Sage Grouse and Gubernatorial Politics in Colorado

Gov. John Hickenlooper, left, and Republican challenger Bob Beauprez debate over Western Slope issues at the Club 20 debates in Grand Junction Saturday night. photo by Lauren Glendenning/ |

Gov. John Hickenlooper, left, and Republican challenger Bob Beauprez debate over Western Slope issues at the Club 20 debates in Grand Junction Saturday night.
photo by Lauren Glendenning/ |

Normally I pretty much tune out the hoopla around elections (truth is not usually found anywhere in the vicinity), but thought these two op-eds were of interest, in the sense that sage grouse has come out in gubernatorial politics. Probably would not happen with an endangered species in Texas, Florida, or New York, and maybe not California. These issues are a big thing to our people and hence to our governors. It could be about federal to private land ratios.. it could be due to people trying to make a living from natural resources compared to the proportion of people in the state as a whole. Or ????

Last Sunday there were these two op-eds in the Denver Post
yes Colorado could manage federal lands better
and no.

Here is the “no” one on sage grouse (written by a member of the Hickenlooper administration):

This doesn’t mean acquiescing to every federal decision. Colorado has the expertise and clout to push against the federal government when we disagree. The Hickenlooper administration has done so on numerous occasions, most recently in protecting sage grouse habitat.

Hmm. if it is really about following the law on ESA, then states shouldn’t be able to “push back” when they disagree.

Here is the “yes” one on sage grouse:

Need another example? The feds have now threatened to list the Gunnison sage grouse after years of hard work, compromise, and collaboration with farmers, ranchers, neighborhoods and local governments. It took nearly three years for Gov. John Hickenlooper to finally realize what a disaster the listing could be to all involved. He hired a friend of mine to run interference at a cost of additional hundreds of thousands of dollars to stay the efforts of bureaucrats who have no appreciation of our Western way of life or culture of self- reliance and responsibility for the land.

First, the fact that this is political this year raises the complex situation that we all understand to the simplistic “take over public lands by states” idea and that dog won’t hunt. That’s why we know it’s political and not real.

We have states winning lawsuits because they weren’t consulted the right way (California southern land management plans). We have courts supporting the feds not allowing Wyoming to be a cooperating agency on 2001 Roadless. BLM has (or did have) formal discussions with the governor’s staff on management plans. I sat in on these, a presentation to the DNR Executive Director (Harris Sherman at the time, small world!) during the period we had a joint FS/BLM management plan. The FS does not (last I looked, have such a formal process). Seems to me that if your interest is good public policy and not political theater, there are a great many choices of how to involve states in federal decision-making that have not been explored, or seem to be more or less random depending on agency history, case law, etc.

Photo Tech

While it seems there is currently a lull in forest controversy, I’ve been trying to stay busy in scanning old slides and manipulating them with a new HDR (High Dynamic Range) Photo program. The best feature, for me, is the ability to bring out details in the shadow areas. It seems to be very useful for fixing underexposed pictures. It also has some interesting “surreal” effects you can tweak to your heart’s content. I’m also readying myself for an upcoming art show, in San Jose.




Screen Shot 2014-10-21 at 11.07.58 AM

Imagine my relief when I read on the Forest Service’s homepage that our federal government has a “vision” to ensure there will be future generations.

Oops, turns out to be not quite so ambitious, only a “2020 Vision” to ensure that future generations “can enjoy wilderness.”

Curious to know more, I read the press release looking for the 2020 Vision, or at least a link to it. Not there. Nor can Google find it. Nor is it where the news release says I “can learn more” at

Maybe 2020 refers to its release date?

[Thanks to a helpful reader, here is a URL pointer to the 2020 Vision.]

RMEF Letter on Public Land Transfer

RMEF logo high resolution
Here’s a link to the press release:

Here’s the link to the letter:

Below is the letter:

Dear Senator XXX:

The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation (RMEF) has a growing concern over the continual proposals and rhetoric regarding the wholesale disposal, transfer, or sale of federal land holdings. The notion of transferring ownership of lands currently overseen by the U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management or any other federal land manager to states or worse yet to private interests, is not a solution to federal land management issues and we are opposed to this idea.

Federal land management policies and actions are of great importance to our 203,000 members. Federal public lands are vitally important habitat for elk and many other species of wildlife. They are also where we hunt, camp, hike, and in some cases, make our living. Transferring public lands to states to manage will not work for two primary reasons. First, states are not equipped or prepared to manage these additional lands. Second, transferring ownership of public lands does not address the real issues.

Calls for transfers of federal land are rooted in disappointment and disgust with the lack of balanced use and management of these lands today. Over the past decade, there has been a shift in the multiple use approach for the benefit of the most people and wildlife to a preservationist agenda advocated by small radical groups. Actively managed lands benefit people and wildlife, and in a specific case, reduce the impacts of wildfire, a national crisis at this time.

We urge you, as a leading member of Congress, to not only stand up for the ongoing federal ownership of land, but just as important, stand up for the implementation of sound, active federal land management. Enact legislation that creates specific strategic goals for the Departments of Agriculture and Interior on what is expected in terms of stewardship and active management of our public lands.

Throwback Thursday, Yosemite-style

I’ve found my hoard of old A-Rock Fire photos, from 1990! I will be preparing a bigger repeat photography article, after I finish selecting and scanning. Like several other fires this summer, the A-Rock Fire started in the Merced River canyon, burning northward. I really believe that this is the model of what will happen to the Rim Fire, if we do nothing to reduce those dead and dying fuels. Active management opponents never want to talk about the devastation of re-burns, as an aspect of their “natural and beneficial” wildfires. Most of those snags have “vaporized” since this 1989 wildfire. Indeed, this example should be considered when deciding post-fire treatments for both the Rim Fire and the King Fire, too.

It should be relatively easy to find this spot, to do some repeat photography, along the Big Oak Flat Road.


Lawmakers vent to feds, assert forest fire inaction

The article, “Lawmakers vent to feds, assert forest fire inaction,” might have been titled “Lawmakers vent to feds, assert Congressional inaction.”

“If you are going to be the landowner, the landlord, we look to you to for the responsibility in taking the lead,” said Rep. Roger Barrus, R-Centerville.

I understand that view, but the main problem is that the USFS and BLM are hamstrung by protracted environmental planning and collaboration processes, too-frequent lawsuits or the fear of them, and inadequate funding or misplaced funding priorities.

Equal Access to Justice Act: 200+ Lawsuits filed nationwide by AWR in 25 years

According to this article, “3 Montana environmental groups file 200 lawsuits against federal agencies,” in the Ravalli Republic, “The Alliance for the Wild Rockies, the Montana Ecosystems Defense Council and the Native Ecosystems Council are the three conservation groups that have been the most litigious in recent years [since 1989] in the Helena region. The groups have been involved in more than 200 court cases nationwide as plaintiffs or co-plaintiffs against federal agencies like the Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.”

UPDATE NOTE:  I just edited the title of this post because the original title used by Steve Wilent was factually incorrect. Steve’s original title was “Equal Access to Justice Act: 200+ Lawsuits filed in Montana.” That title was clearly factually incorrect because as the article clearly points out (and ironically as Steve’s post lated point out):  “The groups have been involved in more than 200 court cases nationwide as plaintiffs or co-plaintiffs against federal agencies like the Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.”

Garrity: Taxpayer subsidized logging make no sense

An excerpt from an op-ed by our old friend Michael Garrity, executive director of the Alliance for the Wild Rockies, entitled “Taxpayer subsidized logging make no sense“:

“The Gazette found the Forest Service in Montana generated $5.4 million in revenue 2013, of which $4.1 million came from timber sales. But here’s the rub: that amounts to only about 2.2 percent of the $179 million the Forest Service spent in Montana in 2013 on discretionary projects, timber sale preparation, salaries, and transportation. Maintaining campgrounds and trails and cleaning outhouses represents a small portion of the Forest Service budget in Montana and that was mostly off-set by the $1.3 million in revenue the agency collected from recreation fees in 2013. In other words, the Forest Service in Montana spent $179 million, mostly on timber sales, in Montana but only received $4.1 million in revenue from these sales. They lost millions on logging.”

How much of the “subsidy” is spent on the additional planning to avoid lawsuits by groups like Garrity’s, and defending itself from same?

Fall in the Forests

I had the pleasure of doing forest inventory work on the Sumter National Forest, 12 years ago. I had to dredge up all that “brain sludge” from Dendrology class, to identify eastern hardwood species. Some of those stands were rather uniform pine stands, as replanted cotton fields. In the “drains”, as they are called, you see great variety in hardwoods. I found 40 different hardwood species, with 20 of them being oaks. Another difference from western National Forests is that they still use metes and bounds to designate boundaries. I did enjoy the fabled “Southern Hospitality” but, I never did develop a taste for grits and red-eye gravy, and BBQ in South Carolina is a very different kind of animal.

The fungi was abundant and diverse, due to the warm and wet conditions.