How many times do local and state governments have to deal with the federal government when it comes to land use? How much more money and employee time needs to be expended to get the question of what is wild and what is not settled?
When will we have a clear picture, a rock solid commitment, that one place is wild and another is not?
Well according to comments I heard from national Bureau of Land Management Director Bob Abbey at the Council on Balanced Resources meeting last Friday, never.
Never, Never, NEVER.
It all make so little sense and costs us all so much money.
In many ways the meeting on Friday at the state capitol was a waste of time for everyone involved. If what Abbey is saying is true, why the hell try to resolve it. It appears at this point everyone will lose.
It seemed we were on a track to resolving much of this. Deals had been made in Washington County just recently, settling what was wild and what was not.
The Bill Barrett deal on Tavaputs had shown that groups with far different agendas could work together.
Negotiations and studies have been going on in a half dozen other counties (including Emery) in the state to resolve issues concerning roads and wild lands much like what was done in Washington County.
But now it seems it is all for naught. A single order by Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar changed everything two days before Christmas. It's interesting that the announcement came the day after Congress adjourned for the holidays, and during the most jovial time of the year. Think maybe it was planned that way?
But this was no way to spread the Christmas cheer.
The meeting on Friday was also fraught with surprises, most unpleasant ones.
The room wasn't big enough for everyone that showed up so they dumped all those that couldn't fit into two other rooms, one of them way on the other side of the capitol complex. You'd think with all the heat over this issue and the emails flying from both land user and enviromental groups in the days before, they had to know there would be hundreds of people showing up. It felt really good them doing that; like going to an IRS audit.
On top of that the spill over rooms only had audio, but no video despite huge mounted screens that played green and color bars the whole time we were in those rooms. The state government, four day work week, took the video away. I guess those of us in those rooms were lucky we didn't have to have our ears to the walls to hear what was going on.
Then there came the Jim Hansen debacle. Hansen was invited (apparently by the governor) to address Abbey, but the rules of the council only allow direct questioning and comments from offical council members. Pat Shea, a member of the council objected when Chairman Ted Wilson asked for Hansen's comments. Wilson said he was setting aside the rule for this special meeting (and certainly only for that special guest as well, because no one else in the audience got to talk) and Shea walked out.
I could actually see both sides of this discussion. Balance Resources is the governors council and he should be able to ask to have people speak to the membership. However, rules are rules and everyone should have to live with them or go through a formal process to change them.
Finally, after hearing all the comments, I have to say that Lieutenant Governor Greg Bell and former BLM state director Kathleen Clark really poured it on Abbey, while our Governor seemed to be a little too mild on the problem at hand. Despite his press release that was issued right after the secretarial order was released I am not sure whose side he is on. And that is never good.
Personally I do not want either side to give up and go home, but I do want them to work together. Environmental laws in this country have done a lot of good, but they have also done just as much harm in other ways. On the other hand we need to fight for the right to use the land, and grow our rural ecomomies from it. The idea of us all working together, compromising, working out what is best for everyone, seems not only the practical way to go, but also by far the most economical.
That doesn't mean that we all would get everything we wanted in that situation, but it would mean a manageble plan that doesn't sway with whether we have a left wing or right wing, or even a moderate administration in the White House.
While in the overflow room I was seated in I looked around at the people I didn't know. From the back I couldn't tell whether they had red badges (land use advocates) or yellow badges (enviromentalists). They all just looked like average Americans to me; reasonable people who could work things out.
The counties, the state, the land users and enviromental groups seemed to be making some good headway until this order from on high came along.
Now the BLM will once again appear to be an occupying army, the enviromentalists will be called elitist and those who want open land use will be deemed hicks or industrial exploiters.
It's like two prize fighters who have beat the hell out of each other halfway through the match getting told by the official that the rules are changing and now they can both hit below the belt and kick each other in the shins.
Somebody needs to fire the ref.