The U.S. Forest Service recently proposed red tape that requires reporters to obtain permits to shoot photos or videos, even on an iPhone, in federally designated wilderness areas. If reporters don’t get the permit, they have to pay a fine.
U.S. Senators Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and John Barrasso, R-Wyo., today called for the immediate withdrawal of a misguided U.S. Forest Service rule, which would require permits and fees – potentially up to $1,500 – from reporters and bloggers who take photographs or videos in wilderness areas.
In a joint letter to U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, Wyden and Barrasso wrote that the proposed rule clearly violates the Constitution’s First Amendment protections for press freedom.
“The proposed directive is a direct violation of American First Amendment rights and likely unconstitutional,” the senators wrote. “This creates a serious litigation risk for the Forest Service, while providing no clear benefits for wilderness management.”
Furthermore, the creation of a potentially expensive and burdensome permitting process for those who wish to document the beauty of natural places runs directly counter to the spirit of the Wilderness Act. It is especially galling that the agency would propose these rules on the 50th anniversary of that landmark law.
“These lands are meant to be enjoyed by all Americans, not kept from them,” Wyden and Barrasso wrote. “The ability to photograph, experience and learn about these places should not be unduly restricted.”
Click Here to read the full letter to Secretary Vilsack.
This proposed rule makes it clear that the Forest Service believes wilderness is government land – not public land. Please let the Forest Service know what you think about this proposal by commenting here before November 3rd: http://1.usa.gov/1tYjzIK
Bipartisan Poll Finds Western Voters Oppose Transfer of America’s Forests and Public Lands to State Ownership
According to new public opinion research released today, a majority of voters in eight Western states oppose the idea that the management and costs of America’s national forests and other public lands should be transferred to state governments. The survey of 1,600 voters, conducted jointly by a bipartisan polling team of two leading national opinion research firms, Public Opinion Strategies and Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates, is the first in-depth analysis of Western voters’ views about state-level proposals to transfer U.S. public lands to state ownership.
Across the eight-state region, 59 percent of respondents agree that having state government assume full responsibility for managing U.S. public lands, including paying for all related costs, would not be fair to taxpayers in their state. These voters believe that transferring U.S. lands to state ownership would result in having to raise state taxes or sell off prized lands to cover expenses. Only 35 percent of respondents agreed with the arguments put forward by proponents of efforts to transfer U.S. lands to state control.
“In New Mexico, we have a deep connection to our public lands. They are part of our history, our culture, and our economy,” said Sen. Martin Heinrich (D). “These lands belong to all of us, and it is imperative that we keep it that way. Efforts to seize or sell off millions of acres of federal public lands throughout the West would bring a proliferation of closed gates and no trespassing signs in places that have been open and used for generations. These privatization schemes would devastate outdoor traditions such as hunting and fishing that are among the pillars of Western culture and a thriving outdoor recreation economy.”
“It’s no surprise that Montanans want to keep their public lands public,” said Sen. Jon Tester (D). “These places not only create lasting memories for our families, they are also huge economic drivers for our communities. We must keep these treasured places accessible for our kids and grandkids, and I will keep working to improve that access.”
In 2012, the State of Utah enacted a law calling for U.S. public lands to be transferred to the state of Utah. Similar proposals have been put forward or are in development in seven other Western states.
“The overwhelming majority of Westerners view the national forests and other public lands they use as American places that are a shared inheritance and a shared responsibility,” said David Metz, president of FM3 Research. “Rather than supporting land transfer proposals, voters say their top priorities are to ensure public lands are protected for future generations and that the rangers and land managers have the resources they need to do their jobs.”
The survey was conducted by phone between September 10 and September 14 and reached 1,600 voters; 200 voters in each of the states of Colorado, Idaho, Montana, New Mexico, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, and Wyoming. For a summary of state-specific results, click here.
“The idea of states taking over control and the costs for managing these lands is pretty divisive. Successful policy proposals usually start with far greater support,” said Lori Weigel, a partner at Public Opinion Strategies. “The first barrier this proposal seems to encounter is that while the federal government isn’t popular in these states, voters are far more positive about the role these specific agencies are playing.”
Although more Westerners disapprove than approve of the job the federal government is doing—at negative 41 percent approval —more Westerners approve than disapprove of the jobs that U.S. land management agencies are doing; the approval ratings for the Bureau of Land Management—14 percent—the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service—58 percent—the U.S. Forest Service—57 percent—and the National Park Service—60 percent—are all well higher than their disapproval ratings. What’s more, 94 percent of respondents’ said that their last visit to national public lands was a positive experience.
“This bipartisan research found that Americans believe we should be protecting parks and public lands for future generations, not selling them off to the highest bidder,” said Matt Lee-Ashley, a Senior Fellow and the Director of the Public Lands Project at the Center for American Progress. “It also shows that the politicians and special interests behind these land seizures schemes are well outside the mainstream in the West.”
For an analysis of the survey results, click here.
For a PowerPoint summary of the bipartisan research, click here.
For the survey results, click here.
State Efforts to ‘Reclaim’ Our Public Lands, by Jessica Goad and Tom Kenworthy
“Bundy’s Buddies” – Four-part series from the Center for American Progress Action Fund
Source: Center for American Progress
Agency Sage Grouse Review Puts Thumb on Scale to Magnify Wild Horse and Burro Effects
The method used by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management to assess range conditions is seriously skewed toward minimizing impacts from domestic livestock and magnifying those from wild horses and burros, according to an appraisal by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). As a result, the BLM’s approach to range management targets scattered wild horses and burros while ignoring far more numerous cattle. The agency’s assessment is part of a 2013 report on factors influencing conservation of the Greater Sage-Grouse, a ground-dwelling bird whose numbers have declined as much as 90% across the West and which is under consideration for protection under the Endangered Species Act. That report concludes that twice the area of sage grouse habitat is negatively impacted by wild horses and burros than the area negatively impacted by livestock. A PEER appraisal of the methodology found:
“At BLM apparently not all hooves are created equal,” said PEER’s Advocacy Director Kirsten Stade, noting that the LHS evaluations cover more than 20,000 grazing allotments and examine whether a grazing allotment meets the agency’s standards for rangeland health with respect to several vegetation and habitat conditions. “This helps explain why wild horses are regularly removed from the range but livestock numbers are rarely reduced.”
The BLM assessment influences not only the agency’s range management decisions but also will figure into the Fish and Wildlife Service’s decision on whether to list the sage grouse under the Endangered Species Act.
Last year in response to a complaint by PEER filed under agency Scientific Integrity policy, BLM claimed that it does not have enough “reliable data” about commercial livestock impacts to include them in current assessments of environmental conditions on Western range lands. Yet, BLM has more data on the grazing that it authorizes through permits than virtually every other topic.
“When it comes to cattle, BLM plays with a marked deck,” Stade added, pointing out the PEER analysis that will become part of PEER’s new grazing reform web center set to launch in several weeks. “We are posting BLM’s own data in a way that allows apples-to-apples comparisons while displaying satellite imagery that depicts the true livestock landscape impacts.”
Compare BLM claims to what their data reveal
The relative negative influence area of feral ungulates with respect to domestic livestock based on BLM’s spatial analysis approach (USGS OFR 2013-1098) are completely at odds with BLM’s own land health standards (LHS) evaluation causal data, used to inform BLM’s analysis. BLM concludes in OFR 2013-1098 that the negative area of influence of feral ungulates is twice that of domestic livestock, when the records show that only 3% of grazing-related failures of standards are attributed to wild horses and burros.