Friday, March 29, 2013

This Week in Outdoor Policy with Tom Flynn

139403244Tom Flynn tracks policy related to conservation and recreation for the Outdoor Alliance. Most Fridays, he summarizes the week’s top outdoor policy related headlines. For questions, comments and angry hate mail, email him at tom [at] outdooralliance [dot] net.

With no post last week, this review is a two-week doubleheader.

Sally Jewell Gets One Step Closer to Secretary of Interior
Last week, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee voted 19-3 to recommend Sally Jewell for Secretary of the Interior. Senator Murkowski of Alaska threatened to hold the whole thing up over a 10-mile stretch of gravel, but her off-topic antics worked and she got the review she demanded. Sally now faces a confirmation vote by the whole Senate soon. Aren’t you glad your last job application was nothing like this?

Good News from the Courts: Roadless Rule and Mining Ban Upheld
The 12-year battle over roadless areas – nearly 60 million acres of backcountry national forest lands – has a lotta ins, lotta outs, lotta what-have-yous. What you need to know is this: roadless areas are great places to play outside, they deserve protection, and a DC court just rejected the last legal challenge. Any future challenges will be up against the statue of limitations and the Roadless Rule stands. In another good decision, the ban on mining around the Grand Canyon was upheld, sorta. The courts ruled that the Interior Department did in fact have the authority to temporarily withdraw more than 1 million acres from mining. This could have been very bad had it gone the other way, but it’s not the last word – mining interests can still sue for other reasons.

Flurry of New National Monuments
On Monday, President Obama took matters into his own hands and declared five new national monuments. Unlike most other ways of protecting places, national monuments just need Presidential approval. A few signatures are all it takes, and now we have five new protected places to go. With culture, history and recreation, these national monuments in New Mexico, Maryland, Delaware, Washington and Ohio would make a heck of a road trip.

The Latest from Sequestration and the Sagebrush Rebellion
There has been a steady stream of news about two looming threats to the outdoors: the mandatory budget cuts of Sequestration and the federal land take-back skirmishes of the Sagebrush Rebellion. In the last two weeks, more National Parks announced their responses to Sequestration cuts. Acadia National Park in Maine will open a whole month late. Grand Teton National Park will have to hire fewer seasonal staff, including fewer of the famed Jenny Lake climbing rangers, probably leading to slower rescues. But some communities aren't taking these cuts sitting down. They got creative in Cody, WY where the Chamber of Commerce passed the hat to locals and raised funds for road plowing, saving the East Entrance of Yellowstone from opening two weeks late (and their town $2 million in revenues). Glacier National Park managed a similar trick, where a local Conservancy donated the cash to plow the Going-to-the-Sun Road. On the rebellion front, two non-binding resolutions demanding federal lands be transferred to the state passed the Idaho House and a Senate Committee, to an uncertain future, while a similar bill in the Colorado Senate finally died in committee. Over in Wyoming, the legislature allocated $30,000 of public funds to study the idea – precisely $30,000 more than it’s worth.

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