Both Sides of the Fence – Another Look at the Defense Bill Natural Resource Rider

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Photo by Alayna DuPont – Rocky Mountain Front, Montana

Last week, the House of Representatives passed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), sending it on to the Senate and then to Obama for approval.  Imbedded in this $585 billion dollar defense bill is a 451 page rider titled Natural Resources Related General Provisions.  This political maneuver of attaching rider bills is frowned upon across the board.  In this case, as an attachment to a must-pass spending bill, the rider was intended to face less scrutiny.  This isn’t the first time this has happened, in 1997, Clinton passed a bill with a similar rider, and the reason this practice persists is that it works.  Politicians who have bills that are near and dear to their constituents can finally find a way to get the legislation moving along.  For this reason, conglomerate riders like this one are full of good and bad no matter what side of politics you find yourself on.  There are sections that benefit natural resource extraction and there are sections that strengthen resource protection.

Reading through the news and opinion pieces that have come out discussing NDAA and the natural resource rider, it has struck me how challenging it is for us, news consumers, to sort out what is really going on.  We rely heavily on our trusted sources to distill complicated and lengthy political news into something we can understand and formulate opinions about.  However, as we turn more and more to blogs, filtered mailings, and the postings of our beloved friends on social media, it becomes all too easy to forget to apply a discerning eye to what our media outlets provide for us.

With 96 separate sections affecting natural resources across the entire country, I think it is safe to say that it is far from clear whether this rider is wholly good or bad.  I for one have not read every one of the 96 sections, researched each local context, or statistically analyzed across the board the cumulative natural resource benefit or cost.  So, let me be clear, I am not here to write an opinion on whether this rider should pass or not.  What I am here to contribute is a clarification on some of the pervasive opinions that are out there regarding just a few of the issues that I do know about.

Here is a link to the bill in case you are interested.  I have included page number references as the .pdf is a bear to navigate.  Also, please read Matthew Koehler’s article as well to see some of what I am commenting on and for a quick synopsis, NPR reported a short piece on the topic today.

MONTANA – WILDERNESS, RELEASE OF WILDERNESS STUDY AREAS, NORTHERN CHEYENNE TRUST

The Rocky Mountain Front Conservation Management Area (RMFCMA) is actually pretty neat (Section 3065, p. 1379).  It includes 195,073 acres of USFS land and 13,087 acres of BLM land, a total of 208,160 acres within the management area.  To put that into perspective, Zion National Park is about 147,000 acres. The purposes of this management zone “are to conserve, protect, and enhance for the benefit and enjoyment of present and future generations the recreational, scenic, historical, cultural, fish, wildlife, roadless, and ecological values of the Conservation Management Area” (p. 1383). For land managers, this alone is huge.  Every decision made within the RMFCMA must now be looked at against this purpose.  This may seem small, but our public lands are multiple use.  This draws a boundary around these 208,160 acres and says that they are to be managed differently.

The language explicitly limits motorized routes to the current conditions.  So, no new permanent roads may be constructed and no further motorized access.  Furthermore, there is an explicit statement that the existing motorized routes may be closed in the future to further conservation purposes (p. 1384).

Existing grazing is preserved, but, it is subject to all the rules and regulations in place.  That means that according to the regular rules and regulations, grazing leases may be reauthorized or not reauthorized.  This is a given, as policy makers really can’t go making bills that kick users off of the land overnight (see Ivan Doig’s This House of Sky for an enjoyable historical perspective of this). However, there is nothing that requires grazing to persist as a use into the future.

This section also includes some wilderness changes.  It places 50,401 acres of new Wilderness into the Bob Marshall and 16,711 acres into the Scapegoat.  These are the first new Wilderness designations in Montana in 31 years.  What the bill doesn’t tell us is why these areas.  What is special about them over other areas?  I am guessing there is something, but I cannot attest to what that is.

Unfortunately, there appears to be a compromise.  Zook and Buffalo Creek Wilderness Study Areas (WSA) are to be released, a combined 14,088 acres.  Additionally, an oil and gas potential report has been mandated for the Bridge Coulee and Musselshell Breaks WSAs (p. 1393). The hope is always that WSAs stay as is until they are given full Wilderness protection.  Again, without being familiar with these particular areas, it is hard to know why these two were chosen.  As for the oil and gas report within five years, this could go either way.  I don’t have too much heartburn over it, except, for the fact that the BLM or USFS now must fund such work, whether they found it to be a high priority or not.

The Northern Cheyenne and Great Northern Properties exchange is under Section 3077, titled “Land taken into trust for benefit of the Northern Cheyenne Tribe”.  What this amounts to is an exchange of mineral interests with the BLM as a third party assisting the tribe.  This is pretty far outside of my wheelhouse, and as such, I am not going to try too hard to interpret it for you.  It starts at p. 1425 and has a number of provisions.  Without knowing the back story or the sentiment of the tribe through this process, it seems hardly fair to comment.  However, there are sections that lead a reader to believe that this was to some extent worked out with the tribe’s participation.  For example, inclusions such as “(A) IN GENERAL— At the request of the Tribe, the Secretary shall take into trust for the benefit of the Tribe the mineral interests conveyed to the Tribe under paragraph (1)(A)(i)” (p.1429). Again, I have no solid footing for an opinion here.

PUBLIC LANDS GRAZING

This one is really fun.  If you are following along, go to Section 3023 at p. 1187.  Now, get out your copy of the Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA) and copy and paste the substitutions in language so that you can get a full picture.  Really?  I think I may be part of the .01% of the population who happens to have a print copy of FLPMA by my side and then again part of the .001% who cares enough to do the collage work required to keep up with this section.  All that is included in the bill itself is the language that is to be “substituted” into the current form of FLPMA. Without comparing the two, it would make no sense as a stand-alone read.

However, having done this, if I didn’t have experience working within the USFS system, there would still be no context to fully understand what this section means for managers.  It is no secret that our federal land management agencies are crippled by process.  However, if any of you have been lucky enough to have avoided the necessity of working with a federal agency for a permit or easement, than you are not aware that what seems like a simple task can take years.  Exchanging equal value road easements, which should take a matter of months, can literally take ten years.  As I read this section, it appears to be an attempt to ease process NOT environmental restrictions.

Offered are two key changes to the “Grazing Leases and Permits” section of FLMPA.  The first proposes that when current permits expire (ten year permits generally), an interim permit for the same use may be applied during the time that it takes the agency to complete the required NEPA process (p. 1187-1188). This is an acknowledgement that the federal process is a burden to the public and an effort to see that this burden does not adversely affect permit holders.  This also attempts to close an issue brought up in the Western Watersheds Project v. Jewell, 08-435-BLW, D. Id. case, in which it was determined that the BLM failed to comply with FLPMA.

Additionally, this section provides for the categorical exclusion of new grazing permits and leases ONLY if they meet standards such as “continues current grazing management” and “meets current land health standards” (p. 1189).  Categorical exclusions are an important part of NEPA and they may only ever be used if the action will have no significant impact and there are no extraordinary circumstances.  Thus, enter something like the sage grouse, exit the categorical exclusion.

This entire section is a mere four pages.  I have read stories of how its enactment will result in the listing of the greater sage grouse which I can find no support for.  For example, from Todd C. Tucci with Advocates for the West, quoted in The Wildlife News, “…the NDAA requires automatic renewal of all grazing within sage grouse habitat – even grazing that is known to harm sage grouse…”.  In fact, there is no requirement of automatic renewal as the section clearly states that at the end of the NEPA process, the permit can be “canceled, suspended, or modified in whole or in part.” Moreover, ANY permit can be canceled at ANY time “pursuant to the terms and conditions” of the permit or for “any violation of a grazing regulation or of any term or condition of such permit or lease” [43 U.S.C  1752](a).

From the same article, Steve Holmer from the American Bird Society says, “Under this bill, the allotments could be renewed without any consideration for the harm they are causing to imperiled grouse, clean water, and the recreational use of public lands”. This is 100% false.  We are talking permits, not allotments.  The only renewal this authorizes is for the duration of the re-consideration of the effect of each permit.

Mr. Tucci represented Western Watersheds Project in a recent case that was decided on September 29th of this this year by Judge B. Lynn Winmill in Idaho (mentioned and cited earlier).  He knows more about this subject than nearly everyone in the country.  However, my point here is that statements like the one above, when excerpted without a larger story, obfuscate the truth and mislead readers.  Without a broader context (and there nearly always is one), they amount to nothing more than hype.

Finally, there has been a lot of talk saying that this bill will change the permits from 10 year permits to 20 year permits.  This is also, 100% false.  This was likely an inclusion in earlier iterations and was dropped off before the bill was finalized for House review.

CONCLUSION

What is clear is that many of the 96 individual and unique inclusions to this rider deserve their own full story.  There are some that are appalling in terms of natural resource protection.  The SE Arizona Land Exchange is one of them (Section 3003, p. 1103), and the Alaska land conveyance another (Section 3001-2, p. 1067). And yet, there are some that are encouraging.  There is the expansion of the Harriet Tubman Historical Park (Section 3035, p. 1229) and the expansion of the Oregon Caves National Monument and Preserve which would lead to the first underground Wild and Scenic River (Section 3041, p. 1258).

Each of these sections, with both big and little impacts, should be aired openly with accurate explanations so that policy makers and constituents alike can formulate informed opinions. Unfortunately, as a rider, they were quietly added.  Also, unfortunately, politics are often conducted this way.  Constituents with full time jobs don’t have time to read 451 pages of policy legalese.  That is why we rely on our media.  And, that is why it is imperative that media contributors get it right.

14 Comments

  1. This continues to confirm my belief that riders should be illegal. These seem to get tacked onto or buried in something that is deemed so important that some, little obscure rider will quietly slip through. It seems too much like. “I’ll vote for your bill if you’ll vote for mine” and is a way to slip something past the voter and remain relatively unseen. It seems like a rather unethical/shady way to practice politics!

    EVERY rider should have to stand on its own and mass muster based on its merits. If it can’t pass muster, then it should never become law!

  2. Thanks for the fine summary, Alayna.

    Each of the public land pieces was vetted with committee hearings and mark-ups in either the House or Senate and, in many cases, both. There are no surprises here whatsoever to those who pay close attention to public lands.

    These many and varied provisions also have one thing in common. They each enjoy substantial bi-partisan local support. Take, for example, the thoroughly unpleasant Oak Flat land exchange designed to expedite what will be one of the world’s largest copper mines. That the exchange is supported by both Arizona Republican senators (McCain and Flake) is no surprise. That it’s also supported by the Democrat (Ann Kirkpatrick) in whose district it is located was pivotal to its success. Kirkpatrick beat the odds to win reelection in November because, as she puts it, “I always put my district first, and those votes reflected my district.”

    So, too, the “appalling in terms of natural resource protection” Sealaska land conveyance bill. Not only was this bill endorsed by both Alaska senators (D and R), it also enjoyed the support of the Southeast Alaska Conservation Council (better known by its acronym “SEACC“), the state’s longest-tenured Tongass preservation outfit.

    My gripe is not so much with the individual ornaments (FSEEE did oppose several of these bills in their stand-alone form) on this huge Xmas tree, but with the overall balance that Congress struck. Environmental interests could, and should, have done better on that score. We left some significant pieces on the table because when it comes to legislative horse-trading, which is the only game in DC, environmentalists just aren’t very good at it.

    [Without belittling the achievements of the eponymous historical figure, the bill’s “expansion” of the Tubman Underground Railroad National Historical Park is little more than vaporware. All the bill does is authorize the future purchase of private land from willing sellers, but appropriates not a single dollar to do so.]

    • Hi Andy, thanks for these notes. I agree, it is unfortunate that as a whole, we can’t find ways to fight harder for natural resource interests as a whole. There was a great article in the New Yorker about the philosophy behind natural resource defense, found here: http://www.newyorker.com/tech/elements/bridging-conservation-divide. At the end, I think the Abbey quote hits home,“I am weary of the old and tiresome and banal question ‘Why save the wilderness? The important and difficult question is ‘How? How save the wilderness?’ ”

      • Another interesting question is: How much public land is managed as de facto Wilderness, including stream buffers, archaeological sites, wildlife PACs, etc? Also, when roads form the Wilderness boundaries, there MUST be a road “buffer zone”, where roadside hazard trees can be cut and removed, to protect the road, and its users. You cannot just do one side of the road that isn’t “in” the Wilderness. It’s either that, or close (and obliterate) such roads completely. Yes, many preservationists would welcome eliminating such roads but, I really doubt that is a viable solution in the “real world”.

  3. “What is clear is that many of the 96 individual and unique inclusions to this rider deserve their own full story. “……

    I couldn’t agree more…beginning with your very narrow, shallowly researched & biased interpretation of these few provisions. Let me point out a few flaws in your own search for ‘clarity’……

    1) You express that you are writing this for the sole purpose of ‘clarification’ to cut through the many talking heads – yet you admit you have read only part of the document and the grand extent of your ‘clarity’ comes from your own ‘cut and paste’ methodology as imposed as a measure of ‘fact’. You omit all mention of the decades of study and legal challenges. In fact, you’ve omitted some fairly important information throughout the entire post.

    2) In re: the public lands give-away….. “Again, without being familiar with these particular areas, it is hard to know why these two were chosen. As for the oil and gas report within five years, this could go either way. I don’t have too much heartburn over it, except, for the fact that the BLM or USFS now must fund such work, whether they found it to be a high priority or not.” Your lack of ‘heartburn’ over potential resource extraction does not protection or ‘clarity’ make…..but it does make a rather blatant opinion.

    3) In re: The Northern Cheyenne and Great Northern Properties exchange “Without knowing the back story or the sentiment of the tribe through this process, it seems hardly fair to comment.”……..<<Unfortunatley, that doesn't stop you from stating your own biased interpretation for purposes of 'clarity'………… "However, there are sections that lead a reader to believe that this was to some extent worked out with the tribe’s participation." This from a single phrase in the document which eludes to 'a request' from 'the Tribe' <<<< I'd call that a pretty biased & uninformed interpretation.

    2) You imply that continuation of expiring permits (so that they can operate in the interim w/out due process) is basically a non-sequiter & does no harm (mighty big assumption here & given it follows a 'no holds-barred' decade of grazing – I'd call your 'clarity' a big falsehood by omission of fact (given a complete disregard for the known phenomenon of destroyed ecology that comes from grazing -).

    3) You then express your great disenchantment with the regulatory process & the fact that it is overly burdensome for 'little or no reason' (thereby, imposing a fairly grand bias for a process that is designed to protect wilderness & public lands). You contradict yourself by stating that renewal of leases or granting of categorical exclusion is included…of course, 'ONLY IF' they pass the muster of those pesky regulations & investigations).

    4) You then move on to discrediting others for their (more educated) interpretations. In fact, you are "100%" sure that their interpretations are "100% false". Unfortunately, I think your ad hominem attacks speaks for themselves…. (and not as a measure of fact)

    In the future, please be honest about your intentions and write an 'opinion' piece.

    • Patti, most of what is posted in this place is an opinion piece. I think Alayna’s was well written and informative, and hopefully most of us are intelligent and energetic enough to decide how much we agree with. Calling a statement “100% false” actually wasn’t an ad hominem attack, though much of what you’ve written here does qualify as that. It would be great to have a post elaborating your (presumably different) interpretations of this bill, that’s what NCFP hopefully is all about. -GK

      • I honestly don’t think you are actually interested in me repeating the many rebuttals to her interpretations. You seem to feel a need to defend her from my critique of her post – to the point of labeling my criticism of her methodology as an ad hominem attack. If questioning someones reasoning is ad hominem, then I can live with that. I have a big issue with the massive volume of mis-information & omissions of facts being spread about to peddle this mess of legislation (among others). More importantly, when it is being done in the guise of wilderness protection.

        I specifically called out Ms. Dupont on representing herself as a (fact-filled) clarifying voice in a sea of talking heads. . Had she begun her post as ‘opinion based on a perusal of documentation’…I would never have responded (I’ve read more compelling arguments). Her words: “So, let me be clear, I am not here to write an opinion on whether this rider should pass or not. What I am here to contribute is a clarification on some of the pervasive opinions that are out there regarding just a few of the issues that I do know about.”

        You also have issue & a different interpretation of what I feel was indeed an ad hominem attack on those she specifically named.

        In my interpretation, ‘100% false’ implies ignorance or (deliberate?) misrepresentation – in other words, she attempts to discredit their expertise. I think her intentions are apparent in these words: “He knows more about this subject than nearly everyone in the country. However, my point here is that statements like the one above, when excerpted without a larger story, obfuscate the truth and mislead readers. Without a broader context (and there nearly always is one), they amount to nothing more than hype.” Well, she was the one to take their words out of the broader context….& then she accuses them of her own misgivings.

        I’ve enjoyed reading many posts on this blog – including many I don’t agree with. From now on, I sincerely hope you challenge one another on your reasoning & methodology…in the formation of those opinions. Otherwise, your integrity may be in jeapordy.

        • “I honestly don’t think you are actually interested in me repeating the many rebuttals to her interpretations.

          Actually, that is what I would be most interested in, others might be too. Threads that devolve into “yes it is”/”no it isn’t” just aren’t all that useful. I’m not defending Alayna, I don’t know much about her, nor about you, and really don’t know whom I might be more philosophically aligned with. One thought, if you click on my name in any of my posts, it will let you know who I am and where I’m coming from. Several other participants do that too, though I realize that some folks need to remain anonymous for professional reasons (e.g. some fed employees), and I understand that. But if you (and Alayna) could do that, it might provide more context to your posts. Best, -GK

          • FWIW: I didn’t think Patti C’s comments crossed any line, especially in the context of what Alayna wrote and how she framed some things….and also in the context of what Alayna largely decided to leave out, or gloss over, in her analysis, which just happened to be some of the most egregious provisions within the 450 pages of public lands riders.

            Also, FWIW RE: “Yes it is” / “no it isn’t”

            I ran Alayna’s piece by a number of public lands, wilderness and grazing policy experts (at groups such as Wilderness Watch, WildEarth Guardians and Advocates for the West) and it was their expert opinion that Alayna is incorrect with her attempted correction of what the RMFHA language means for grazing, and what the Grazing “Improvement” Act means for public lands grazing in general.

            For example, the language of the RMFHA clearly states, “The Secretary SHALL
            permit grazing within the Conservation Management Area, if established on the date of enactment of this Act”

            Regarding the Grazing Improvement Act, one public lands grazing policy expert looked at what Alayna said above and told me, “its nonsense – and the author misses the point about automatic renewal.”

            Before Alayna published her piece her she sent me a copy and I informed her that, according to Steve Holmer, his statement at The Wildlife News had a typo and he meant to say “permit” not “Allotment” and that Steve fixed this mistake, but too late for The Wildlife News article. Again, Alayna knew this before she published the article here, but that fact didn’t stop her from printing, “This is 100% false. We are talking permits, not allotments.”

            Ironically, Alayna is Facebook friends with one my good friends…and even more ironically, just a few weeks ago that friend and I were hunting on inventoried roadless areas on the Rocky Mountain Front that would now be part of the Rocky Mountain Front Conservation Management Area, but that didn’t receive any protection as Wilderness. The public lands grazing damage on these specific roadless lands is pretty remarkable and something I’ve been watching get worse for the past decade. So knowing that “The Secretary SHALL permit grazing within the Conservation Management Area, if established on the date of enactment of this Act” in this roadless area really doesn’t do much for me in terms of protecting it. By that’s my opinion.

            Anyway, on Facebook Alayna wrote this comment in response to my original article:

            “I find it incredibly irritating to read articles written by people who clearly didn’t read the bill, understand nothing of politics, and are so obviously disconnected from any of the real challenges faced by our public land managers….sadly most of the politicians will only read what parts they contribute or hear it from their staffers. I suppose I hold commentators to higher standard (this is sad, really). Having been a public land manager, it is easy to see how readily people take one side and run.”

            Let’s also not forget that Alayna’s first comment on this blog was this: “Maybe I am the only one fact checking your rants, but, did you read the bill? You sure lose credibility when you say that the rider is 1,600 pages.”

            So again, in context of all this I don’t feel Patti C crossed any line. Fact is, I welcome her input and new energy on the blog just like I welcome Alayna’s. I do, however, find it odd (and yes, sad, really) that someone actually holds commentators to higher standards that our elected politicians when it comes to what’s actually in 450 pages of public lands riders that these elected politicians (not commentators) cast votes for.

            Finally, regarding Andy’s statement that “Each of the public land pieces was vetted with committee hearings and mark-ups in either the House or Senate and, in many cases, both”….That’s entirely not true, at least in terms of the secret, last second Montana giveaways that Tester and Daines agreed to.

            Fact is, there were zero public meetings, zero public notice or opportunities for the public to comment regarding the outright release – and potential release following the oil and gas development study – for those four Wilderness Study Areas in Montana, two of them near Otter Creek and two of them near the Charles Russell National Wildlife Refuge.

        • Hi Patti, thanks for taking time to read my article and respond. It is more fun to discuss these issues than simply write about them. I am sorry you found my research to be “narrow, shallowly researched & biased”. That finding on your part is likely as a result of my efforts to condense what is a lot of information into something readable here. Here are a few quick responses:

          1)Heartburn over oil and gas – There are so many things to have heartburn over, this one is low on my list. This is a mandate that within five years, the report will be conducted. So, at this point, that means only that. I will worry about the future of those WSAs once the report is completed.

          2) Biased and uninformed opinion Great Northern mineral exchange – I tried to make it clear I don’t know enough to have a biased opinion and likely neither does anyone else. Where is a report from the tribe? What is the history of that mineral ownership? What do the ecological reports look like for the area? What is the likelihood of and timeframe for mineral development? What does this mean for the economy in the area? Without filling in the full picture, I have no opinion and was simply sharing what the bill says itself. The reason I commented on it at all was to illuminate the complexity of such a topic and to point readers to their own more in-depth research should they choose to formulate an opinion.

          3) Grazing, not enough info – You are very right, this is a much bigger story. It really should have an article all to itself. Unfortunately, with my own day job, I couldn’t do that. In this forum, I was speaking out against the rhetoric that this change guarantees further destruction of grazing ground and will certainly lead to the listing of the greater sage grouse. My piece addresses what is written in the bill. What agencies do or do not do with that language is another story. A nice report of case law and place based history would help here both of which I do not have the time to contribute.

          4) I don’t follow your concern in #3.

          5) My “ad hominen” attacks – Ad hominen means:
          1. appealing to one’s prejudices, emotions, or special interests rather than to one’s intellect or reason.
          2. attacking an opponent’s character rather than answering his argument.
          I agree with GK here, calling something 100% false is neither of these. It also does not imply ignorance. I included Mr. Tucci’s qualifications to explain his lack of ignorance on the subject. The point with these statements is that they are incorrect and misleading, no matter what opinion of the matter you have.

          I think we agree, it is frustrating that so much misinformation is out there to “peddle this legislation”. It sounds like you disapprove of my “methodology” of explaining the bill verbatim. I chose this methodology because what I had read on the topic was based on opinions rather than the bill itself. I chose this approach, again as GK pointed out, so that readers could then view such information through their own filter.

          • Hi Matthew, I am curious who these experts are and where their expert opinions are for us to view on this topic? If they share, with facts to support it, I would look forward to hearing it.

            As for grazing here is the verbatim language from the bill, found on p. 1385-1386.
            (iii) GRAZING.—The Secretary shall permit grazing within the Conservation Management Area, if established on the date of enactment of this Act—
            (I) subject to—
            (aa) such reasonable regulations, policies, and practices as the Secretary determines appropriate; and
            (bb) all applicable laws; and
            (II) in a manner consistent with—
            (aa) the purposes described in paragraph (2); and
            (bb) the guidelines set forth in the report of the Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs of the House of Representatives accompanying H.R. 5487 of the 96th Congress (H. Rept. 96–19 617).
            So, while it does say “shall” it does not say that the grazing then will persist in perpetuity. It literally means that they will not pull the rug out from current users.

            Did your “grazing expert” elaborate on what they deem the “point of automatic renewals” to be? I updated the article after you saw it to include the most recent case law. Beyond that, as I said to Patti, I do not have the time to hash out the nitty gritty here. It is well imbedded in case law and localized management decisions.

            Again, the whole point is that when smart people make misleading comments, it makes it difficult for media consumers to tease out truth from opinion. Whether or not Steve Holmer made a typo or a mistake, it isn’t amended where viewers can see. Either way, the rest of his statement was also incorrect. I didn’t choose these two quotes to make the individuals feel bad, but rather to illuminate a larger issue of misleading statements from credible sources. My concern is that media commentators base their writing on the writing and opinions of others rather than researching and referencing direct sources. Case in point, the political offices sent a briefing paper out that was incorrect. Rather than fact checking the briefing paper, others regurgitate it as is and the incorrect information trickles down.

            Matthew, we have talked about this. My FB post was a general comment directed at yourself AND others who wrote pieces that included a scant amount of real information. I clarified this in public on the post per your request. I stand by that comment, if not by it’s tone.

            I hold commentators to a higher standard to complete proper research so as to not perpetuate misinformation and mislead their loyal readers. We all know politicians have an agenda and are often fed information by staffers. Of course I have a different standard for how I view information from them.

          • Hi Alayna,

            I chose to read your article specifically to gain perspective on why the policy might have value – I was hoping for substance. You’ve expressed you didn’t have full information on much of what you opined on, didn’t have the time or inclination for a deeper review – yet you chose to represent your opinions as informed & even factual – and you (deliberately or not) omitted a great deal.

            As is likely evident by now, I don’t agree with the context of your reasoning or with your interpretation of the opinions found within the broader community. Simply reading/quoting passages of the policy and ignoring their broader implications isn’t substantive (especially given the political climate & push for environmental degradation).

            In terms of the content, I felt it lacked merit – for reasons already described. I could write a rebuttal for each provision & express my opinions – but I don’t claim to be a policy wonk & there are enough talking heads out there. There are other more knowledgable sources whom I trust to do a better job of keeping the clarity. I came here to learn something.

            Ad Hominem – your words:

            “However, my point here is that statements like the one above, when excerpted without a larger story, obfuscate the truth and mislead readers. Without a broader context (and there nearly always is one), they amount to nothing more than hype.”

            Note the words “Obfuscate, Mislead, Hype”….these proclaim intent. In your context, they are used to discredit the originator (statement maker) – not the argument. You also extract statements per each individual…taking them out of a broader context (and apparently, in lieu of any corrections). You then use this lack of context to discredit the originator (statement) – not the broader arguments. I won’t even touch the ‘100%’ language. If you don’t agree that it is inappropriate – then I feel you are being disingenuous. If nothing more, it is pure hyperbole.

            Perhaps we can agree that this new legislation was not properly vetted nor did it see the proper public scrutiny. Much of what is within the policy never would stand on its own (as is evident by historical rejection).

            Between the NDAA and the Cromnibus & the expected continued evisceration of the EPA and any other protective environmental policy or agency, I wouldn’t hold my breath on using Greater Sage Grouse protections as a means to keep grazing under control (you implied leases wouldn’t be renewed or granted).

            As an aside, the label of bipartisan support is meaningless – as is the 2-party facade. It lost any significance long ago when politicians stopped representing their constituents and instead went with the highest bidder & whatever would get them re-elected. New ‘money buys policy’ legislation will ensure that it stays that way.

            I have read many other posts on this blog & have come away feeling a broader depth of knowledge. I hope to continue to read a more fine-tuned version of yours.

  4. Of course, one has to consider ALL the riders included in this to determine which sides “wins”. It could be that BOTH sides win in such situations, getting things done when Congress is paralyzed. I’m also convinced that the Democrats are willing to do a lot more now, rather than waiting for the new Congress after the first of the year. I’m also still convinced that we need term limits, too. Two terms for Senators and three terms for Representatives. Just say NO to career politicians!

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