Neither the petitioners nor the newspaper seem to be addressing the larger issues, however.

One is that state wildlife areas near urban areas are often treated by the non-hunting/fishing public as just more parks or "green space"

This is not their purpose: they provide wildlife habitat and basic hunting/fishing/birding opportunities and only minimal amenities: a parking lot, a boat ramp, maybe an outhouse.

Since hunters and anglers pay for them (the CDOW gets no state tax money), the Division in 2006 required users without a hunting or fishing license to buy a  $10 "habitat stamp."

In 2009, that requirement was quietly dropped, possibly because the CDOW saw it as unenforceable.

Another is the uncontrolled dogs off-leash problem.

Yet another is the "neighbors" issue. How often have we seen someone move in next to a state wildlife area because it is "green space" and then freak out when hunting season comes and ohmygod they are shooting over there.

Of course, if these were state parks there would be lots more regulations, including on dogs, not to mention entrance fees and all the rest.

August 29, 2009

Cannibis in Colorado Forests--and Predictable Outrage

Following the recent discovery of 14,000 marijuana plants somewhere on the Pike National Forest, the U.S. Forest Service decided to take a larger look at the problem.

Forest Service officials said Wednesday they believe illegal immigrants are being brought to Colorado for mass cultivation of marijuana and they are leaving behind a trail of trash, pesticides and other debris that has damaged public forests and polluted rivers.

We know what country most of these illegal immigrants are coming from--Finland. You can tell from the trash that they leave behind them: koskenkorva bottles, empty jars of cloudberry jam, gnawed crusts of karjalanpiirakka, high-end cell phones, and saunas made from pine poles and blue tarps.

Predictably, Colorado's professional Finnish activists are screaming about ethnic prejudice.

It's a real problem when a bunch of people carrying out an illegal activity on public land decide to defend their little patch of it with snipers armed with deadly Mosin-Nagant rifles. You're walking along with your fishing rod or birding binocs and kaboom!

In all seriousness, this is not cool. If you want to grow dope, do it in the basement, not on my public lands.

A close relative got involved in that whole national-forest growing scene in northern California some years back, and I was real happy when she saw the light and got out of it before anything bad happened to her.

M. and I had a real "Oh shit" movement some years back when we were counting owls for the Bureau of Land Management. On our first hike into one counting area, we rounded a bend in the trail to find stacks of coiled plastic pipe and other construction materials, way way far from any road.

My first thought was "pot plantation!" My second thought was, "Here in Colorado above 8,000 feet?? Is the growing season long enough?" (Evidently it is in places.)

We saw no one. Later we returned and figured out that the rancher with the grazing lease had brought in those materials to pipe water to a stock tank. What a relief.

December 16, 2008

Ken Salazar as Interior Secretary

According to the Denver Post, Senator Ken Salazar will accept the post of Secretary of the Interior.

As one-time employees (in a small way) of the DOI, M. and I are moderately happy to see him in the job. (I wonder if he will make any progress with the Indian oil-royalties quagmire.)

At least we hope that under Sec. Salazar there will be less political meddling in scientific research.

November 24, 2008

Interior Secretary Speculations

John Orr at Coyote Gulch summarizes speculation about who will be the next Secretary of the Interior, a big item for us Westerners.

I have seen some blogosphere gossip that the job was offered to New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, but I cannot find a link offhand.

At least Richardson would know what the Bureau of Indian Affairs and Bureau of Land Management do. But apparently he wanted a foreign-policy job -- Secretary of State -- and not getting that, will take Commerce instead.

November 12, 2008

GAO: Boarding Wild Horses is a Money-Loser

Costs of the Bureau of Land Management's wild-horse management program are spiraling out of control, reports the Denver Post.

Far more horses are just being kept in holding pens than anyone wants to adopt, says the federal General Accounting Office.

"The program is at a critical crossroads," the GAO report said. "Within the program's existing budget, BLM cannot afford to care for all the animals off the range, while at the same time manage wild horse and burro populations on the range."

There is a program by which state prison inmates care for and break horses, which are later adopted. Everyone loves it -- it's a feel-good news story. When I worked for the Cañon City Daily Record, I wrote a feature about it too.

The horses find homes, the inmates have a purpose in their lives, everyone wins.

But it places only a fraction of the horses that are rounded up.

The simple fact is that the horse-adoption market is finite, and not everyone who wants a horse wants a mustang.

The BLM has relied on adoption programs that require people who adopt the animals—protected under the wild horse act—don't sell them for slaughter. The agency also keeps older animals or those deemed unadoptable in long-term facilities. Some live for 15 to 20 years in the pens.

"Since 2001, over 74,000 animals have been removed from the range, while only about 46,600 have been adopted or sold," the report said.


This is the unanticipated dollar cost of the sentimentality that keeps the mustangs out of dog food cans and butcher shops. (Via Colorado Independent.)

UPDATE: BLM tries shuffling money and horses while talks continue.

October 12, 2008

The Mammoth Hot Springs Elk & People Rodeo

Photo by Chas S. CliftonElk wandering on the lawn of Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel in Yellowstone National Park. Note the bull on the left. Click to embiggen.

I don't know how long that semi-tame elk have hung out around the hotel and old Fort Yellowstone grounds. I'm sure that decades ago, it was the easiest way for visitors to see them. But encouraging bears with open garbage dumps made them easy to see too, yet the Park Service abolished that practice eventually.

When we visited on Oct. 3, the rut was in full swing, I could see at least five bulls from the steps of the visitor center (the old Army post's BOQ). Two had harems and were acting acutely aware of each other, with occasional bugling and aggressive body language--at a safe distance.

But the park rangers were in a bigger lather than the bulls.

At the visitor center we had Anna Pigeon with a bullhorn herding visitors around: "You're between two bulls!! Up on the porch!!!"

Someone in a patrol car dashed back and forth, light bar flashing, flicking his siren, and barking confusing orders at drivers over his PA system: "Stop! Go! Turn! Stop!"

Another ranger placed orange cones on sidewalks and driveways, constantly rearranging them as the elk moved around. It was almost an artistic performance.

M. made various dry comments about "testosterone poisoning," referring, I think, to the bull elk.

I thought of UN peacekeepers in Bosnia: Lots of activity, but no real effect on the conflict.

But then the Park Service is 20 percent about preservation and 80 percent about crowd control. (Or maybe that should be 10:90.)

M. and I waited until the rangers' attention was elsewhere, then strolled towards where the Jeep was parked. Someone shouted through a bullhorn--I gestured towards the parking lot and kept going. And we left.

I suppose that if they are going to have semi-tame elk, they could bring in some semi-tame wolves. Then no one would have to leave the hotel to see nature in the raw. Visitors could sit in the lovely Art Deco hotel dining room, listening to the big-band music on the sound system, and watch predation in the parking lot.

Or they could start discouraging elk from hanging around the hotel complex.

UPDATE: Yellowstone's web site has a page of videos of people getting too close to elk and buffalo. You can watch rutting elk attacking cars at Mammoth. But given the road layout, there is no other way for drivers to go, so why does the NPS allow the "tame" elk?

September 04, 2008

Candidates Still Ignore Western Public-Lands Issues

Ed Quillen's Denver Post column from August 19th, "What the West Wants to Know," is worth reading, if you missed it. He rightly asks,

The pundits who analyze such matters also predict that New Mexico, Colorado, Nevada and Oregon will all be competitive states that will get a lot of attention when the campaign heats up after Labor Day.

So why the sense of disappointment? Because I haven't heard much mention of "Western issues," even though we're supposed to be important players this time around.


Check out his questions for the candidates, about the Forest Service fire-fighting budget, for example.

As for me, I would like to ask Senator McCain, "Who is your pick for Interior Secretary?" Because if it's another James Watt, there is no chance you would get my vote.

And I would like to ask Senator Obama, "Without any help from your staff, could you name three agencies within the Department of the Interior?"

Governor Palin could answer that question, I'm sure -- of course, she is probably at odds with all of them.

Quillen is right: Neither McCain nor Obama has addressed these issues.

Senator McCain at least produced rare bipartisan unity in Colorado's senatorial delegration with his off-the-cuff remark about re-visiting the Colorado River Compact, causing both Ken Salazar and Wayne Allard to shout, "No way!"

But does Obama know what the Compact is and how it influences population patterns and agriculture in the Southwest and Southern California? I wonder.

Whoever wins, I see plenty of non-partisan issue-oriented activism ahead.

July 08, 2007

Bureaucratic Idiocy: the Forest Service

Journalists are starting to put "cash-strapped" in front of Forest Service the way that they put "tiny" in front of Rhode Island.

Here on southern Colorado's San Isabel National Forest, our local ranger district is making noises about closing recreational facilities such as picnic areas and campgrounds.

This is not only stupid and wrong, it would be a huge historic irony.

When you set the Forest Service's "multiple use" doctrine against the realities of the San Carlos Ranger District, here are the realities:

• Mining: minimal.

• Grazing: some, but much less than there was perhaps forty years ago.

• Watershed protection: always important, but sort of passive.

• Timber: less important than in the "get the cut out" days of the 1980s, even. I see fewer timber sales than there were back then, and of the three small sawmills adjacent to the ranger district, at least one relies entirely on private lands. There is no one to even bid on a big timber sale.

• Recreation: the main use of the forest. In fact—here is the history part—the very first national forest campgrounds in the Rockies were built on the San Carlos District. (But the FS institutional memory is usually afflicted with bureaucratic Alzheimer's.) The San Isabel NF is all about recreation and not much else.

Take away recreation, and how will those FS staffers justify their jobs?

Right now, this planning exercise was stopped by a decision by the 9th Circuit federal courts that the FS's new speeded-up planning process violated federal environmental laws. So nothing is happening right now—no public meetings.

If it is really all about the budget, the USFS (Agriculture Dept.) plays that game even worse than the National Park Service (Interior Dept. The Park Service, which has its own nonprofit cheering section, has been known to close or threaten to close something prominent, like the Washington Monument at the height of tourist season, if they need to make a point about money.

So why not close down a national forest: campgrounds, offices, the whole thing?

Of course, to do that, some political appointee at the agency's head has to be willing to take a risk.

Don't hold your breath,

May 23, 2007

Bureaucratic idiocy: the Park Service

Photo by Chas S. Clifton
This may be the month when I blog about stupid decisions by public lands management agencies.

Let's start with Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park.

M. and I camped there last month on our way to my nephew's graduation in western Colorado. The view was spectacular, the birds sang -- and before 8 a.m., the screaming started.

A local running club had arranged an early morning race on the park roads. Superintendent Connie Rudd or her staff had thoughtfully placed the finish line right next to the campground. So all the campers in tents and thin-walled trailers got to hear some aging cheerleader types yelling stuff like, "Yay, Joey! Way to go! Woo-hoo!"

You may think that that bird song is a better early morning aural experience. Not at Black Canyon.

If every carload of runners paid the entrance fee, however, then some management goal was closer to being met.

You readers probably have your own tales. Feel free to share them.

May 20, 2007

A Few Reasons for Controlling ATVs on Public Lands

Call them all-terrain vehicles, ATVs, quads, four-wheelers, whatever--their reckless use causes problems for the land, for wildlife, and for people who just want to walk in the woods without the sights, sounds, and smells of motorized traffic.

The Durango Herald points out how "elk don't like ATVs."

In heavily motorized habitat, travel and hiding cover are drastically reduced and this essential freedom to roam must be bought by elk at the usurious price of greatly increased physical and emotional stress and social disruption.

"Off-roaders destroy pristine lands," from the Pueblo Chieftain.

Roads are being carved through pristine fields where wildflowers and grasses struggle to grow.

Gates and signs are being cut down, run over, shot to splinters or smashed into pieces.


And from the Denver Post, a suggestion that the all-terrain vehicle is the worst invention of the writer's lifetime.

At the willingly assumed risk of upsetting, even alienating, a significant segment of otherwise sedentary society and the industry it sustains, I'm handing out the award for the worst invention of my lifetime to the all-terrain vehicle.

Yes, I understand that era includes the Flowbee, spray-on hair, aerosol cheese, New Coke, psychic hotlines, Milli Vanilli and "Rocky V."


And the writer concludes,

Meanwhile, a recent analysis commissioned by the Outdoor Industry Association determined that non-motorized outdoor recreation kicks in a whopping $730 billion to the national economy annually, generates $88 billion in state and national tax revenue and supports nearly 6.5 million jobs nationwide. At $289 billion in retail sales in 2005, active outdoor recreation outpaced even auto and light-truck manufacturing by nearly $40 billion.

Most of these articles quote someone from some organized ATV-user group. Those groups may police their members--but from my experience, they probably represent about 1 percent of ATV users.

Hat tip: Mike Beagle at Backcountry Hunters & Anglers.

December 16, 2006

'Let it burn' 'Not here!'

Back in my reporter days, I covered my first Forest Service public meeting on fire suppression and prescribed burns back in 1987. The following year brought the big Yellowstone fire complex, and "let it burn" suddenly became very out of fashion.

A couple of weeks ago, the local FS staffers held yet another public meeting about fire suppression in the Wet Mountains and the Sangre de Cristo Range.

Mike Smith, the long-time number-two on the San Carlos Ranger District, delivered the party line: a century of fire suppression is making forest fires worse.

He was followed by one of the local fire chiefs, who worried about fires jumping from the national forest onto private property (which could have happened to us in 2005 had the wind not changed).

I think that more and more of the local people support (cautiously) a sort of "let it burn" policy. And I suppose that taking twenty years to change a paradigm is about average.

December 08, 2006

Blog stew

•I learn about the Colorado Bat Society, thanks to Colorado Bob.

•The Denver Post quotes a forecast predicting that El Niño means a dry mid-winter followed by "'copious' amounts of snow expected in late February or March."

Since M. and I will be driving to Vancouver, B.C., later this month (long story there), we are OK with the idea of the Northwest being a little dry. On the other hand, western Washington has had copious amounts of rain so far.

•The Forest Service considers more Colorado campground closures. Sheesh, I thought that most of the good ones were operated by private contractors these days.

There is a complicated story here: part of it's budgetary--spending all their money on fire-fighting. Part of it is that Smokey Bear seems to be a poor lobbyist in Congress. And part is a decrease in the "mid-range" camper? The one who is neither a backpacker nor RV-er? (Link will expire.)

•Last year M. and I noted that few Steller's jays came to our feeders. The old Gang of Twelve seemed to have shrunk to a Gang of One. We thought that there might be some connection to the adjacent 11,000 burn and a loss of food, particularly acorns.

But the Cornell ornithology lab's newsletter says, "Corvids, in general, were less common at [Southwestern] feeders during 2005-06. Steller's jays were only reported from one in four FeederWatch sites in the Southwest, the poorest showing for this species since FeederWatch began 19 years ago."

This year, we seem to have four or five hanging around the house, an improvement.

November 14, 2006

Into the Murk

I have just finished checking the Amtrak site to make sure that the Southwest Chief is on time. So far, so good--M. and I plan to join it this evening in La Junta, the first leg of a trip back into the Murk.

That's me being a little bit of a Western chauvinist. The East Coast is not known for strings of sunlit days, but the forecast for our destination, Washington, D.C., calls for a sunny weekend, amazingly, although we may arrive in "periods of rain and possibly a thunderstorm."

A storm is coming through the central Rockies. I'm currently in Pueblo, where the wind is howling across Baculite Mesa and a line of squalls obscures the Wet Mountains.

Another squall flares up in the Denver Post letters page, where Durango-based David Petersen of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers faces off against the NRA's Chris Cox over the Brown's Canyon issue.

The Post link will not last, so here are some samples:

Petersen: I too resent the fact that this pack of extremist paranoids claims to be America's leading supporter of hunting, and yet openly joins with the off-road motorized industry flak group Blue Ribbon Coalition to fight for the destruction and elimination of our last roadless public lands. The NRA isn't worried about access for old or disabled hunters, as it claims in its shotgunning of Chaffee County's Browns Canyon Wilderness. That's a convenient, if wholly transparent, lie.

Cox: Limiting access will not help hunters or our efforts to keep hunting alive in this country. Likewise, hunters with disabilities should be given equal opportunity to hunt on America's public lands.


It's so touching the way that the NRA always stands up for the rights of the disabled. (There is an in-house joke about the "NRA handshake," which is accompanied by cupping the left ear, indicative of hearing loss from too much shooting. "Sorry, I didn't catch your name.")

Blogging will probably cease for a few days. I have some things sitting on my desk at home that I would like to comment on, including a social scientific paper on hunter-and-hiker management.

November 10, 2006

Stumbling into Brown[']s Canyon

Two Colorado political veterans, Sen. Wayne Allard and Rep. Joel Hefley, have backed a bill creating a designated wilderness area on BLM land bordering the Arkansas River to the NW of here.

The whole Colorado House delegation signed as co-sponsors, and the bill had strong local support.

Into the comment process stepped the National Rifle Association, on the anti-wilderness side.

Big oops.

When it comes to individual liberties expressed through the Second Amendment, the NRA is a powerhouse.

When it comes to public lands management, however, the organization often stumbles, and this is one of those times.

I can't do better than quote Denver Post columnist Ed Quillen, who happens to live in the same county as the proposed Browns Canyon Wilderness:

So why is the NRA opposing this? According to Ashley Varner in the NRA's Washington office, "We feel the bill would drastically reduce access to the area for hunters and sportsmen, especially those who are elderly," and, "Without roads in the area, it would make it nearly impossible to pack out big game." Apparently, the NRA has never heard of pack animals like mules and horses.

This isn't a Second Amendment issue, and it doesn't prevent anyone from hunting in the affected area. So why on earth is the NRA supporting more habitat fragmentation with loud and obnoxious vehicles?


I put the ['] in the title because the Department of the Interior seems to have a problem with possessive apostrophes. "Devils Tower," and so forth.

This reluctance to use proper punctuation is not an affectation of Early Modern English (17th century), but apparently an early-20th-century federal policy.

There was a simplified spelling craze around 1920. In an exhibit of historic college documents at Reed College, I once noticed that for a short time, phrases such as "an office in Eliot Hall" came out as "an ofis in Eliot Hal." But then the college went back to normal spelling.

Bureaucratic inertia is greater in the National Park Service and other such agencies.

November 05, 2006

The tamarisk war

Pluvialis blogged her research trip to Uzbekistan and gave me a shudder, for she included a forest of poplar and tamarisk.

After years of regarding tamarisk as a horrible invasive pest in Colorado and elsewhere, you tend to forget that there is another part of the world where it is part of a functioning ecosystem.

Charles Bedford of the Nature Conservancy writes in today's Denver Post of the creation of the (deep breath) Salt Cedar and Russian Olive Control Assessment and Demonstration Act, now in Congress. (Salt cedar=tamarisk)

The photo shows tamarisk on the Colorado River in the lower Grand Canyon (Dept. of the Interior).

Tamarisk trees in lower Grand CanyonThe indictment:

Its prolific seeds and high salt content enable it to quickly replace native cottonwoods, willows, grasses and other plants, degrading the habitat for native wildlife, especially birds. Its spread also decreases forage for livestock and increases fire hazards.

But what drives the funding is the water it sucks up (as do cottonwoods, willows, etc., but let's not go there).

Today's Pueblo Chieftain had two articles: goats versus tamarisk and beetles versus tamarisk. I have mentioned the beetle trials before. (Links may expire.)

First the goats:

On cue, a few of the more media-savvy goats began furiously gnawing on small tamarisk plants by the river, knocking them over and munching down branches like so many French fries.

Which must be how they taste. Tamarisk, also known as salt cedar, are infamous for leaching salt to the surface. Their leaves increase the salinity of the very ground they grow in. Goats are one of the few animals that find them tasty.


As to the beetles, sometimes bureaucracy's right hand knows not what the left hand does:

In 2001, the beetles were released, but so far have not ventured far from the original test site below Pueblo Dam, because there are few large stands in the immediate area and their population has been knocked back by mosquito spraying.

However, if you view tamarisk as intrinsically evil, I suppose that the Uzbek ranger on horseback would like to have some words with you.

October 18, 2006

Assault by ATV

The future of backcountry law enforcement in Colorado and elsewhere in the West will be trying to curb out-of-control ATV riders.

From the Durango Herald:

After Jepson asked two ATVers to leave his property, "One guy just hit the throttle and ran into me," he said Wednesday. "The guy who ran into me just split, and he left me lying there with a broken leg."