Tom Flynn tracks policy related to conservation and recreation for the Outdoor Alliance. Most Fridays, he summarizes the week’s top outdoor policy related headlines. With questions, news tips and angry hate mail, email him at tom [at] outdooralliance [dot] net.
Unpopular Utah Oil Lease Put on Hold
Last month, Utah’s School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration - SITLA, revealed that the Book Cliffs had been leased for oil and gas development. This backroom deal drew the ire of many, including hunters and anglers that love the place, as well as some unexpected characters like Governor Herbert and Representative Bishop. Now, thanks to their efforts, the decision has been put on hold. While this is something of a victory for the balance between development and protected places, the root problem remains – SITLA’s only goal is to maximize profits from the land it manages. With no consideration for any long term, sustainably profitable uses of the land (like hunting and fishing) and no way for people to voice their opinions, a decision like the Book Cliffs is sure to happen again. This realization has some calling for deeper reforms. A good place to start could be the diversity of the SITLA board. Right now, according to a supporter, this board is “made up of qualified businessmen and good-thinking men.” First, there is no reason the board should only include men, and second, what about an angler on the board? Or even an environmentalist? Overall, while this reversal is good news for the outdoors, it would be even better if everyone that opposed the Book Cliffs lease took a moment to think about all the other things – rolling back environmental safeguards, giving public land to the States – that ultimately lead to exactly the same sort of bad decisions.
Glimmer of Hope for Proposed Pebble Mine
Some limited good news from Alaska’s Pebble mine this week, with one of the two companies pursuing the project backing out. The Pebble mine is the site of a high stakes environmental battle, and no, they aren’t talking about mining pebbles. The deposit is mindboggling, containing billions of pounds of copper and molybdenum and millions of ounces of gold, all worth $48 billion. Problem is, the mine would be right at the headwaters of the world’s two most productive salmon rivers, on the shores of Bristol Bay. Those that want to save the rivers, the fish, and the local tribes that rely on them hope that the Environmental Protection Agency will use its well-established powers to pull the plug on the project. A report from the Agency earlier this year bodes well, but they are attacked at every step. The remaining half of the business interests vows that it will continue to pursue the mine, meaning this battle is far from over.
Federal Land, Federal Pot Rules
Lastly, in less related outdoor policy news, if you live in Washington or Colorado, remember: despite the recent legalization of pot, it is still illegal on Federal public land like national parks and forests. Even though the Obama administration has said they have higher priorities than those following State marijuana laws, Federal law still stands on Federal lands. This includes highways on Federal land bordering national parks. Though the rate of citations has not increased, the level of confusion certainly has.