Carrizo Plain National Monument’s Plan Stiffs Conservation in Favor of Cattle

The actions of the Obama Administration on environmental matters is disappointing to say the least. Now, the Carrizo Plain National Monument has a plan, and The Wilderness Society published an article lauding the newly adopted plan and the protections it will give endangered species of flora and fauna. The Center for Biological Diversity gives the plan a more negative and mixed review.

Below is the Center for Biological Diversity’s press release.

For Immediate Release, April 9, 2010

Contact: Michael Connor, Western Watersheds Project, (818) 345-0425 (w); (818) 312-4496 (mobile); mjconnor@westernwatersheds.org
Ileene Anderson, (323) 654-5943 (w); (323) 490-0223 (mobile); ianderson@biologicaldiversity.org
Carrizo Plain National Monument’s Plan Comes Up Short for Conservation

SAN FRANCISCO— The Interior Department has put in place a 20-year plan for California’s Serengeti – the Carrizo Plain National Monument – that sacrifices rare wildlife habitat and native-plant preservation to entrenched livestock-grazing interests. Located in the western foothills of California’s San Joaquin Valley, the monument was created in 2001 to protect the visual splendor, cultural resources, rare plants, and wildlife of the valley’s largest remaining native habitat. The Carrizo Plain, an arid plain formed by the San Andreas fault, includes 206,635 acres of Bureau of Land Management-administered lands as well as lands administered by the state, private entities, and conservation groups.

“The Carrizo Management Plan is a step forward,” said Ileene Anderson, a biologist with the Center for Biological Diversity, “but it still fails to recognize the science, which clearly shows that grazing hurts rare species.”

While the management plan is an improvement over the Bureau’s long history of neglect of the Carrizo, it inexplicably allows livestock grazing to continue despite scientific studies that confirm grazing activities degrade habitat and undermine the long-term conservation of wildlife. The national monument is home to many endangered and rare species, including the San Joaquin kit fox, blunt-nosed leopard lizard, giant kangaroo rat, California condor, pronghorn antelope, tule elk, vernal pool species, and a suite of rare native plants.

“The BLM is trying to argue in this plan that livestock grazing should continue as a management tool, but all the science shows the opposite,” said Michael Connor, California director of Western Watersheds Project. “The science shows that cattle presence on the plain increases nonnative weeds, is detrimental to rare plants, and impacts federally protected species, so this simply is not a viable approach.”

“In the face of a changing climate, preserving the Carrizo Plain ecosystem with its suite of rare and imperiled species is imperative if we are to recover these species in the wild,” said Anderson. “The Bureau of Land Management’s previous management was based on 19th-century practices; the new plan moves the Bureau’s practices into the 20th century, but they still need to get to the 21st.”

Here are some of the public comments. The BLM’s RMP process can be found here.

If you have thoughts about the plan, please share them in the comments section.

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Salazar says Reform Due for Oil and Gas Leases on Public Lands

Taft: Interior Secretary Salazar Launches Onshore Oil and Gas Leasing Reforms
Reforms Will Make Oil Drilling Tougher on Public Lands, Carrizo Plain
January 8, 2010

Citing a need to improve certainty and order in oil and gas leasing on U.S. public lands, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar today announced several reforms that the Bureau of Land Management will undertake to improve protections for land, water, and wildlife and reduce potential conflicts that can lead to costly and time-consuming protests and litigation of leases. Interior will also establish a new Energy Reform Team to identify and implement important energy management reforms.
“The previous Administration’s anywhere, anyhow policy on oil and gas development ran afoul of communities, carved up the landscape, and fueled costly conflicts that created uncertainty for investors and industry,” said Secretary Salazar. “We need a fresh look – from inside the federal government and from outside – at how we can better manage Americans” energy resources.
Les Clark of the Independent Oil Producers Association told the Independent that the IOPA opposes these new guidelines and said that the government is just making it more difficult for oil producers to lease and explore for oil on public lands.
According to Salazar, the new guidance BLM is issuing for field managers will help bring clarity, consistency, and public engagement to the onshore oil and gas leasing process while balancing the many resource values that the Bureau of Land Management is entrusted with protecting on behalf of the American people. “In addition, with the help of our new Energy Reform Team, we will improve the Department’s internal operations to better manage publicly owned energy resources and the revenues they produce.”
Many of the reforms that the Bureau of Land Management will undertake follow the recommendations of an interdisciplinary review team that studied a controversial 2008 oil and gas lease sale in Utah.
Congressman Kevin McCarthy issued a statement about the new policy and said, “The Department of Interior’s decision takes a step backward in ensuring that our families have reliable access to affordable American energy. Our local communities are blessed with abundant resources that can be responsibly developed, creating good, well-paying jobs and promoting domestic energy production. Rather than promoting this, Interior’s additional layer of bureaucracy could instead lead to higher energy prices at a time when hardworking Americans are already shouldering high costs.”
Under the reformed oil and gas leasing policy, BLM will provide:
Comprehensive interdisciplinary reviews that take into account site-specific considerations for individual lease sales. Resource Management Plans will continue to provide programmatic-level guidance, but individual parcels nominated for leasing will undergo increased internal and external coordination, public participation, interdisciplinary review of available information, confirmation of Resource Management Plan conformance as well as site visits to parcels when necessary; Greater public involvement in developing Master Leasing and Development Plans for areas where intensive new oil and gas extraction is anticipated so that other important natural resource values can be fully considered prior to making an irreversible commitment to develop an area; Leadership in identifying areas where new oil and gas leasing will occur. The bureau will continue to accept industry expressions of interest regarding where to offer leases, but will emphasize leasing in already-developed areas and will plan carefully for leasing and development in new areas.
BLM Director Bob Abbey said the increased opportunity for public participation and a more thorough environmental review process and documentation can help reduce the number of protests filed as well as enhance BLM?s ability to resolve protests prior to lease sales. A comparison of the new guidance with current policy can be found here.
“The new approach can help restore certainty and predictability to a system currently burdened by constant legal challenges and protests,” said Abbey. “It will also support the BLM’s multiple-use mission, which requires management of the public lands to provide opportunities for activities such as recreation, conservation, and energy development?both conventional and renewable.”
BLM will also issue guidance regarding the use of categorical exclusions, or CXs, established by the Energy Policy Act of 2005 and that allow the bureau to approve some oil and gas development activities based on existing environmental or planning analysis. Under the new policy, in accordance with White House Council on Environmental Quality guidelines, BLM will not use these CX’s in cases involving “extraordinary circumstances” such as impacts to protected species, historic or cultural resources, or human health and safety.
Salazar also issued a Secretarial Order establishing an Energy Reform Team within the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Land and Minerals Management that will identify and oversee implementation of energy reforms.
“The creation of the new Team focuses on our important stewardship responsibility in the management of the nation’s energy resources,” said Wilma Lewis, Assistant Secretary for Land and Minerals Management. “Through its work, the team will promote efficiency and effectiveness in the development of renewable and conventional energy resources, so that we can be properly accountable to the American public.”
Under the Assistant Secretary’s direction, the Energy Reform Team will provide greater coordination and improved accountability to ensure the orderly, efficient, responsible and timely development of public resources critical for our national energy security. Through its own efforts, as well as by considering good ideas from stakeholders, industry, and the public, the Team will help ensure that Interior is a responsible steward of the public resources it manages and obtains fair value for energy resources owned by the public.
The new oil and gas leasing guidance and CX guidance will be implemented once BLM has completed final internal reviews.
According to Forest Watch, the Carrizo Plain National Monument, in San Luis Obispo County, has also experienced increased pressure from the oil industry. In 2006, an oil tycoon announced his intent to drill an exploratory well inside the Carrizo Plain National Monument boundary. His lease eventually expired before he was able to do so. In 2008, a subsidiary of Occidental Petroleum announced its intent to explore for oil on the valley floor of the Carrizo Plain National Monument. That proposal is still pending.

http://www.taftindependent.com/News/ViewArticle/1666

Secretary Salazar is drawing heat from the oil industry. His stance has angered and surprised the industry.

According to the Wall Street Journal,

Business groups fear the administration’s action will discourage domestic energy development, by adding new red tape to the permitting process for oil and gas drilling. In a letter to Mr. Salazar last week, the Industrial Energy Consumers of America, a lobbying group that represents manufacturers, credited the 2005 law with reducing drilling-permit backlogs and boosting natural-gas production.

The Bureau of Land Management will have to reign themselves in. From the WSJ article quoted above:

Mr. Salazar’s action follows litigation from some environmental groups and criticism from the Government Accountability Office that the BLM has often misinterpreted and violated a 2005 federal law. The legislation was designed to speed oil and gas drilling in the West by allowing federal land managers to waive extensive environmental reviews normally required.

Republicans sent a letter of complaint about the reforms.

Environmental groups who have been fighting for curbing of the leases are generally pleased. The Billings Gazette quotes Salazar as saying that the Bush Administration treated public lands like a “candy store.” Previously Salazar had halted land sales that were to take place in Utah, so this latest reform is additional good news for places like the Carrizo Plain National Monument.

What’s new with Ron Huntsinger, the BLM National Science Coordinator?

Readers of this blog might be interested to know what the Bureau of Land Management’s National Science Coordinator is up to these days. Mr. Ron Huntsinger has joined the CESU COUNCIL. The CESU Network is coordinated and provided support by the CESU Council. That stands for Cooperative Ecosystems Studies Units. “The Council includes representatives of participating Federal agencies operating under a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for the CESU Network. A CESU Council Coordinator is elected by the members.”

US Dept. of Interior:

Ron Huntsinger
National Science Coordinator
Bureau of Land Management
1620 L Street , Room 1050
Washington , DC 20036
Phone: (202) 452-5177
Fax: (202) 452-5112
Email: Ron_Huntsinger@blm.gov

The Public Lands Monitor for Fall, 2009 also has a presentation by Ron Huntsinger, National Science Coordinator, BLM Headquarters Office, Washington, D.C. “BLM Adaptations to Changes in Climate.”

Click for Ron Huntsinger’s PowerPoint presentation.

Secretary Salazar has issued a Secretarial Order on climate change and renewable energy. Four work groups have been formed to develop a supplemental strategy for the BLM. It is working on adaptive management guidance to complement the climate change strategy for both the DOI and BLM. It is developing a rapid assessment process at the eco-regional scale to allow for identification of areas suitable for renewable resource development. A national monitoring network and regionalized science support capability is being proposed in DOI, in which BLM will participate. Under the new BLM science strategy, it is developing a technology transfer process to assure that best management practices, adaptive management strategies, decision support tools, and research results are incorporated in BLM training and management programs, as well as being made available to other users.

Also at that meeting was Mike Pool, BLM Deputy Director for Operations, Washington, D.C., who described some of the major public land initiatives BLM is dealing with:

BLM is focused on renewable energy development. Solar and wind energy facilities have the potential for large scale displacement of other public land values. A Solar Programmatic EIS is being prepared to help BLM decide how to implement renewable energy programs. At the same time, BLM is reviewing how it manages conventional energy resource goals.

The National Landscape Conservation System (NLCS) fits well with the Department’s landscape protection initiative. The NLCS created a balance and gives strength to BLM and the agency’s array of management programs. There will be emphasis on identifying and protecting cultural and historic resources. Friends groups are being developed that are building new coalitions, partnerships, and diplomats for the BLM.

The BLM’s Resource Management Plans (RMP) are one of the foundations of the BLM. These “masterful documents” are rich with information, and are good temporary blueprints of what BLM needs to do to manage for today’s uses of the public lands. The RMPs are continually being amended to meet changing needs. Local governments and local publics compliment the BLM in saying that nobody works with them better than the BLM. There is a culture in the BLM that knows how to deal with the public on difficult issues, and a process that leads to good, sound decisions.

The BLM will continue to manage a high level of economic resources and recreation. Challenging lawsuits over sage grouse, desert tortoise and other Threatened and Endangered Species are now recognized as part of the decision making process and BLM is improving its products for dealing with these issues.

Mike Pool presented retiring PLF President George Lea with a bronze buffalo statue with thanks for George’s service and dedication to the Public Lands Foundation, and he thanked the PLF for being a great supporter of the BLM.

DR. Huntsinger (no, he didn’t actually get a Ph.D.) also has been presenting on Climate Change at conferences such as the Southwest Region Fish and Wildlife Service Workshop. It probably looks better for him to appear to have an advanced degree, but all he has a BS.

The “bad science of the Bush administration” seems to be perpetuating itself under the Obama administration.

Obama Admin’s growing “environmental” record is cause for concern

This is a repost of PEER’s (Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility) ObamaWatch newsletter. Ordinarily I just deal with things that have to do with the Carrizo, but the administration’s position on whistleblowers and several other decisions by Ken Salazar, Sec. of Interior, and Lisa Jackson of the EPA, relate to broader issues that affect the Carrizo, including solar energy. PEER is also looking for people to serve on its ObamaWatch committee called Support Scrutiny. PEER’s Membership & Outreach Coordinator, Debbie Davidson, who can also be reached by phone at (202) 265-7337. Information provided is considered CONFIDENTIAL and is protected by law.

Campaigns – Obama Watch – At Issue

A visitor to the White House website for information about eco-policies will not find an “agenda” for the environment. Instead, the category is “Energy & Environment” and that ordering appears intentional.

Other than curbing greenhouse gases, there is no mention of environmental priorities such as safeguarding clean water, reducing pollution threats to public health, conserving wildlife and protecting vital habitat, averting collapse of marine fisheries, or ending abuse of public lands through practices ranging from mountaintop removal to overgrazing.

Nothing….

Look at a growing record that is cause for concern:

Climate Change

* Obama has embraced a watered-down climate change bill that Dr. Jim Hansen and other experts warn will do too little too late;
* Central to the Obama effort is embrace of a cap-and-trade approach that is unworkable and unenforceable.

Coal Embrace

* Central to the Obama energy program is an embrace of more coal and developing “Clean Coal Technology” – a process that does not yet exist. In the interim, the administration is funding schemes to pump sequestered carbon into the ocean floor;
* The Obama team has backed away from promises to restrain the environmental damage wreaked by mountaintop removal coal mining;
* In a huge and dangerous hidden subsidy to the coal industry, the Obama administration delays taking action to address toxic coal combustion wastes.

Oil & Gas
The Obama plan seeks to reduce reliance on foreign oil by increasing production of domestic oil – with no limits:

* Drill, Baby, Drill – No part of the Outer Continental Shelf or the domestic U.S. has been put off-limits to petroleum production. Some lease sales have been slowed for further review – but they will be back;
* The Obama administration has approved a pipeline to bring Canadian oil sands, one of the most environmentally destructive petroleum extraction sources, to U.S. refineries (so much for ending dependence on foreign oil);
* Obama’s Interior department has defended a Bush plan to lease western Colorado’s beautiful Roan Plateau for oil and gas drilling; and
* A key priority is to back the construction of the Alaska Natural Gas Pipeline championed by Alaskan ex-Gov. Sarah Palin;
* Washington Post, Oct. 20: The Interior Department has approved permits for Shell to drill exploratory oil wells on two leaseholds in the Beaufort Sea off the north coast of Alaska.

Mining

* The administration did not object to a Corps permit allowing a gold mine to dump its wastes into Alaska’s Lower Slate Lake, killing all its aquatic life;

Natural Resources

* The Obama administration has embraced the failed Bush salmon recovery plans for the Pacific Northwest that put power production ahead of species survival;

Oceans

* The administration has allowed Bush permits for destructive fish farming in the Gulf of Mexico to go into effect;

Forestry

* The administration approved the first timber sale in a roadless area of Alaska’s Tongass National Forest;

Endangered Species

* In one of its earliest actions, the administration took the wolf off the endangered species list, clearing the way for hunting to begin through much of the West;
* Backing a move by the Bush administration, the Obama administration issued rules forbidding use of the Endangered Species Act to address habitat loss, like the shrinking ice shelves on which polar bears depend, caused by greenhouse gas emissions and climate change

Parks & Refuges

* Obama signed legislation allowing the open carrying of loaded firearms in parks and refuges – the first time a president has signed a law weakening wildlife protections in the National Park System;
* Obama’s Interior Department is defending the planting of genetically-modified crops on National Wildlife Refuges.

Toxics

* EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson dropped an appeal to the Supreme Court in a case that struck down Bush-era limits on mercury pollution from coal power plants, which unnecessarily permit more of the toxic chemical into the atmosphere;
* The Obama administration has ducked the problem of growing water pollution from oil “fracking” chemicals and coal-bed methane gas operations; and
* EPA continues to endorse using shredded tires in playgrounds despite red flags raised by its own scientists.

Appointees

* The Obama Administration has nominated a former pesticide lobbyist to be the chief agricultural negotiator in the Office of the United States Trade Representative (October 26, 2009).
* Obama’s Interior Secretary, Ken Salazar, proclaims that “energy independence” is his number one priority. Not only is energy independence an unrealistic goal but any attempt to realize it from the public lands managed by Interior would involve turning America’s great heritage of wild lands into a giant energy farm;
* Obama’s EPA pick, Lisa Jackson, compiled an abysmal record in New Jersey including a dysfunctional toxics program, suppression of science, and retaliation against whistleblowers;
* The pick to head the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Sam Hamilton, has the weakest record on Endangered Species Act enforcement in the country and tried to fire a scientist who exposed scientific fraud by the agency in issuing an unending stream of development approvals (even to this day) in shrinking habitat of the highly endangered Florida panther; and
* The choice to head the Office of Surface Mining, Joseph Pizarchik, has drawn the opposition of citizens and conservationists alike for his horrid record on acid mine drainage, subsidence from longwall mining, valley fill with mine slag and using toxic coal combustion waste as mine fill. Astoundingly, he ducked all questions on mountaintop removal mining at his confirmation hearing.

Whistleblowers

* As a candidate, Barack Obama frequently promised to “strengthen whistleblower laws to protect federal workers who expose waste, fraud, and abuse of authority.” Since he has been president, the only time he mentioned the need to protect whistleblowers was when he addressed the Parliament of Ghana.
* None of the prominent Bush-era whistleblower cases has been settled. In fact, the Obama administration is continuing the persecution of these whistleblowers in court;
* New whistleblowers are being fired or targeted while Obama appointees do nothing. Cases out of the Labor Department, Homeland Security, NASA, Wildlife Services and other agencies originated after Inauguration day and are heading to hearing;
* A package of strong whistleblower protections for federal employees was dropkicked out of the stimulus bill with not a peep of protest from – or with tacit support of – the Obama administration;
* The Obama administration has not committed to support whistleblower reform legislation that has passed the House for the past three years in a row; and
* After denouncing Bush’s signing statements, President Obama promptly issued one while signing the FY09 Omnibus Appropriations bill that he reserves the inherent authority to prevent civil servants from disclosing inconvenient truths to Congress.

Consider Taking Action for PEER to protect the Carrizo and other special lands from environmental destruction, as well as to protect federal employees from interference with their job duties and from workplace bullying that still goes on in the Department of Interior.

Robert Abbey named to BLM director post in Dept. of Interior

A former aide to Clinton’s Secretary of Interior, Bruce Babbitt, has been named to head the Bureau of Land Management. Bob Abbey was head of the BLM in Nevada. Mike Pool had been named as interim national director of BLM, but once confirmed, Abbey will replace Pool as the permanent director. Abbey has been involved in controversies, from the Cave Mummy to ranching to Mustang removal and adoption. He’s a seasoned veteran of land management issues. Readers, please feel free to share your views, positive or negative, on this appointment.

Obama names Nevadan Bob Abbey to head BLM

By Agelio Networks
contact@agelio.net

US President Barack Obama has chosen Bob Abbey as his pick to head up the US Bureau of Land Management (BLM), which handles oversight of oil and gas development on federal lands onshore.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced the nomination, calling Abbey a “consummate, professional natural-resource manager.”

Abbey has more than 32 years in state and federal public service, including eight years at the helm of the Nevada state BLM office until his retirement in 2005.

Abbey has supported sharing access on BLM lands, especially when it comes to mining and oil and gas development, according to a report in the Salt Lake Tribune.

In 2007 testimony before the House Committee on Natural Resources, he said he favoured treating public lands as more than just commodity-production sites.

“I am a firm believer in BLM’s multiple-use mandate,” he testified, “and I believe that appropriate public lands, not all public lands, should continue to be accessible for mineral extraction.”

Abbey’s nomination was reportedly pushed by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who is also from Nevada.

Abbey still must pass a Senate confirmation vote.

The first Obama appointee stopped on the Senate floor…What’s going on?

There is an interesting development with respect to Interior, namely that President Obama’s selected appointee did not get appointed by the Senate. Given that it is a Democratic senate and that there is a preference for deferring to presidential choices (or so I was told by my Democratic senators when I tried to get them to vote against some Bush nominees), it’s an odd outcome.

Cloture Motion; Nomination of David Hayes to be Deputy Secretary of the Interior – Vote Rejected (57-39, 3 Not Voting)
The Senate failed to get the sixty votes required to bring the nomination of David Hayes to a full vote, making him the first Obama appointee whose nomination has been stopped on the Senate floor. The nomination will likely be brought up again later in the year.

Here’s what his official biography says about him:

Mr. Hayes served as the Deputy Secretary of the Interior during the Clinton Administration. As Deputy Secretary, he was second in command at Interior under Secretary Bruce Babbitt, with statutory responsibility to serve as the Chief Operating Officer over Interior’s 70,000 employees and $10 billion budget. Mr. Hayes was nominated for the position by President Clinton, and confirmed by unanimous vote of the United States Senate. While at Interior, Mr. Hayes played a lead role in many of the Department’s most difficult and important matters with a primary focus on the acquisition and protection of threatened lands (e.g. acquisition of the Headwaters old-growth redwood forest in Northern California); the restoration of threatened ecosystems (e.g. the Bay-Delta ecosystem restoration project in California); the introduction of modern water management approaches in the west (e.g. the Colorado River initiatives undertaken by the Administration); the negotiation of habitat conservation plans under the Endangered Species Act; energy-related issues associated with federal lands and resources (e.g. oil and gas development, hydropower licensing, etc.); and the settlement of long-standing Indian water and land disputes.

Mr. Hayes has served in a variety of leadership positions in the environmental, energy and resources field, including Chairman of the Board of the Environmental Law Institute, a nonprofit research and publication center for environmental law and management professionals. He also served as the Vice Chair of the Board of American Rivers and was a Board member of RESOLVE and the Natural Heritage Institute.

In the fall of 2007, Mr. Hayes served as Consulting Professor at Stanford University’s Woods Institute for the Environment. While at Stanford, he directed a Woods Institute dialogue project on carbon offsets. The results of his work at Stanford were published by the Center for American Progress. Mr. Hayes also was a Senior Fellow at the World Wildlife Fund, with a focus on climate change matters, and a Senior Fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute, the think tank that is affiliated with the Democratic Leadership Council, where he served on PPI’s energy task force.

So he managed to get unanimous approval by Republicans under Clinton, but cannot get through the new Senate. Why not? He needed 60 votes.

LA Times Story: House Passes Bill to Expand Wilderness

House Passes Bill to Expand Wilderness

In California–which now has 14
million acres of wilderness (second
only to Alaska, which has more than
57 million acres) — the bill would
protect about 700,000 additional
acres from new roads and most
commercial uses such as new mining,
logging and energy development.
Included in the legislation is $88
million to help fund a project to return
year-round flows and a prized salmon
run to the San Joaquin River for the
first time since the 1940s. The bill
also would provide $61 million toward
cleanup of polluted groundwater in
the San Gabriel Valley.