Thanks to Matthew for sharing this letter that some environmental organizations sent to the President in his first term: RE: 100-Day Priorities for Department of Agriculture Forest Service, Department of Interior Bureau of Land Management, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
It would be interesting to compare this with other letters sent by other environmental organizations last term, and with all of them this term, to be able to understand more about where the different organizations see issues and opportunities. Here’s the link to the letter.
First, they say they represent “grassroots citizen activists.” I think that’s true, but only a subset of grassroots citizen activists. People familiar with FS litigation will recognize many familiar names. Now Andy said in his comment here that “If I were the Forest Service, I’d pick up the phone and start talking with these groups. ” Of course, the FS is talking to them all the time, as is OGC and DOJ. I don’t know why those groups’ opinions should count more than other environmental groups (say, TRCP, TWS, TNC, Sierra Club). Other than the threat of litigation.. which I don’t think is a fair reason for some groups to have more power than others. That’s why I like FACA committees so much.. there’s less “behind the scenes dealing” and more upfront discussions.
If there were a FACA committee, these groups would have to explain to other interests exactly what they mean and have their points of view discussed and debated. Lacking that, though, we can attempt to do it here.
Here’s one of the first sentences:
1) Often federal land and resource management agencies operate under conflicting policy mandates, with timber, mining, motorized recreation, and grazing allowed to exploit resources at both the environment’s and taxpayer’s expense.
Hmm. Who is on this list and who is not?
First, I think the US Treasury comes out ahead in oil and gas receipts (I could look up coal and other mining also.. but). Here’s something from a GAO report…
The Department of the Interior’s (Interior) Minerals Management Service (MMS) collected the equivalent of over $9 billion in oil and gas royalties in fiscal year 2007, more than $5 billion of which it deposited in the U.S. Treasury; it dispersed the remaining approximately $4 billion to other federal, state, and tribal accounts. These royalties–payments made to the federal government for the right to produce oil and gas from federal lands and waters–represent one of the country’s largest nontax sources of revenue. Here’s the link.
Now I know that many people with forest backgrounds are not familiar with minerals. But this seems like a fairly sizeable chunk of change. Which is one reason I brought it up on the blog.
So is it accurate to say that this occurs “at the taxpayer’s expense?”. That’s not even counting the jobs and tax revenue that wouldn’t exist but for the development of those leases.
Now ski areas, which have been litigated based on their impacts to the environment, are not on the list. Maybe this is because they are “above cost”?
Here’s a press release about this:
This has contributed $4 billion every winter and created approximately 80,000 full-, part-time and seasonal jobs in hard-hit rural communities. Under the new legislation, the Forest Service anticipates roughly 600,000 more summertime visits that may create and sustain up to 600 more full-, part-time and seasonal jobs. The addition of summer recreation is expected to infuse almost $40 million of direct funding into local mountain communities.
It’s actually not clear if this is $4 billion back to the Treasury or not. Maybe someone on the blog knows.
Motorized recreation is on the list, non-motorized not. We have seen a great many impacts to the environment from non-motorized overuse (trash, trampling, waste, dogs chasing wildlife, etc.). Taxpayers in NYC are paying to fund this environmental damage by people. We could argue that more environmental damage is caused by motorized recreation, but much motorized recreation is people driving around the forest and not getting out but looking at the scenery.
If “motorized recreation” in this sense is OHVs and snowmobiles, can we draw a line and say that all other recreation is “non-exploitive”? Are 50 people trampling and littering by a stream less “exploitative” than an OHV that stays on the trail?
It’s actually hard for me to think of any use that doesn’t “exploit” the environment and cost the taxpayer something. Except for concessionaire campgrounds.. still “exploits” the environment but doesn’t cost the taypayer ;).
Gee, that was only one sentence, but it did lead us up some interesting twists and turns. That’s probably enough for the first post on this letter.