I’ve been reading quite a bit about the history and current practice of grazing on public lands. My question has always been how so few people could have such huge political clout. The answer is complex and fascinating. Much of the answer revolves around the power of the cowboy myth in the mind of the American and particularly in the mind of the American congressperson. I think I will blog a bit about some current examples of both regulatory and political capture and about the harm that public land grazing does. Here’s a current example of where the reactionary Utah congress is working on a law to make it illegal to take a picture of a cow. (HB187) >>>more
In response to an article in the Salt Lake Tribune announcing that Utah State Engineer Kent Jones OK’d the use of Green River water to cool a proposed nuclear reactor, Ed Firmage Jr. posted a polished reply. Water management in Utah is an area much in need of watch dogging. Mike Noel makes a living by exercising a powerful conflict of interest in the government positions he holds. It’s how welfare ranching works and just like Bernard DeVoto called it 65 years ago: “Give me the money, now get out of here.” Berate the federal government while taking finagled federal hand outs. Not much has changed. Noel has a seat on the Utah State Legislature and is the executive director of the Kane County Water Conservancy District, both government jobs. Now he is concocting a boondoggle to sell Kane County water rights to a nuclear reactor which he will use his position as state legislator to support. Here’s Ed’s response:
Let me see if I got this right:
A former two-bit Viagra salesman, Aaron Tilton, who was GIVEN (not elected) to a term in the state senate and who promptly lost his first attempt to be ELECTED to office (even Utah voters have standards), teams up with former legislative buddy, welfare rancher, and general good old boy Mike Noel, who makes his living railing against federal subsidies (except his own), and they concoct a plan for a federally subsidized nuclear reactor (all nuclear reactors are federally subsidized) in the middle of the howling Utah desert with water from an oversubscribed and climate-threatened river–in other words, using water for speculative gain, a practice prohibited by Utah law–and this Rube Goldberg scheme is OKd by the only representative of the Utah public who will have a say in this decision, Utah’s water “engineer,” Kent Jones, who opines, in either ignorance or denial of Wall St., that building a nuclear power plant, and that in a desert, isn’t a speculative venture and a therefore illegal use of Utah water.
I guess I must be in Utah, for by comparison, the story of the golden plates sounds perfectly plausible.
Ed’s last sentence is regrettably uncivil, but his calling the crony good old boys on their crap is a civil service. Go Ed.
There is nothing more harmful to the arid lands of the American West today than public land grazing. It is ironic that the Cato Institute, the leading libertarian, conservative think tank calls the results of over a century of grazing on public lands, ” . . . a testimony to the failure of land-use socialism.” Ouch. 70% of the over 300 million acres of public land in the West is grazed, producing less than 3% of the nation’s beef. Agriculture is less than 1% of the western economies but uses nearly 80% of the water, much of that used to grow hay for to feed livestock. Ranching is a tiny little special interest. A rancher pays $1.35 per month to graze a cow and its calf. How much do you suppose it costs to feed a gerbil for a month? Yet the BLM, with $40 million of taxpayer stimulus money, wants to ignore the impact of grazing in their Rapid Ecoregional Assessments project to map ecological trends throughout the West. See more here . . . >>
Mary O’Brien of the Grand Canyon Trust says it is like doing a study on obesity and not considering what people eat. The BLM is spending $40 million of taxpayer stimulus funds to do a “ecoregional assessment study” but ruling out ahead of time the impact of grazing. The regulators are afraid of upsetting the regulated. Regulatory capture at it’s worst. Are we Alice at the Mad Hatter’s table? Here’s Rocky Barker of the Idaho Statesman with more.
The Salt Lake Tribune weighs in. This kind of economic nonsense of allowing an open pit coal mine on the doorstep of a favorite national park in order to create a couple hundred jobs is just what ticks off Tom Wharton in the previous post. . . . more>>
Speaking of externalities, which I did implicitly in the previous blog, here’s an update on the Alton Coal mine expansion next door to Bryce Canyon National Park. Public hearings coming up. . . . more>>
Today Interior Secretary Ken Salazar’s issued a rule proposing to protect the Grand Canyon from new uranium claims. In 2009 Secretary Salazar placed a two-year moratorium on new uranium mining claims on a million acres of public lands surrounding the Grand Canyon, overturning a Bush administration policy that encouraged thousands of new claims when the price of uranium soared in 2006 and 2007. Many of those making claims are foreign interests, including Russia’s state atomic energy corporation. Does it weird anybody out but me that the anti-environment conservatives ,the heirs of the McCarthy era of communist hunters, thought that having Russia own an atomic energy mine in the Grand Canyon was a good idea? . . . more>>