Volume 2, Number 18 - August 1, 2002
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Grazing Issues Update
Daschle seeks environmental exemption
U.S. Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle quietly slipped into a spending bill language exempting his home state of South Dakota from environmental regulations and lawsuits, in order to allow logging, in an effort to prevent forest fires.
The move discovered last week by fellow lawmakers angered Western legislators whose states were forced to obey those same rules as they battled catastrophic wildfires.
"What's good for the Black Hills should be good for every forest in the United States," said Sen. Larry E. Craig, Idaho Republican and chairman of the Senate Republican Policy Committee.
Daschle, a Democrat, said the language to expedite logging is essential to reduce the timber growth that can fuel wildfires. "As we have seen in the last several weeks, the fire danger in the Black Hills is high and we need to get crews on the ground as soon as possible to reduce this risk and protect property and lives," Daschle said in a statement last week after a House-Senate conference committee agreed on the language.
The overall measure, which spends $29 billion, was to be taken up by the Senate on Wednesday. The provision says that "due to extraordinary circumstances," timber activities will be exempt from the National Forest Management Act and National Environmental Policy Act, is not subject to notice, comment or appeal requirements under the Appeals Reform Act, and is not subject to judicial review by any U.S. court.
More than 20 lawsuits, appeals or reviews are blocking timber projects to remove fuel from the Black Hills - some bottled up in bureaucracy since 1985, said Republican aides.
"After hearing all the hand-wringing from environmentalists downplaying the impact of appeals and litigation, it's nice to see that the highest-ranking Democrat in the nation agrees that these frivolous challenges have totally crippled forest managers," said Rep. Scott McInnis, Colorado Republican and chairman of the House Resources subcommittee on forests and forest health.
House and Senate Republicans signaled they would try to extend the exemptions to forests in their own states. "He should expect that and he should support it," Craig said.
Rep. J.D. Hayworth, Arizona Republican, where more than a half-million acres have been destroyed by fire, said the process should have been open and the solution available to all states in a "tinderbox situation."
State moves to take snail off endangered list
After a decade of being counted as an endangered species, state and federal officials say the Bliss rapids snail was never really in danger of extinction and are petitioning to remove it from the federal list. Gov. Dirk Kempthorne, joined by Idaho Power officials, signed a letter to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
The pinhead-sized snail, one of five in Idaho listed under the Endangered Species Act, ranges on the Snake River and its tributaries east of King Hill. Two other species in the middle Snake River - the Idaho springs snail and the Utah valvata snail - will also be petitioned for release from the list later this year, officials said.
Endangered snails have been the subject of several lawsuits in Idaho.
FWS says no time or money to consider petition
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced it would give a cursory glance to a petition filed recently to protect the white-tailed prairie dog under the Endangered Species Act. A group of conservation organizations petitioned FWS to add the white-tailed prairie dog to the endangered species list, saying habitat loss has reduced the species' range by 92 percent in the past century. But the white-tailed prairie dog "will go to the bottom of the stack" due to a lack of money, no pending lawsuits and its recent filing, said Chuck Davis, the endangered species listing coordinator for FWS's Denver office. FWS is considering protection for the Yellowstone bison herd, the trumpeter swan and two to three other species this year. Davis said FWS does not have the money, nor the resources, to review the prairie dog petition in the allotted time.
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