View Full Version : Bah, Wilderness! - Reopening a Frontier to Development

May 3rd, 2003, 07:59 PM
May 4, 2003
Bah, Wilderness! Reopening a Frontier to Development

SEATTLE — More than a century after historians declared an end to the American Frontier, the Interior Department made a somewhat similar announcement last month, with no fanfare. On a Friday night, just after Congress had left for spring break, the government said it would no longer consider huge swaths of public land to be wilderness.

The administration declared that it would end reviews of Western landholdings for new wilderness protection. As long as the lands had been under consideration for the American wilderness system, they had temporary protection from development.

With a single order, the Bush administration removed more than 200 million acres from further wilderness study, including caribou stamping ground in Alaska, the red rock canyons and mesas of southern Utah, Case Mountain with its sequoia forests in California and a wall of rainbow-colored rock known as Vermillion Basin in Colorado.

By declaring an end to wild land surveys, the administration ruled out protection of these areas as formal wilderness — which, by law, are supposed to be places people can visit but not stay. Now, these areas, managed by the Bureau of Land Management, could be opened to mining, drilling, logging or road-building.

The idea of designating an area as wilderness — wild land left as is, for its own sake — is an American construct. Artists and writers in the mid-19th century led the charge for wilderness, with Henry David Thoreau arguing from his pond-side home in Concord, Mass., that wilderness sanctuaries were a necessary complement to civilization.

In setting aside the first wildlife refuge in 1903, on Pelican Island in Florida, President Theodore Roosevelt protected a patch of America that is now the smallest of the formally protected lands — a mere five acres. And since passage of the Wilderness Act of 1964, 106 million acres have been given the wild lands designation, with more than half of that total in Alaska.

Over the years, the Bureau of Land Management, the nation's biggest landlord, with 262 million acres under its control, has continued to survey its vast holdings, trying to determine whether more land is suitable for wilderness. But the Bush administration says wilderness reviews should have ended 13 years ago, at the close of a study period mandated by Congress. This interpretation is challenged by conservationists who plan to appeal the Bush order in court.

If the Friday night declaration represents the beginning of a broad new land management policy, the Interior Department has not said so. There was not even an announcement of the end of the wilderness reviews on the department's Web site.

Instead, the change came about in a settlement of a 1996 lawsuit filed by the State of Utah against the Interior Department over a reinventory of three million acres conducted by Bruce Babbitt, the interior secretary at the time. Most of the lawsuit had been dismissed and sat dormant until the state amended its complaint in March.

"This does not mean that someday down the road we may still manage some of these lands as wilderness," said Patricia Lynn Scarlett, an assistant interior secretary.

The move follows a consistent pattern in the president's environmental policy: to change the way the land is managed, without changing the law. Whether the issue is allowing snowmobiles in Yellowstone National Park or logging in the Pacific Northwest, the course has been to settle lawsuits by opponents of wild land protection, opening up the areas to wide use, without going to Congress to rewrite the rules.

Oil and gas developers and others point out that the Clinton administration did the same thing — making broad changes of policy by administrative order — but on behalf of an environmental constituency. In their view, wilderness protection amounts to a land grab, putting potential timber or mining areas off limits. They say citizen groups were abusing the law by bringing land surveys to the government, which then managed the land as de facto wilderness. Leaders of some Western states have long complained that wilderness study essentially eliminates the chance to gain any economic value from the land, money that is needed for state coffers.

To many conservationists, the announcement was more than another setback. Wilderness, in the oft-quoted line of the writer Wallace Stegner, is "the geography of hope." To have that geography capped, they argue, has had the same effect on some outdoor lovers as the fencing of the public range had on open-country cattle ranchers. "They are trying to declare, by fiat, that wilderness does not exist," said Heidi McIntosh of the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance.

The interior secretary, Gale A. Norton, said that the policy reflected the administration's attempt to cooperate with local officials and heed concerns of industries that rely on public lands' resources. "The Department of the Interior believes that we should manage these lands in a way that provides the greatest benefit to the public," Ms. Norton wrote in a letter to Senator Robert F. Bennett, Republican of Utah.

In another letter, Ms. Norton said it seemed senseless to consider declaring any more wilderness areas in Alaska because its elected officials are against expanding this protection. But critics say that in California, a majority of elected officials favor more wilderness. And in New Mexico, Gov. Bill Richardson, a Democrat, has asked the government to prevent drilling in 1.8 million acres of the Otero Mesa, an area that has all the qualities of wilderness.

The New Mexico land is the largest contiguous piece of Chihuahuan Desert grassland left in North America, Governor Richardson said. It may be wild, but for now, it can no longer be Wilderness.

Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

May 4th, 2003, 07:50 AM
May 4, 2003
The End of Wilderness

From the beginning, President Bush has been far more interested in exploiting the public lands for commercial purposes than in protecting their environmental values. On matters ranging from snowmobiles in Yellowstone to roadless areas in the national forests, his administration has tried steadily to chip away at safeguards put in place by the Clinton administration — largely in an effort to help the oil, gas, timber and mining industries, and often in cavalier disregard for environmental reviews mandated by law. Now comes another devastating blow: The revelation that his Department of the Interior is no longer interested in recommending any of the millions of acres under its jurisdiction for permanent wilderness protection.

The new policy has still not caused much of a stir. Like most of the bad environmental news emanating from this administration, it emerged from the shadows late on a Friday evening. There was no formal announcement — just a few letters to interested senators from Gale Norton describing a legal settlement she had reached earlier that day with the state of Utah. But a close reading of that deal showed it to be a blockbuster — a fundamental reinterpretation of environmental law, and a reversal of four decades of federal wilderness policy.

At issue in the settlement were 2.6 million acres of federal land in Utah that were inventoried by former Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt and designated as de facto wilderness — that is, land deserving of protection from commercial activity until such time as Congress, which has sole power to designate permanent wilderness, can decide whether to add it to the nation's 107 million wilderness acres. Mr. Babbitt's actions infuriated Utah, which had commercial designs on the land. But the state's efforts to stop Mr. Babbitt in court failed.

About six weeks ago, however, Utah quietly filed an amended complaint, to which the administration quickly acceded. Under the settlement, Ms. Norton not only agreed to withdraw the 2.6 million acres from wilderness consideration but renounced the department's authority to conduct wilderness reviews anywhere in the country. In one stroke, Ms. Norton yanked more than 250 million acres off the table. Not all of those acres, of course, are worthy of permanent wilderness protection. But under the new policy settlement, those that are will no longer be placed in the pipeline for Congressional consideration. Ms. Norton's associates rushed to assure critics that they be will mindful of "wilderness" values in the lands they manage. But the days when interior secretaries aggressively pushed Congress to add to the federal domain are clearly over.

Ms. Norton insists that she is right to rescind the Babbitt designation — and that Mr. Babbitt was wrong to make it in the first place — because the government's authority to identify and manage potential wilderness under the 1976 Federal Land Policy and Management Act has long since expired. That is an extraordinarily cramped interpretation of the law. One key part of the act did in fact expire. But other provisions conferring upon the secretary the right to provide interim wilderness protections remain very much alive, and these are the ones Mr. Babbitt properly invoked.

There is no doubt that the law gives the secretary of the interior the right to identify potential wilderness areas and manage them accordingly. The only question is whether he or she wants to use that authority. And Ms. Norton, to our great dismay, clearly does not.

Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

June 11th, 2003, 08:35 AM
June 11, 2003

Whittling at Forest Protections

From Day 1, as part of its general rollback of environmental protections, the Bush administration has sought to unravel the intricate tapestry of rules and regulations that have shielded the national forests from excessive logging and other commercial activity. In the last six months alone, the administration has finalized or proposed new rules that would short-circuit environmental reviews, restrict public participation in land-use decisions and weaken safeguards for endangered species. The White House says current rules are cumbersome and thwart other worthy purposes, like preventing forest fires. But the environmental community suspects, not without reason, that the administration's basic objective here is to open more of the forests to its friends in the timber industry.

The administration's latest target is President Bill Clinton's broadly popular "roadless rule," which placed 58.5 million acres of national forest off limits to new road-building and, in effect, new commercial activity. Some of Mr. Bush's advisers had hoped that the courts would overturn the rule; when that did not happen, they chose to amend it administratively, initially in two ways. First, as part of a settlement with Alaska in a case the administration insists it could not have won, it will seek an exemption for Alaska's Tongass National Forest, the crown jewel of the system. The practical effect will be to open 300,000 acres of the Tongass to logging. That may not sound like much, but these acres include some of the forest's oldest trees and most valuable watersheds, and new roads will inevitably be required to reach the affected tracts because they are spread throughout the forest.

The administration also says it will allow state governors to seek their own exemptions — in part, it says, because the governors were excluded from the rule-making process to begin with. Since several Western governors overseeing millions of roadless acres detest the roadless rule — four of them in addition to Alaska challenged it in court — this could become the loophole that swallows the rule.

A bipartisan group in the House has introduced legislation that would codify the Clinton roadless rule into law. There is similar legislation in the Senate. Both bills deserve approval before more damage is done to one of the country's most useful environmental regulations.

Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

June 11th, 2003, 12:05 PM
*Climbing up on my environmental soapbox*

Those logging roads do unimaginable damage to the forests - I've seen it first hand near Colorado's Flat Tops Wilderness. It not only wipes out pristine habitat, but unchecked runoff changes the ecology of streams and rivers. More permanently, these roads allow easy access to the wilderness long after the logging vehicles are gone. Whether off-road vehicles are used or not, the number of people in the wilderness greatly increases - it can't be undone once there is access.

George W. is just pandering for votes from those in the timber industry (and probably already has them anyway). What will the commercial companies do when there are no more virgin forests? They'll be forced to come up with a new forest management plan. It's not that far off - do it now, and save what's left. *

June 16th, 2003, 10:38 PM
And then we all know what happens next. First roads, then ATV's, then demand for one-floor suburban homes inhabited by those who hate cities, surrounding suburbs, and even outer suburbs. The trees are cut down, the surrounding ecosystem is disrupted, and after a forest fire the inhabitants complain about the lack of government intervention (can a forest fireman really fight his way through a wall of fire engulfing thousands of whole trees? To isolated ranch houses? :biggrin: ) and then demand that the forest around them be clear-cut and turned into row after row of isolated gated communities. *

Many Americans in the Western States aren't even pretending to be environmentally sensitive when it comes to land. Are people really terrified of large crowds? Why Why WHY :angry:!

(Edited by Agglomeration at 10:42 pm on June 16, 2003)

June 21st, 2003, 01:43 AM
June 21, 2003

Gale Norton Rouses Congress

The Bush administration, in particular its interior secretary, Gale Norton, has always wanted to transfer more control of America's public lands to state and local governments and to open them to a wider range of commercial and recreational uses. But Congressional Democrats and some moderate Republicans are only now realizing that what Ms. Norton is trying to engineer is not just a rebalancing of the scales but a revolution in public policy deeply at odds with a long bipartisan tradition of environmental stewardship and more threatening than anything attempted by James Watt, Ronald Reagan's reactionary interior secretary and Ms. Norton's onetime mentor.

Their displeasure, however, has gone largely unnoticed. The Democrats do not control the committee chairmanships, which in turn means that they have no real power to summon cabinet members like Ms. Norton for cross-examination. The two conservative committee chairmen who do have oversight authority, Pete Domenici in the Senate and Richard Pombo in the House, think Ms. Norton can do no wrong. Still, the discontent is growing, in angry letters and speeches. It has several major sources, two involving back-room deals Ms. Norton recently negotiated with the State of Utah with broad implications for public lands everywhere.

In one deal, discussed at length in this space last month, Ms. Norton removed interim protections for 2.6 million acres of federal land in Utah designated as potential wilderness by her predecessor Bruce Babbitt. At the same time, in a novel and astonishingly cramped interpretation of federal law, she renounced her indisputable authority to seek and recommend to Congress additional lands for wilderness protection. In effect, the interior secretary was saying: There will be no new wilderness on my watch.

The second deal was more complicated, but it, too, involved a retreat from responsibility. At issue were longstanding disputes about who has authority, Utah or the federal government, over thousands of miles of primitive rights of way that cross federal land — old mining and livestock trails, footpaths, even streambeds. Western states have long wanted to turn these ancient pathways into real roads in order to promote development and, effectively, pre-empt future wilderness designation.

Ms. Norton insists that the agreement involves only "process" and does not resolve specific claims, in Utah or anywhere else. But Democrats argue that it tilts the rules in favor of the states while denying the public and Congress any meaningful say in the outcomes. The states themselves seem to see things going their way. Colorado recently wrote Ms. Norton asking for immediate jurisdiction over "roads" crisscrossing huge swaths of public land, including wildlife refuges and national parkland.

The latest provocation is Ms. Norton's apparent decision to challenge a ruling by the United States Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit that she had failed to protect three million acres of public land in Utah threatened by off-road vehicles. The administration conceded in court that the vehicles were tearing up the land. But it took the bizarre position that the public, and in effect the courts, had no real standing in the matter, that when and how to protect wilderness were questions best left to the department itself.

It will be interesting to see what the Supreme Court makes of this line of reasoning. To us the implications are pretty clear. It says that Ms. Norton is indifferent not only to new wilderness but also to protecting what she already has. It also tells us that her Congressional critics cannot rest.

Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

June 21st, 2003, 08:43 AM
I think we need a graphic here:

25% of US land is federally controlled. The US is unique in the high level of industrialization balanced by wilderness.

If we need examples of what not to do, look at Africa and South America.

June 21st, 2003, 11:53 AM
With all this sprawl in the west, especially in cities like Los Angeles and Phoenix, it's no wonder so much land needs to be federalized to keep them from overdevelopment. In the South, esp. Florida, Georgia, and North Carolina, there is very little federal land in comparison, and low-rise sprawl and deforestation is a lot worse.

July 29th, 2003, 01:31 PM
July 29, 2003

Environmental Carnage

Three years ago, in a rare moment of harmony, a coalition of liberal Democrats and conservative Republicans in Congress approved what it hoped would be a guaranteed stream of revenue for a range of environmental purposes. The Conservation Trust Fund, as it was called, would increase spending in increments over six years, from $1.6 billion in 2001 to $2.4 billion in 2006, and would be used, among other things, to buy open space, protect endangered species and restore damaged coastlines and estuaries. No new taxes would be needed — the program would rely on the same offshore oil royalties that had long underwritten federal land acquisition. President Bill Clinton eagerly signed on to what was hailed as the most important conservation bill in years.

That was then. Earlier this month, the House of Representatives cut the program almost in half, to $1.2 billion from the $2.1 billion originally authorized for the 2004 fiscal year. The major land acquisition programs suffered most of the damage, in particular the venerable Land and Water Conservation Fund, which President Bush had grandly promised during his 2000 campaign to "fully fund" at $900 million. The House, in full nose-thumbing mode, cut that figure to a measly $198 million.

This massacre was largely the handiwork of a House subcommittee led by Charles Taylor of North Carolina and dominated by people who share his belief that far too much of the country is already in public hands. Democrats labored in vain to honor Congress's original promises and to defend the environment. They tried to block the administration from gutting a Clinton-era rule protecting 58 million acres of national forest from development. They tried to prevent state roads across pristine federal land. They tried to ban snowmobile use in Yellowstone, which the administration supports. In all these efforts they were no more successful than they were in their fight to replenish the trust fund.

One would at least have expected some annoyance from Mr. Bush at the contempt with which Mr. Taylor and the Republicans treated his campaign pledge on open space. So far, however, there has not been a murmur from the White House.

Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

September 2nd, 2003, 12:03 AM
September 2, 2003

A Grizzly's-Eye View of a Refuge That Oil Drillers Covet



As I write this, I'm huddled in a tent on the tundra of the wildest part of America, about 175 miles above the Arctic Circle in the last great wilderness virtually untouched by humans other than Eskimos and Indians.

This fate of this wildlife refuge is to be decided by politicians in Washington in perhaps the most contentious debate about the environment today. Supporters of oil drilling make much of the fact that almost none of those who insist on protecting this refuge have ever seen it or ever will, and they sometimes argue that it is a frozen wasteland — even though their own visits consist mostly of staring down through the windows of a plane.

So I decided to visit for a week — boots on the ground, or snow — and backpack and raft through this pristine land now up for grabs. Assuming that my satellite-telephone batteries hold out, I'll write about what the land is really like — and, on the way, make up my own mind about drilling.

Most of the terrain in the Arctic refuge is not beautiful in a classical sense. The Brooks Range is spectacular, to be sure, but most of the land in the refuge is not so much pretty as awesome. It is endless stark tundra and mountains, rivers and creeks, with scarcely a tree around.

Above all this is a harsh and inhospitable country. Early yesterday, I stepped out of my tent to find that I was being welcomed into September with flurries of wet snow. The wind blows in from the Arctic Ocean, and in winter the wind-chill equivalent is often less than 100 degrees below zero, the point where the charts end. There are no hiking trails here, for only small numbers of humans ever visit, typically in June.

But caribou and bear trails are everywhere. The Arctic refuge is one of the last spots that is pretty much as it was at the time of Lewis and Clark. Still, that can be an argument for drilling. This refuge is so isolated that almost nobody will be on hand to recoil at the sight of oil wells on the tundra. In contrast with more accessible bits of America's outdoors, like the lovely Dome Plateau in Utah, where oil and gas exploration is also proposed, almost the only people who will witness the intrusion of Big Oil will be the wealthiest of tourists, who can afford to charter bush planes.

It's also true that most of the Eskimos who actually live in the refuge favor drilling. They want better schools, better jobs and more comfortable lives, and most believe that oil drilling is the way to achieve that. Some resent the idea that American environmentalists 5,000 miles away want to lock them forever in a quaint wilderness, just for the psychic value of knowing that it is there.

But just south of the refuge, the Gwich'in Indians want to keep the refuge as it is. "Everybody here is against drilling," said Marjorie John, the storekeeper in Arctic Village, a Gwich'in hamlet of 120 people. "We want to protect the caribou calving ground. Those caribou are part of our culture. They are our culture."

Oil drilling, if it happened, would not occur throughout the 19.5-million-acre refuge (about as big as South Carolina), but in a 1.5-million-acre coastal strip. The Gwich'in depend for sustenance on the Porcupine herd's 120,000 caribou, which calve in the coastal area. I understand the Gwich'in fears, but my guess is that the caribou would do fine with drilling.

The caribou herd in the area around Prudhoe Bay, the center of North Slope drilling, has actually expanded, and I spotted two caribou nonchalantly grazing right by Prudhoe Bay — while I haven't seen any caribou since a bush pilot set me down in the refuge on Saturday on a riverside bit of gravel.

And yet! It's hailing now against the side of the tent and my fingers are freezing, but I'm thrilled to be here. This land is the last untouched bit of America, and if we develop it we will have robbed our descendants of the chance ever to see our country as it originally was. There is something deeply moving about backpacking through land where humans are interlopers and bears are kings.

One of those bears, a grizzly, approached as I was preparing lunch, then lumbered away. I'm packing bear spray, a kind of Mace used to fend off grizzlies and polar bears. Walt Audi, a legendary bush pilot here, explained how to use the spray: "If a bear attacks you, just spray yourself in the face, and you won't see it." So it's hard to feel that this a place where humans are in charge. And that is precisely what makes the Arctic refuge so special. *

Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

September 5th, 2003, 02:53 AM
September 5, 2003

What Price Drilling?


ARCTIC NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE, Alaska — In March, Interior Secretary Gale Norton described this area as a "flat white nothingness" that could best be used as an oil spigot.

I thought about that as I rafted down a river here, a giant grizzly bear on my left and a herd of caribou on my right. A bit earlier, I had cooked lunch with my backpacking stove on a sandbar as four musk oxen, huge buffalo-like creatures, observed me as intently as I watched them.

A bush pilot set two friends and me down on a sandbar on Saturday just north of the Brooks Range, and since then we've been rafting and hiking through this wilderness, perhaps the wildest place left on earth. I want to understand this land — whose future is hotly debated, mostly by people who haven't seen it — and figure out whether it should be opened to Big Oil.

Here on the ground, it's obvious that this refuge, far from being a barren wasteland, is actually teeming with wildlife, even as winter begins. At one spot, I saw grizzly and wolf tracks side by side, a tribute to the way this South Carolina-sized refuge preserves a patch of America as it was before Europeans arrived.

Moreover, the animals seem completely unused to humans. The first time we spotted a distant herd of caribou, we hauled in our raft downwind and crept up silently. Finally the caribou spotted us, and immediately approached for a closer look. They seemed to be trying to determine whether we were pitifully deformed caribou, and I think the females were encouraging the males to ask us for directions to the rest of the herd as it headed south.

The same thing happened when we sailed our raft as close as we dared to the first musk ox we saw, which came in for a closer look and called its pals to share the excitement. This land is truly an Arctic Serengeti.

Still, I believe that the environmentalists exaggerate the damage that drilling would do to the wildlife. The fact is that humans and animals can coexist. Around Prudhoe Bay, the center for oil drilling west of here, caribou, grizzly and polar bears, and even musk oxen are also plentiful. The same is true of the area around the two permanent native villages to the north and south of the refuge, Kaktovik and Arctic Village.

Indeed, Kaktovik sometimes has polar bears on its airstrip, and a grizzly was found last year on the second floor of the Prudhoe Bay Hotel.

A few months ago a major panel of scientists, oil consultants and environmentalists ended a two-year study of the impact of oil drilling on the Arctic coast. It concluded that wildlife had adapted well to drilling, but that the land itself and the sense of wilderness were far more vulnerable.

Drilling technology has improved tremendously in ways that could limit the damage. In 1970 it took a 65-acre above-ground presence to extract oil from 2,010 acres at a depth of 10,000 feet. At one recent Alaska installation, Alpine Pad 2, a 13-acre pad extracts oil from 32,154 acres. But still, the tundra is exceptionally sensitive — vehicle ruts from decades ago are still visible. The oil presence and the security that would go with it would fundamentally change the area.

It's true, as the oil industry says, that drilling, if it occurred, would be confined to the 1.5-million-acre coastal plain in a refuge of 19.5 million acres. And frankly, the coastal plain is the least picturesque — mostly just barren tundra. But as I write this with numb fingers, I'm wrapped in my sleeping bag in my tent on that coastal tundra, and it's still majestic — and I've seen more wildlife in the area that would be drilled than in the hills and mountains I traversed upriver.

I confess that there are times — when the rapids drench the raft and turn my feet into blocks of ice, when the chilling fog obliterates a view of anything — when I'd be ready to trade this landscape to Big Oil for a hot drink and a pizza. But then I warm up, the sun comes out, the mountains emerge from the fog, the caribou approach, and this land warms my heart with its pristine loveliness.

All week, we've seen no sign of humans in the refuge, not even footprints. This is a rare place where humans feel not like landlords or even tenants, but simply guests.

And that's an issue. As an oil industry geologist told me: "We can build cleanly, and we can drill without hurting the caribou. But we can't drill and keep this a wilderness. So that's the choice: Do you want drilling and oil, or do you want to keep this a wilderness?"

My answer? Stay tuned for my next column.

Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

TLOZ Link5
September 5th, 2003, 03:33 PM
Pardon my ignorance, Christian, but just to ask: who's the girl whose picture is your avatar?

September 5th, 2003, 07:47 PM

It's Christian...who bears an uncanny resemblance to Christina Ricci.

September 5th, 2003, 08:17 PM
Hot, isn't she? My mirror image of the opposite sex.

September 6th, 2003, 08:15 AM
From Wednesday to a hot weekend.


September 6th, 2003, 09:25 PM
From Wednesday to a hot weekend.

I didn't say "brother", nor did I have one of her lesser roles in mind.

September 10th, 2003, 09:23 AM
September 10, 2003

Casting a Cold Eye on Arctic Oil


Nicholas D. Kristof directed an inflatable raft down the Canning River in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The Bush administration would like to open the coastal plain of the refuge to oil drilling.

ARCTIC NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE, Alaska — Here's a helpful hint for backpackers here in the Arctic: If you're lying in your sleeping bag and suddenly feel a pat on the behind from outside the tent, YELL!

Several campers have been subjected to this kind of sexual harassment lately, and when they opened their tent flaps, they found polar bears grinning at them. This refuge is, after all, a bit like a wildlife safari in reverse — curious animals have the opportunity to gawk at humans.

After rafting and backpacking through this wilderness for a week, weighing whether Congress should allow oil drilling here, I've reached a few conclusions. One is that both the oil industry and environmentalists exaggerate their cases.

For starters, no one has any idea how much oil is here, and we will never know unless it is explored. There has been limited exploration and test drilling in Eskimo-controlled lands in the refuge, but those results have been kept secret. Environmentalists say contemptuously that there's only a six-month supply, while Big Oil speaks of a 25-year spigot — and they're both talking through their hats.

Estimates range from 3.2 billion barrels (which would supply all U.S. needs for six months) to 16 billion barrels, but these are all wild guesses. The top end of the range would be very significant, coming close to doubling America's proven petroleum reserves of 22 billion barrels, but there is some reason to be skeptical of the higher estimates — particularly because the oil here may not be economical to extract.

One clue, for example, is that the Badami oil field, almost adjacent to the Arctic refuge, is now being mothballed because it was producing only 1,300 barrels a day instead of the 30,000 expected.

Arctic oil can be chimerical, and it would be tragic to sacrifice this wilderness for a series of dry wells.

It is true that oil drilling would not ravage the entire refuge. Only the coastal plain, 7 percent of the total area, would be open to drilling. The coastal plain is endless brown tundra, speckled with ponds and lakes, boggy and squishy to hike in. It is by far the least scenic part of the refuge, and if one has to drill somewhere in the area, this is the place to do it.

It's also only fair to give special weight to the views of the only people who live in the coastal plain: the Inupiat Eskimos, who overwhelmingly favor drilling (they are poor now, and oil could make them millionaires). One of the Eskimos, Bert Akootchook, angrily told me that if environmentalists were so anxious about the Arctic, they should come here and clean up the petroleum that naturally seeps to the surface of the tundra.

Yet drilling proponents who dismiss the coastal plain as a wasteland — Alaska's governor, Frank Murkowski, has likened it to a sheet of white paper — are talking drivel.

They should have been with me as I sleepily opened the tent flap early one morning to see a herd of caribou outside, or beheld the polar bears swimming along the coast, or admired a huge grizzly as it considered dining on nearby musk oxen.

Drilling supporters also grossly understate the impact of drilling when they speak of only a 2,000-acre "footprint" in the Arctic. The reality is that oil would mean roads, lodgings, pipelines, security fences, guard stations and airstrips — and my children would never be able to experience the Arctic as I have.

True, we need to get our oil from somewhere, and Americans are dying now in Iraq because of our dependence on foreign oil. So I would endorse drilling in the Arctic refuge if it were part of a mega-environmental package that also addressed global warming, an environmental challenge where we have even more at stake than in the Arctic.

Daniel Esty, a Yale scholar of the environment, proposes such a deal — with trepidation — in the interest of breaking the national deadlock on environmental policy.

The package could include careful oil exploration in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (exploratory drilling could be done in winter without permanent damage) and, if it turned out to be the oil lake that proponents claim, commercial drilling as well.

In exchange, the right would accept a beyond-Kyoto framework to control carbon emissions, with tighter standards but a longer time frame. The deal would include $1 billion in additional financing for solar, wind and hydrogen energy, and significant increases in vehicle mileage standards to promote conservation.

Yet President Bush's push to open the Arctic refuge is not part of such a bold and thoughtful package to break the stalemate on the environment. Rather it is simply a lunge for oil. Without trying to conserve oil, Mr. Bush would gobble up a national treasure, the birthright of our descendants, as a first resort.

The argument that I find most compelling is that this primordial wilderness, a part of our national inheritance that is roughly the same as it was a thousand years ago, would be irretrievably lost if we drilled. The Bush administration's proposal to drill is therefore not just bad policy but also shameful, for it would casually rob our descendants forever of the chance to savor this magical coastal plain — and to be slapped in the butt by a frisky polar bear.

Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

September 10th, 2003, 11:26 AM
http://graphics7.nytimes.com/images/2003/09/10/national/oped_ANWR_promo_184_nu.jpg (http://www.nytimes.com/packages/html/opinion/20030910_ANWR/anwr1.html)

November 14th, 2003, 12:16 AM
November 14, 2003

Lands Worth Leaving Alone

Last April, Interior Secretary Gale Norton and Gov. Michael Leavitt of Utah struck a deal that removed federal protection from about 2.6 million acres of land in Utah that her predecessor, Bruce Babbitt, had designated as potential wilderness. The consequences of that deal are now becoming clear. The Bureau of Land Management, part of Interior, recently announced plans to sell oil and gas leases on 16,000 acres in and near Desolation Canyon, a fragile landscape that would almost certainly have remained off limits under the Babbitt policy. Environmental groups have filed protests aimed not only at protecting Desolation Canyon but also at sending a larger message: that the fate of these and other lands of national significance should ultimately be decided by Congress, not the oil and gas industry.

The conservationists have reason to worry, for what we are seeing is the unhappy confluence of two states of mind. One is the administration's indifference to the value of wilderness — indeed, Ms. Norton has essentially renounced her authority to recommend more lands for wilderness protection. The other is the durable fantasy that the nation can deal with oil dependency and natural gas shortages if the drillers are let loose on public lands.

The net result has been a strategy of fast-tracking oil leases throughout the West, most conspicuously in areas that the Interior Department regarded as worthy of wilderness designation in the days before the Bush administration. In addition to the Utah lands, Vermillion Basin in Colorado, Jack Morrow Hills in Wyoming and other areas rich in wildlife and scenic beauty may soon be up for grabs. And the 100-mile-long Rocky Mountain Front in northern Montana, currently under Forest Service protection, is also in the Interior Department's sights.

It's not as if the oil and gas companies have no place else to go, or as if the resources under these wild and scenic lands are large enough to make a real difference to national security. They aren't. Fully 88 percent of the public lands in the Rocky Mountains are open for oil and gas drilling; in Wyoming, the figure is 94 percent. At issue, really, are scraps of land, places the Wilderness Society calls "too wild to drill." Relative to the country's overall needs, these scraps contain only trivial amounts of oil and natural gas.

Nobody expects the administration to abandon its basic doctrine that aggressive exploitation of the public domain is necessary to achieve energy independence. Yet a rebellion is slowly taking shape, not only among Mr. Bush's usual adversaries in the conservation movement and in Congress, but also among some of his natural constituents, like the Republican ranchers in Wyoming who worry about the impact of coal-bed methane extraction on their water supplies and the sportsmen who do not want the oil and gas companies anywhere near the Rocky Mountain Front. These are people who tend to vote for Mr. Bush. But they are not at all happy with what he is doing on the federal lands.

Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

December 24th, 2003, 12:15 AM
December 24, 2003

Administration Is Exempting Alaska Forest From Protection


WASHINGTON, Dec. 23 — The Bush administration announced on Tuesday that the Tongass National Forest in Alaska, the largest in the country, would be exempted from a Clinton-era rule, potentially opening up more than half of the 17 million-acre forest for more development and as many as 50 logging projects.

The decision stems from the settlement of a lawsuit between Alaska and the federal government over the so-called roadless rule, which prohibited the building of roads in 58.5 million acres of undeveloped national forest across the country.

Environmental groups attacked the administration for the settlement in July, saying it was an underhanded strategy for circumventing the regulation. Conservation groups said the administration had failed to defend the roadless designation adequately.

But Ray Massey, a spokesman for the Forest Service in Alaska, said that agency officials felt there were already enough protections for the Tongass. "We didn't really need roadless to protect the Tongass," he said in a telephone interview. "We already have a forest plan in place to protect the Tongass."

Before putting the roadless designation into effect, the Forest Service had drawn up plans for the immediate development of 300,000 acres in the Tongass. Environmental groups say that about 9.6 million acres of the Tongass could be affected by the dropping of the ban.

The roadless rule was put in place after a two-year process that included 600 scientific studies and two rounds of public comments that generated almost two million responses, most of them in favor of the rule.

Since its inception, the rule has been challenged through a host of legal, legislative and administrative efforts. The conflicts have highlighted the tensions between environmental protection and economic development, and between state autonomy and federal oversight.

Environmental groups supported the roadless rule as a way to curb the development and logging that had already affected half of national forest land. But Western states and the timber industry said the rule was unjustified in its sweeping scope — touching about 30 percent of national forest acreage in the country.

Industry groups and states have made a concerted effort to attack the rule through lawsuits around the country. In July, a federal district court judge in Wyoming suspended the rule nationwide. Environmental groups are appealing the case to the United States Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit, in Denver.

Before that, a federal court in Idaho originally threw out the roadless rule, but that decision was overturned last December by the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, in San Francisco.

The Tongass National Forest, with 16.8 million acres, has been particularly contentious because of its environmental symbolism as the only temperate rain forest on the continent.

"This is the rarest forest type on earth and it needs to be protected," said Jeremy Paster, a forest campaign organizer for Greenpeace.

Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

December 24th, 2003, 01:48 AM
The Tongass National Forest, with 16.8 million acres, has been particularly contentious because of its environmental symbolism as the only temperate rain forest on the continent.

I thought the hardwood forests of British Columbia, Washington State, Oregon, et al, were also temperate rain forests. The effects on wildlife could be devastating. (Oops, oh well, at least a few corporations got wealthy! Trickle down bed pissing.)

December 24th, 2003, 09:58 AM
Screw it. Screw it all.

Bush has popularity for finding Saddam hiding in a hole after we blew the crap out of two or three of his cities with a fighting force of hundreds of thousands. The economy is picking back up and that is all people are seeing.

The whole thing about wilderness is taht there are no registered carabu voters. The ammount of people that CAN vote on these things is so small it really does not matter.

So I say to hell with all the protections, drill everywhere, build more farqing SUV's and waste all that is taken by destroying the wilderness. Build houses in Bear Territory (like in NJ) and then complain that the bears are getting into your garbage, and in fear of them eating your kid, you have them licenced for hunting. Bang, problem solved.

Build row after row of overly-cramped housng developments on areas that were formally brushlands, but remember to squawk when a fire comes in because of all things, a human starting it, and call for FURTHER deforestation to prevent that in the future.


We must get rifd of these trees before they hijack an airliner and kill thousands!!!!!

And who the hell cares? I only have 70 more years on this planet (if I am lucky). I do not see much happening before I die. Social Security will be gone by then, but I will be swimming in perscription drugs. Who cares about my kids, and theirs.

Me me me.

Now where is my Hummer H2?

December 24th, 2003, 10:00 AM
The author is in error. Tongass is the largest (maybe she meant intact) stand of coastal temperate rainforest in the world - 30% of the total. The chain starts in northern California up to Kodiak Island. The other large areas are southern Chile, New Zealand, and Tasmania.



Six years ago, I went on a fishing trip to Tongass - the trip of a lifetime for a New York fisherman. The lodge was just north of Ketchikan, Alaska's southernmost "city." It was Sept and the temp averaged 65. It doesn't snow here, but the rains are torrential in late autumn. Ours was the last trip of the season, and right on cue, it rained the day we left.

The only word I can think of to describe the land is lush. Vegetation covered everything. The salmon trips were by small boat north on the channel, and on the first day out, I noticed a large hill of earth. Forgetting the scale of the area, I assumed it was some large construction project. When I asked the guide about it, he just said, "Clearcut."

The halibut trip was south out of the Dixon Entrance, where I caught the largest fish of my life - a 180 lb halibut. 8)

December 26th, 2003, 10:15 PM
December 27, 2003

Tongass Travesty

The Bush administration has pulled another thread from the intricate legal tapestry shielding the national forests from excessive logging. On Tuesday, it announced that the Tongass National Forest in Alaska would be denied protections provided by the so-called roadless rule, a federal regulation prohibiting the building of roads — and by definition most commercial activity — on 58.5 million acres of national forests.

The administration presents the new policy as a necessary tonic for southeast Alaska's depressed economy, and as a necessary response to a state lawsuit that it says it could never have won. The reality is otherwise. This is essentially a holiday gift to Senator Ted Stevens and Gov. Frank Murkowski, both of whom have lobbied for the resumption of the clear-cutting that has already stripped the nation's only temperate rain forest of a half million acres of old-growth trees.

The announcement came wrapped in the same deceptive packaging that has camouflaged much of this administration's forest policy. The most egregious example was the Forest Service's disingenuous assertion that the new policy would allow logging on only 300,000 acres of the Tongass, or about 3 percent of the 9.6 million roadless acres that are earmarked for protection.

Though that is technically true, the actual ecological impact would be far greater. For one thing, those 300,000 acres include many of the forest's oldest trees and most valuable watersheds, as well as an extraordinary collection of wildlife. It is no exaggeration to say that these acres constitute the forest's biological heart. And because these acres are not all in one place, but are distributed among 50 different logging projects, the new roads required to reach them will inevitably violate even more of the forest.

The administration's action is prelude to what is most likely to be an even broader assault on the roadless rule, which has been challenged in the courts by timber interests and six other states where logging is big business. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld the rule; the 10th Circuit is reviewing a lower court's decision rejecting the rule. But rather than wait for a resolution, the administration has indicated that it will move administratively to give individual governors the right to ignore the rule. That would seem to pre-empt the judicial process. It would also give a handful of state officials power over federal lands, which belong to all Americans.

Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

December 27th, 2003, 12:23 AM
Thanks for the clarification, Zippy the Chimp, on coastal temperate rain forests. I'm not a fisherman, but I envy your opportunity to experience the Tongass first hand. BTW when I lived in the NW, Halibut was my favorite. I can't even imagine the monster you caught. (But I'd like to imagine eating a small portion of it!)

December 27th, 2003, 10:34 AM
Next to George W Bush, Ronald Reagan is John Muir.

January 13th, 2004, 01:20 AM
January 13, 2004

Decapitating Appalachia

Environmental protection under the Bush administration often seems to refer to the political environment and not the stewardship of the nation's precious resources. In the latest attack on existing safeguards, the Interior Department is quietly gutting yet another legal safeguard against the wholesale pollution and burial of streams in Appalachia by the strip-mining industry.

In 2002, the administration essentially repealed a longstanding provision of the Clean Water Act prohibiting the dumping of mining wastes in streams. Now, under what is advertised as a "clarification" of the law governing surface mining, the administration is eliminating a ban dating from the Reagan era against mining activity within 100 feet of a stream.

Taken together, these two rollbacks can only encourage and accelerate the horrific process called mountaintop removal, which has already buried about 1,200 miles of Appalachia's vital streams under mammoth piles of bulldozed waste. This serial decapitation of the coal-rich hills has long been a matter of furious conflict between the mining industry and the residents and environmentalists defending the life and beauty of the Appalachian hollows. Hundreds of square miles of mountaintops have been dynamited away, and dozens of communities bought out and buried.

The new regulation changes a standing prohibition against mining within 100 feet of a stream if it will degrade water quality. In the future, mining companies will be required to respect the buffer zone merely "to the extent practicable." This is an open invitation to industry to ignore a rule that, as a practical matter, has been routinely abused as regulators looked the other way.

Anyone who has visited the ravaged heart of Appalachia can see that hundreds of streams have been snuffed from the landscape, not merely degraded. Industry's ballyhooed reclamation projects stand out as Potemkin oases along the scarred horizon. Meanwhile, a federal study uncovered by a Freedom of Information Act initiative warns of more devastation to come. It may be a coincidence that the new rule comes as Republican fund-raisers are priming the campaign donation pump. But the "clarification" brazenly certifies the protection of Big Coal at the expense of the environment.

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

January 13th, 2004, 01:37 AM
I grew up in West Virginia. We were forbidden by our parents to play in a nearby creek, so you can guess where we could be found! The creek was so disgustingly polluted that our clothes were ORANGE from the mine drainage. The permanent discoloration of our clothing was the primary reason we were forbidden to play there and the handy evidence that betrayed our location.

My neighborhood was leafy green suburbia, with doctors and lawyers amongst the blue collar workers. This was no shanty town, but everyone knew who ran the state and it wasn't the legislature. The rape of my home state continues and that expression is not hyperbole.

TLOZ Link5
January 13th, 2004, 12:01 PM
Imagine how much lead there is in the water supply. I've heard that mental retardation rates around these strip-mining areas are terribly high from lead poisoning.

January 13th, 2004, 09:13 PM
Thanks TLOZ! Are you trying to find out if I'm institutionalized or allowed to roam the streets freely? LOL!!!

Actually our water supply came from the Ohio River (and in those days it had its problems too.) Your point is well taken, but I couldn't resist the playful reply.

January 19th, 2004, 04:46 AM
January 19, 2004

The Battle for Appalachia

To the Editor:

Re "Decapitating Appalachia" (editorial, Jan. 13):

Regional organizations and local groups all across Appalachia have been fighting coal and timber company abuse of the land for many years now — in public meetings, company board rooms and in the courts. In many cases, they have succeeded in pressing these companies to stop destructive practices.

One of the best allies these groups had were federal laws like the Clean Water Act, which are now being gutted by the Bush administration.

I urge these regional organizations and local groups to continue to organize to stop the rape of Appalachia by coal and timber interests. Hold public rallies, participate in city and county meetings, get on the radio, get press coverage, send out fliers and call every person in your district. When enough people stand up and say, "No, you can't do that here anymore!" and follow up with local laws and public pressure to forbid these destructive practices in their counties, the wave of greed can and will be turned back.


Kingston, Tenn., Jan. 13, 2004

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

November 10th, 2005, 07:42 AM
US House suspends push for Alaska oil drilling

Wed Nov 9, 2005 9:57 PM ET
By Richard Cowan


WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Republican leaders in the U.S. House of Representatives abandoned, at least temporarily, a drive to open Alaska's National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling after concluding on Wednesday the initiative was threatening passage of a huge bill to cut spending.

"ANWR and OCS will be out" of the legislation, said House Budget Committee Chairman Jim Nussle, an Iowa Republican.

Besides the Alaska oil drilling initiative, the House spending-reduction bill had also called for opening outer-continental shelf, or offshore areas, to oil and gas drilling.

The proposals had drawn opposition from Democrats and two dozen or so Republicans in the House.

The Senate approved the controversial ANWR proposal last week when it passed $35 billion in spending cuts over five years. That measure estimates the U.S. government would raise about $2.4 billion in leasing fees if industry was allowed to develop the refuge's 10.4 billion barrels of crude.

Environmentalists have opposed expanding oil drilling to the sensitive area in Alaska and some Florida congressmen have worked to kill the offshore oil and gas drilling plan. Both projects have been a high priority of U.S. oil companies.

With a more ambitious, $54 billion spending-reduction bill getting bogged down in the House, Republican leaders jettisoned the oil drilling plans for now.

Negotiations on the budget bill were continuing in the House.

Even without those two energy initiatives, the fate of the budget bill was uncertain, as no House Democrats were expected to vote for it and several moderate Republicans might defy their leaders.

The oil and gas drilling legislation is not dead as supporters are hoping for one more chance this year to win passage.

If the spending-reduction bill passes the House, possibly as early as Thursday, the two chambers of Congress would appoint negotiators to work out differences between the bills.

Senate Republicans could insist the ANWR drilling proposal be reinserted into the House bill, forcing a vote by the full House of Representatives.

© Reuters 2005.

November 10th, 2005, 10:43 AM
This is one victory we should guard.

November 16th, 2005, 09:15 AM
Document Says Oil Chiefs Met With Cheney Task Force

By Dana Milbank and Justin Blum
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, November 16, 2005

A White House document shows that executives from big oil companies met with Vice President Cheney's energy task force in 2001 -- something long suspected by environmentalists but denied as recently as last week by industry officials testifying before Congress.

The document, obtained this week by The Washington Post, shows that officials from Exxon Mobil Corp., Conoco (before its merger with Phillips), Shell Oil Co. and BP America Inc. met in the White House complex with the Cheney aides who were developing a national energy policy, parts of which became law and parts of which are still being debated.

In a joint hearing last week of the Senate Energy and Commerce committees, the chief executives of Exxon Mobil Corp., Chevron Corp. and ConocoPhillips said their firms did not participate in the 2001 task force. The president of Shell Oil said his company did not participate "to my knowledge," and the chief of BP America Inc. said he did not know.

Chevron was not named in the White House document, but the Government Accountability Office has found that Chevron was one of several companies that "gave detailed energy policy recommendations" to the task force. In addition, Cheney had a separate meeting with John Browne, BP's chief executive, according to a person familiar with the task force's work; that meeting is not noted in the document.

The task force's activities attracted complaints from environmentalists, who said they were shut out of the task force discussions while corporate interests were present. The meetings were held in secret and the White House refused to release a list of participants. The task force was made up primarily of Cabinet-level officials. Judicial Watch and the Sierra Club unsuccessfully sued to obtain the records.

Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), who posed the question about the task force, said he will ask the Justice Department today to investigate. "The White House went to great lengths to keep these meetings secret, and now oil executives may be lying to Congress about their role in the Cheney task force," Lautenberg said.

Lea Anne McBride, a spokeswoman for Cheney, declined to comment on the document. She said that the courts have upheld "the constitutional right of the president and vice president to obtain information in confidentiality."

The executives were not under oath when they testified, so they are not vulnerable to charges of perjury; committee Democrats had protested the decision by Commerce Chairman Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) not to swear in the executives. But a person can be fined or imprisoned for up to five years for making "any materially false, fictitious or fraudulent statement or representation" to Congress.

Alan Huffman, who was a Conoco manager until the 2002 merger with Phillips, confirmed meeting with the task force staff. "We met in the Executive Office Building, if I remember correctly," he said.

A spokesman for ConocoPhillips said the chief executive, James J. Mulva, had been unaware that Conoco officials met with task force staff when he testified at the hearing. The spokesman said that Mulva was chief executive of Phillips in 2001 before the merger and that nobody from Phillips met with the task force.

Exxon spokesman Russ Roberts said the company stood by chief executive Lee R. Raymond's statement in the hearing. In a brief phone interview, former Exxon vice president James Rouse, the official named in the White House document, denied the meeting took place. "That must be inaccurate and I don't have any comment beyond that," said Rouse, now retired.

Ronnie Chappell, a spokesman for BP, declined to comment on the task force meetings. Darci Sinclair, a spokeswoman for Shell, said she did not know whether Shell officials met with the task force, but they often meet members of the administration. Chevron said its executives did not meet with the task force but confirmed that it sent President Bush recommendations in a letter.

The person familiar with the task force's work, who requested anonymity out of concern about retribution, said the document was based on records kept by the Secret Service of people admitted to the White House complex. This person said most meetings were with Andrew Lundquist, the task force's executive director, and Cheney aide Karen Y. Knutson.

According to the White House document, Rouse met with task force staff members on Feb. 14, 2001. On March 21, they met with Archie Dunham, who was chairman of Conoco. On April 12, according to the document, task force staff members met with Conoco official Huffman and two officials from the U.S. Oil and Gas Association, Wayne Gibbens and Alby Modiano.

On April 17, task force staff members met with Royal Dutch/Shell Group's chairman, Sir Mark Moody-Stuart, Shell Oil chairman Steven Miller and two others. On March 22, staff members met with BP regional president Bob Malone, chief economist Peter Davies and company employees Graham Barr and Deb Beaubien.

Toward the end of the hearing, Lautenberg asked the five executives:

"Did your company or any representatives of your companies participate
in Vice President Cheney's energy task force in 2001?" When there was no response, Lautenberg added: "The meeting . . . "

"No," said Raymond.

"No," said Chevron Chairman David J. O'Reilly.

"We did not, no," Mulva said.

"To be honest, I don't know," said BP America chief executive Ross Pillari, who came to the job in August 2001. "I wasn't here then."

"But your company was here," Lautenberg replied.

"Yes," Pillari said.

Shell Oil president John Hofmeister, who has held his job since earlier this year, answered last. "Not to my knowledge," he said.

Research editor Lucy Shackelford contributed to this report.

© 2005 The Washington Post Company

December 19th, 2005, 11:59 PM
December 20, 2005

Lawmakers Prepare for Showdown Over Arctic Oil Drilling Provision


WASHINGTON, Dec. 19 - With tensions rising in the Capitol, Senate Democrats threatened on Monday to derail a $453 billion military spending bill over an Arctic oil drilling dispute, just hours after the House approved the measure in an all-night session that also included passage of a $40 billion budget-cutting bill.

Anticipating a Democratic-led effort against the military bill, Senator Bill Frist, the majority leader, took procedural steps on Monday to cut off debate on the measure, setting the stage for a decisive vote Wednesday on the legislation.

Frustrated Democrats predicted they could round up the votes to stall the Pentagon measure even if it put them in the awkward position of blocking money for American military operations. They called on Republicans to drop the language allowing drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska.

"I don't have any hesitation to be part of a filibuster," said Senator Joseph I. Lieberman, Democrat of Connecticut, who is a military hawk and a longtime foe of the Arctic drilling plan. "This is a tough fight," he added. "But it is a fight worth waging."

The standoff over oil drilling came as Congress tried to wrap up its business for the year, but significant issues were far from settled. In addition to the Pentagon bill snarled in the oil fight, Senate Democrats and Republicans remained at loggerheads over the USA Patriot Act, the broad antiterror law containing major provisions that were set to expire Dec. 31 without Senate action. The Senate has yet to vote on a $142.5 billion measure paying for health, education and employment programs. And Democrats are threatening to stall a series of nominations that Senate Republicans had hoped to see approved before the end of the year.

While the Senate began debating the budget-cutting plan Monday, both parties were also focusing on the procedural end-game.

The House approved the measure shortly after 5 a.m. Monday by a vote of 308 to 106 after the drilling provision was added Sunday afternoon at the insistence of its longtime champion, Senator Ted Stevens, Republican of Alaska. Mr. Stevens, 82, has fought to open the refuge to oil exploration since the 1950's, when he was a lawyer in the Interior Department under President Dwight D. Eisenhower. He sees the military spending measure as his best shot.

The bill also contains a $29 billion hurricane recovery package and $3.8 billion to prepare for a potential avian flu pandemic. It also institutes a 1 percent across-the-board cut on the current federal budget, reducing spending by about $8.5 billion. Veterans programs were exempted.

Upset with the oil drilling initiative and other add-ons, Democrats accused Mr. Stevens of twisting Senate rules to hijack the military bill to advance an unrelated pet cause, a charge he angrily denied in a lengthy speech on the Senate floor Monday.

"We've done it because of the sincere belief that production of oil domestically has a great deal to do with our national security," he said. "Our national defense cannot operate without the basic potential for our own production of oil."

The fight over Arctic drilling had earlier threatened to kill the budget bill until Congressional Republican leaders agreed to take out the language and tack it onto the Pentagon measure. That move cleared the way for the House to narrowly approve the budget cuts, by a vote of 212 to 206, just after 6 a.m. Monday. Nine Republicans joined 196 Democrats and one independent in opposing the bill backed solely by Republicans.

The final five-year savings in the measure, achieved through a combination of revenue increases and spending reductions, were put at $39.7 billion, about $10 billion less than House conservatives had sought. An initial budget agreement announced Sunday afternoon had put the total at nearly $42 billion, but last-minute concessions made to secure votes lowered the final total.

As bleary-eyed lawmakers streamed out of the Capitol just before the sun rose Monday, Republican leaders hailed the budget vote as a victory that demonstrated they could rein in federal spending.

"This budget is the product of months of hard work, and on balance, I believe it is a positive first step in restoring fiscal responsibility on behalf of all Americans, from students and families to workers and retirees," said Representative John A. Boehner, Republican of Ohio and chairman of the Education and Workforce Committee.

But Democrats and outside advocacy groups said the combination of the across-the-board cut, the future spending reductions required in the budget plan, and the cuts pending in the health and education bill would severely squeeze health and social programs for children, the elderly and the poor and would touch nearly every federal program.

While a plan to reduce spending on food stamps was blocked, the budget bill does reduce federal spending on child support enforcement. Senator Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts, senior Democrat on the health and education panel, said it also took $12.7 billion from student loans.

"Republicans are good at the rhetoric and making it look like they want to help our neediest citizens," Mr. Kennedy said. "But when it comes to putting their money where their mouth is, they fall short, very short, and it's our nation's poor that have to pay."

In another predawn vote, the House approved and sent to the Senate a broad military policy measure that, like the military spending bill, includes a provision by Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, that would ban cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment of military prisoners in American custody, establishing the Army Field Manual as the uniform standard for the interrogation of prisoners.

White House opposition to the McCain language had held up the military policy bill for weeks, but last week, President Bush reversed course and accepted the provision.

The bill also includes a provision sponsored by Senators Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, and Carl Levin, Democrat of Michigan, that restricts the rights of detainees in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. Mr. Graham has said the measure's intention is to make it possible to use information obtained by interrogation techniques that he describes as coercive but not abusive when military panels evaluate whether the detainees are being rightfully held as "enemy combatants."

On the antiterror law, both sides appeared dug in. Senator Arlen Specter, Republican of Pennsylvania and chairman of the Judiciary Committee, said he had talked to his Democratic counterpart, Senator Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont, over the weekend to try to reach a compromise. But by Monday, with House members having left the capital, Mr. Specter said he saw little chance for a resolution.

The Pentagon, along with health and education programs covered under the second pending spending measure, are operating under a stop-gap bill that will expire Dec. 31. Should efforts to enact the two bills collapse, lawmakers would have to approve another temporary bill or money for those agencies would run out at the end of the year.

* Copyright 2005The New York Times Company

December 20th, 2005, 09:54 AM
There has to be some way we can stop these riders from being stuck on the sides of popular needed bills.

I am tired of bridges being built in Alaska in the name of National Security or Education... :P

December 21st, 2005, 05:13 PM
Senate Blocks Arctic Drilling

NY Times Article (http://www.nytimes.com/2005/12/21/politics/21cnd-congress.html?hp&ex=1135227600&en=7b964733d1292685&ei=5094&partner=homepage)

April 13th, 2006, 08:57 PM
The Conservative folks at FIELD & STREAM smell the scent of traitors in their midst ...

Drilling the Wild

A voracious energy policy afflicts our public lands.

by Ted Kerasote
Field & Stream


Rod and gun in hand, and backing the Second Amendment right to own firearms, President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney have won the hearts of America’s sportsmen. Yet the two men have failed to protect outdoor sports on the nation’s public lands. With deep ties to the oil and gas industry, Bush and Cheney have unleashed a national energy plan that has begun to destroy hunting and fishing on millions of federal acres throughout the West, setting back effective wildlife management for decades to come.

The Invasion Begins

In his second week in office, President Bush convened a National Energy Policy Development Group, chaired by Vice President Cheney. Meeting with representatives of the energy industry behind closed doors, it eventually released a National Energy Policy, the goal of which was to “expedite permits and coordinate federal, state, and local actions necessary for energy-related project approvals on a national basis.”

Put into practice through a series of executive orders, the policy has prioritized drilling over other uses on federal lands, while relegating long-standing conservation mandates from the 1960s and ’70s to the back burner. For example, in Wyoming, Montana, Utah, Colorado, and New Mexico, the Bureau of Land Management has approved over 75 percent of the energy industry’s applications for exemptions to work in critical winter range, heretofore closed to protect wildlife—sage grouse, mule deer, and pronghorns, in particular (the Federal Land Policy Management Act of 1976 gave agencies the means to close critical habitat). The BLM has also continued to issue drilling leases while in the process of writing new resource management plans that still await public comment. In addition, the Bush administration is working hard to eliminate Wilderness Study areas—set aside for their scenic value as well as their importance to wildlife. Most disturbingly, Congress is now debating a national energy bill that would codify the policy, making it the law of the land rather than an executive order. Subsequent administrations—be they Republican or Democratic—would be unable to institute a more balanced management plan for our western lands without resorting to new congressional legislation.

The results of these actions—billed as promoting national energy security—have begun to turn vast tracts of the western United States into industrial landscapes. The winners are the energy companies, which have been able to acquire their leases for as little as $2 per acre. The casualties are big game, upland birds, cold- and warmwater fisheries, the traditional interests of hunters and anglers, and the economic welfare of communities whose livelihoods are based on outdoor recreation and ranching.

The High Cost of Natural Gas

The Powder River Basin in northeastern Wyoming and southeastern Montana—approximately 13 million acres of prairie, escarpments, and mountains—provides the starkest example of how the Bush administration’s unbridled energy policy is running roughshod over our public lands. The BLM’s final environmental impact statement for the area calls for about 66,000 new coalbed methane (CBM) wells (about 14,000 have already been drilled in Wyoming; several hundred in Montana), 26,000 miles of new roads, and 52,000 miles of new pipelines.

Peter Dube, an outfitter from Buffalo, Wyoming, has already felt these impacts firsthand. “My ranch is out in the sticks,” he says, “60 miles from Buffalo, 45 miles from Gillette, and I’ve had to wait to pull onto my county road because the truck traffic is so bad—with smog like L.A.” Pronghorn and mule deer habitat has become fragmented, and his hunters have lost what Dube calls “the aesthetic experience” of being in a remote and quiet landscape.

Roads and pipelines aren’t the only way energy development is making wildlife more vulnerable. Wherever there are coal seams, CBM is trapped on the surface of the coal by water pressure. Pumping out the groundwater releases the methane, which rises to the surface, where it’s collected. However, each well discharges about 16,000 gallons of salinized water per day—43 million gallons per month for the Powder River Basin alone. Not only are underground aquifers being rapidly depleted, but the discharged water must be put someplace. It’s been spread over the landscape; it’s emptied into rivers; it’s collected in infiltration pits. The salinized water kills forage for wildlife and livestock, and it pollutes waterways. Art Hayes Jr., whose family has ranched on the Tongue River since 1884, told me that the salinity level in the Tongue has gone up fivefold seasonally since a CBM company, Fidelity Exploration, began dumping water directly into the river. Both a tailwater fishery for rainbow and brown trout and a warmwater fishery for smallmouth bass and walleyes have been jeopardized. As president of the Tongue River Water Users Association, Hayes says that he’s spent countless days trying to get CBM development done “halfway sanely”—to no avail.

Energy, Over All Else

Western Colorado’s Roan Plateau is also potentially facing the same sort of development that’s taking place to the north: 20- to 40-acre spacing of well heads, in a land that supports deer, elk, mountain lions, black bears, turkeys, and a genetically pure strain of native Colorado cutthroat trout. Such tight spacing puts in a lot of roads, which fragments animal habitat and displaces varieties of game, making them more vulnerable to stress and poaching. Keith Goddard, who lives in Rifle and whose outfitting business caters to about 100 hunters and anglers each year from across the United States, says, “If the energy companies put in wells at this spacing, I’m out of business because of the stress it causes on game. I’d like to see one pad per 640 acres.”

The know-how to secure energy in environmentally sound ways exists, but the will to do so does not. Cheney’s National Energy Policy Development Group, in its report on the energy policy, says, “Enormous advances in technology have made oil and natural gas exploration and production both more efficient and more environmentally sound. Better technology means fewer rigs, more accurate drilling, greater resource recovery and environmentally friendly exploration.” Why, then, aren’t advances in technology like directional drilling being used? Answer: It’s more expensive. The casualties of the energy companies’ penny-pinching are fish and wildlife.

A New Kind of “Wise Use”

Rampant gas development has also come to my own backyard, Wyoming’s Upper Green River Valley, a region that’s home to the longest mule deer and pronghorn migrations in the Lower 48. The BLM has permitted 4,176 gas wells with 5,000 to 7,000 more on the way, and I’ve witnessed pronghorn herds fleeing from seizmic thumper trucks only to be turned around by hovering helicopters.

Despite our dismay at seeing western landscapes transformed in this way, none of us—hunter, angler, wildlife watcher—can discount the need for energy. We use it in our vehicles; we use it to heat our homes and cook our meals. Clearly, something must be done to secure supplies. But only 3 percent of the world’s oil and natural gas lies under domestic soils, while we used 25 percent of the global total in 2002. In other words, our energy security can never result from more drilling in our public wildernesses. Of course, the worldwide quest for fuel damages the environment wherever it is unleashed. As Doug Grann, the president and CEO of Wildlife Forever, the conservation arm of the North American Hunting and Fishing Club, points out, we cannot sacrifice the wildlife and wild country of this planet while doing nothing to develop alternative fuels and improving the fuel efficiency of our cars, factories, and homes.

Legal efforts mounted by conservation organizations over the inadequacies of the BLM’s environmental impact statements, and input by hunters and anglers to their senators—who are now debating a national energy bill—can affect how much hunting and fishing will be left on these federal lands.

Copyright © 2006 Time4 Media, Inc.

April 14th, 2006, 11:19 AM

June 4th, 2006, 11:12 PM
Energy corridors across the West raise concerns

Environmental impact of fast-tracked federal project one issue

Los Angeles Times
June 4, 2006

LINK (http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/news/nation/stories/DN-pipelinedog_04nat.ART.State.Bulldog.90a0678.html)

Under orders from Congress to move quickly, the Department of Energy and the Bureau of Land Management will approve thousands of miles of new power line and pipeline corridors on federal lands across the West in the next 14 months. The energy corridors are likely to cross national parks, forests and military bases as well as other public land.

Environmentalists and land managers worry about the risk of pipeline explosions and permanent scarring of habitat and scenery from pylons and trenches. Military officials have expressed concern that the installations could interfere with wartime training.

But energy industry lobbyists and congressional policymakers said quick approvals for new corridors are vital to moving adequate power from coal beds, oil fields and wind farms in Wyoming, Montana and Idaho to the booming population centers of the Southwest.

In California, ExxonMobil, Southern California Edison, San Diego Gas and Electric and others have proposed corridors across Death Valley, Joshua Tree and Lassen Volcanic national parks as well as the Mojave National Preserve, several military bases, Anza Borrego Desert State Park and seven national forests.

Corridors also are proposed for Canyonlands National Park in Utah and Lake Mead National Recreation Area near Las Vegas. Routes near the Cascade Mountains and the Rocky Mountains also have been proposed, some as much as five miles wide and 2,000 miles long.

Once the Western lands project is complete, Congress has ordered it to be replicated across the rest of the contiguous U.S. by 2009.

"We are concerned about our lands," said Lee Dickinson, head of the National Park Service's special uses division. "They know that we are not thrilled."

Department of Energy officials declined to provide an internal working map of which corridors are under consideration, saying it will be released only after environmental review.

"We don't want to confuse the public," said David Meyer of the department's Office of Electricity Deliverability and Energy Reliability.

Acting at the behest of the U.S.'s largest utilities, Congress in its 2005 Energy Policy Act gave federal agencies until August 2007 to review and adopt major energy corridors across 11 states.

"That's warp speed," said Scott Powers, a Bureau of Land Management official, at a planning session this winter.

The legislation was designed to fast-track construction by requiring a single, overarching environmental review of the impact of dozens of energy corridors across federal land.

'National interest'

The aim is to avoid time-consuming project-by-project reviews. Federal energy regulators were also given authority to designate power lines in the "national interest," which would allow them to overrule federal agencies or states or counties that withhold approval for segments of projects.

"They've taken away our sovereignty," said John Geesman, who sits on the California Energy Commission. "We're looking down the barrel of a gun."

Mr. Geesman said state officials were partly to blame for not designating more corridors sooner. But he said the law Congress passed goes too far.
Challenging as it is to find room for long corridors, Mr. Geesman said, they should not cross sensitive public lands.

Hotly contested projects such as those proposed across Anza Borrego and the Cleveland and San Bernardino national forests could now be approved by federal officials if California says no.

Environmentalists say existing energy corridors on public land, most of them authorized before laws such as the National Environmental Policy Act and Endangered Species Act were passed, present a cautionary tale.

Fuel pipelines have exploded or leaked because of sabotage or natural disaster, said Bill Corcoran of the Angeles Chapter of the Sierra Club. In March 2005, a landslide in the Angeles National Forest broke a crude oil pipeline, dumping 126,000 gallons into Pyramid Lake, which supplies drinking water to Los Angeles.

Environmentalists and some federal scientists say the huge number of potential new corridors and accelerated timeline are a recipe for ecological devastation.

"That is the stupidest thing I've ever heard. They want to get by with a lot of sloppy, dirty work," said Howard Wilshire, a retired U.S. Geological Survey scientist who studied human effects on public lands for 20 years.

He said his studies and others' on the effects of roads, power lines and linear development across the Mojave found that endangered species such as the desert tortoise were killed during construction, and that the projects permanently fragmented and eroded critical habitat.

While power lines appear to sail through the air, every 160-foot-tall pylon is built on a concrete pad with a spur road connecting to a longer maintenance road, creating an artificial barrier across the fragile desert floor. He said bulldozing trenches for pipelines had similar effects.

"We're talking about millennia, if ever, for recovery of an ecosystem," he said.

Military officials have different concerns.

"Although I have yet to see a full map, the small-scale map I did see appeared to show the corridors running through military training grounds," wrote Army official Stephen Hart of Fort Lewis, Wash., in public comments to energy task force staff.

Energy officials did not return calls for comment about military concerns.
Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer, who wants new corridors built in his state, doesn't like the federal government usurping state authority. He said Western states had worked for years to map future lines. He threatened to sue if necessary, depending on which corridors are picked.

But energy lobbyists and policymakers said that because the White House and Congress imposed a tight deadline, federal agencies are moving with unprecedented speed.

A bipartisan majority headed by Sens. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., and Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee approved the power corridor legislation.

"We're very encouraged," said Meg Hunt, lobbyist for the Edison Electric Institute, which represents utilities in the U.S. serving 71 percent of all consumers. She said designating corridors regionally had been in the works for 20 years but had repeatedly stalled when field staff in federal or state agencies didn't like particular projects.

Who will pay?

Mr. Geesman said it was unclear who would ultimately pay for the new utility lines, and the public might have to pay the tab, either through construction subsidies or utility bill increases.

Energy companies prefer public land because access across it is free or cheap, requiring modest lease payments at most, and poses fewer problems than securing the rights from multiple private properties, he said.

Corridor width is also an issue. Southern California Edison wants a milewide corridor across the Mojave, for example. Ms. Hunt of the Edison Electric Institute said that bundling many lines close together can jeopardize safety and reliability. But she said energy companies would be willing to share corridors if given exemptions from full environmental review on specific projects.

Marny Funk, spokeswoman for Republicans on the Senate energy panel, which oversaw the bill, said that was one of the main thrusts.

"Environmentalists use these reviews as a way to stall projects for years to keep them from ever being built," she said.

Others said that while it is difficult to balance competing needs on increasingly scarce public land, that was no excuse for shortcuts.

© 2006 The Dallas Morning News Co. (http://www.wirednewyork.com/forum/)

August 23rd, 2006, 07:13 PM
Judge blocks logging in sequoia monument

Activists had sued Forest Service over fire prevention plan

http://msnbcmedia.msn.com/j/msnbc/Components/Photos/060822/060822_sequoia_vmed_1p.widec.jpg (http://www.wirednewyork.com/forum/)
Kevork Djansezian / AP file
The Giant Sequoia National Monument includes trees
like this 2,000-year-old specimen.
The Bush administration wants to thin much smaller
and younger trees within the monument it says are
a fire hazard, but a judge has blocked the policy.

msnbc.com (http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/14469309/from/RS.5/)
Aug 22, 2006

SAN FRANCISCO - A federal judge ruled Tuesday that a Bush administration plan to allow commercial logging inside the Giant Sequoia National Monument violates environmental laws.

U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer sided with environmental groups that sued the U.S. Forest Service over its plans for managing the 328,000-acre preserve, home to two-thirds of the world’s largest trees.

Breyer had already issued a preliminary injunction, in September 2005, to halt further logging in the national monument created by President Clinton in 2000.

In the lawsuit filed last year, the Sierra Club and other conservation groups said the management plan for the reserve in the southern Sierra Nevada range was a scientifically suspect strategy that was intended to satisfy timber interests under the guise of wildfire prevention.

The Forest Service had said the plan to allow thinning of some trees was aimed at meeting fire prevention goals.

"Today's ruling only strengthens the case for transferring management of this magnificent Monument to neighboring Sequoia National Park, where it would be treated with the good stewardship it deserves," Bruce Hamilton, the Sierra Club's conservation director, said in a statement.

© 2006 The Associated Press

August 24th, 2006, 09:03 AM
Fire hazard my ass.

We all know the terrorists are hiding in those smaller trees!!! :rolleyes:

August 24th, 2006, 11:45 AM
All Points Bulletin ...

Be on the look-out:


August 24th, 2006, 12:11 PM
Jub jub.

September 21st, 2006, 09:22 AM
Judge Voids Bush Policy on National Forest Roads

NY TIMES (http://www.nytimes.com/2006/09/21/washington/21roads.html?_r=1&hp&ex=1158811200&en=c3ee3a4647708b04&ei=5094&partner=homepage&oref=slogin)
September 21, 2006

WASHINGTON, Sept. 20 — In the latest round of legal Ping-Pong over the future of 49 million roadless acres of national forests, a federal judge in California on Wednesday reinstated Clinton-era protections against logging and mining on the land and invalidated the Bush administration’s substitute policy.

The judge, Elizabeth D. LaPorte of Federal District Court in San Francisco, said the new policy had been imposed without the required environmental safeguards.

The reversal, however, does not cover nine million acres of the Tongass National Forest in Alaska because a separate set of legal opinions determines their use.

Judge LaPorte ruled in a suit filed by a coalition of environmental groups and states that objected to the decision last year to scuttle what was widely known as the “roadless rule” of 2001.

The administration replaced that rule with a policy of state-by-state management under which governors submit recommendations for the use of national forest lands within their borders.

Judge LaPorte said that the original rule had laid out “the inherent problems in this kind of local decision making,” particularly “the failure to recognize the cumulative national significance of individual local decisions.”

In repealing the 2001 rule, she said, the Forest Service, which is part of the Agriculture Department, had failed to comply with the National Environmental Policy Act, which requires agencies to conduct detailed environmental analyses of alternative approaches.

Judge LaPorte said the Forest Service had failed to consult federal agencies responsible for protecting endangered species. Among other points, her order enjoined the service “from taking any further action contrary to the roadless rule without undertaking environmental analysis.”

Justice Department lawyers had argued that such analyses and endangered-species consultations would be performed as decisions were made on managing individual forests and that giving states the right to petition was more procedural than substantive.

The legislative director of the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, Anna Aurilio, said that the judge’s ruling “sort of took it back to the first principles of environmental protection and said, you can’t just ride roughshod over the environment.”

“They can’t just trample on all the laws,” Ms. Aurilio said of the administration.

Two Agriculture Department officials said they had not decided whether to appeal the decision and would continue to accept and review state petitions.
“As a general matter, we disagree with it, but the court’s order is what it is,” Deputy Under Secretary David P. Tenny said.

Mr. Tenny said working closely with states to gather information was “more effective in managing roadless areas properly than a sweeping approach that deals with all areas at one time.”

“We’ll do our level best to keep working with the states,” he added.

Six states have submitted requests under the changed policy. Five of them — California, New Mexico, North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia — sought protection for their entire inventories of roadless areas.

Idaho, with the largest inventory of roadless acres outside Alaska, submitted its petition on Wednesday. It sought full protection for 1.7 million of its 9.3 million roadless acres and the option for logging and road construction in what state officials called the remaining “backcountry” areas.

A state environmental official, James L. Caswell, said that such logging would in general be intended to protect forest health and manage fire risks.

Kristen Boyles, the lawyer for Earthjustice who argued in support of the roadless rule, said the governors’ petitions were “never a guarantee that we would get the protections.” The repeal of the rule “was illegal, Ms. Boyles said, because the Forest Service didn’t look at the environmental consequences or the alternatives.”

In June, the Forest Service sold timber leases on two small roadless tracts of the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest near the Oregon coast despite the explicit objections of Gov. Theodore R. Kulongoski.

Fire ravaged the area in 2002.

The merits of the roadless policy and its successor have been argued in three federal courts — in Idaho, Wyoming and, now, California — for six years.

The rule was first enjoined by a judge in Idaho, an injunction that the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit overturned.

A judge in Wyoming then enjoined the rule nationwide, and the United States Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit did not rule on that appeal until after the Agriculture Department had rescinded the rule and set up the system of state petitions in May 2005. Thereafter, the 10th Circuit said, any ruling would be moot because the roadless rule was no longer in effect.

Copyright 2006 The New York Times Company

July 26th, 2007, 01:05 PM
Ms. MacDonald’s actions had sparked an outcry among agency biologists and environmental advocates and led to a series of hearings in Congress on whether the Bush administration was politicizing science.

(There's some question?)