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WLP News No 23

WLP News No 23

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Published by: CCWebClients on Feb 24, 2011
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Western LandsUpdate
Western Lands Project Seattle, Washington
Spring 2008     Research, Outreach, and Advocacy to Keep Public Lands Public Vol. 12, No. 1
R
epresentative Rick Renzi, (R-AZ) has brought media attention to Congressional land tradesin the last several monthsexposing his ownshady approach to our public lands and at least temporarily undermining a major land swapproposal in his state.Renzi represents the vast 1st District o Arizona andwas until last year a member o the House NaturalResources Committee, which oversees public lands.In a 35-count indictment handed down in February,ederal prosecutors allege Renzi promised support or land deals in exchange or a avor to his businesspartner. He and partner James Sandlin had ownedproperty together and Sandlin was buying out Renzi’sshare. To help his riend and himsel, Renzi tried tocompel two dierent groups planning land swaps tomake Sandlin’s property part o their trade proposals.One was Resolution Copper, which has been attempt-ing to get a land exchange bill through Congresssince 2005. The company wants to exploit what isbelieved to be “one o the largest deposits o copperore ever discovered in North America,” but it liesbeneath Oak Flats, Tonto National Forest land spe-cially protected by a 50-year-old Executive Order. Res-olution has bought several pieces o private land totrade to the public in exchange or Oak Flats. Renziapparently told the mining company that he wouldnot push its land swap unless the company purchasedSandlin’s property or $4 million. The company’sexecutives, eventually aware o the Renzi-Sandlin rela-tionship, did not comply because they elt “uncom-ortable.”
Arizona congressman indicted in connection with land deals
Renzi then oered support, with the same condition,or another land trade proposal. Preserve PetrifedForest Land Investors LLC, which includes ormerInterior Secretary and Arizona Governor Bruce Bab-bitt, was putting together a land trade that wouldbring 15,000 acres it had optioned within the Petri-fed Forest National Park into public ownership.(Some readers may recall that Babbitt greatly honedhis land-dealing skills when he was running Interior).The group had already identifed the public landit wanted to acquire. Renzi told them he’d support legislation or the deal, but only i they bought theSandlin property and added it to what they would betrading to the public. While apparently suspiciouswhen Renzi demanded outright purchase rather thanoptioning, the group purchased the Sandlin tract or$4.6 million. More than $700,000 o that allegedly went to Renzi, laundered through a amily business.Renzi came under grand jury investigation in early 2007 and at that time resigned rom his NaturalResources Committee post. He was indicted twomonths ago, reused to resign, but has said he will not run again.Meanwhile, the Resolution Copper deal, already con-troversial (and an awul proposal) has taken on someo the taint o Renzi’s maneuverings and has stalledin the current Congress. And the Petrifed investorgang now holds a 480-acre alala feld that used tobelong to Sandlin and Renzi. Few bad land deals everreally go away, so it is probable that the Resolutionland swap will be resuscitated. Nor would it be all that surprising i someone in Congress decided to intro-duce legislation that would bring that alala feld intopublic ownership and make Bruce Babbitt “whole.”You just never know.
 
Land swap proposed in Alaska’sYukon Flats NWR
I
n late January the US Fish & WildlieService released the Drat EnvironmentalImpact Statement or the Yukon FlatsLand Exchange. In 2004, the agency and Doyon, a native regional corporation,reached an initial agreement to exchange110,000 acres within the Yukon FlatsNational Wildlie Reuge, plus subsuracerights to another 95,000 acres within thereuge, or about 150,000 acres o Doyonland within the Reuge boundary. Doyonseeks the trade in order to drill or oil andgas on lands it already owns in the reugeand the lands and subsurace it wouldacquire via this trade.It is not clear how USFWS believes thepublic would beneft. Although we wouldgain more surace ownership within theReuge, the EIS does not state whether –
Your land Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest, Montana 
God bless America.Let’s save some of it.
Ed Abbey,1927-1989 
ater oil and gas development, including aspur pipeline across the reuge–we wouldrealize a net gain in protected wildliehabitat. Currently, both the ederal andthe Doyon lands within the reuge areundeveloped and provide habitat or ducks(the highest density o breeding ducks inAlaska), other migratory birds, salmon, andother fsh and wildlie. The Doyon landsoered or trade do not ace impendingdevelopment, so the project could in act reduce protected habitatto say nothing o the litany o other environmental problemsresulting rom oil and gas drilling in theArctic.The next 30-day public comment periodwill open ater USFWS publishes the FinalEIS, sometime this summer.
Western Lands Update           2   Spring 2008
 
Please visit our website,westernlands.org. Whileyou’re there, sign up orour e-newsletter. We won’t bombard you!instead,you’ll receive timely trans-missions on issues we allcare about.
Colorado exchange halted by court 
I
n May o last year the Federal District Court o Colorado ruled that the Forest Service could not proceed with the RioOxbow land exchange, a proposed tradeo almost 470 acres o land on the RioGrande National Forest. The Forest Serviceand an intervenor initially appealed that decision, but withdrew their appeals inMarch o this year.The district court held that the Forest Ser-vice violated NEPA in issuing a fnding that the loss o several o the ederal parcels inthe trade would not have a signifcant envi-ronmental impact. The court ruled that the agency understated or ignored impactsto an extremely rare geologic ormationound on one o the ederal parcels. Theagency had noted in its analysis that the pri-vate proponent was oering to give proes-sional geologists limited access to the area(called the Creede Formation), under cer-tain conditions. The court also determinedthat trading another parcel with the only public rontage on a 10-mile stretch o the
Your land Muddy River near Logandale, NV 
Rio Grande would have a signifcant impact on the public’s enjoyment o the river, andthat residential development resulting romthe trade would signifcantly impact thescenic value o the Silver Thread ScenicByway.The court was most troubled that theForest Service had apparently predeter-mined its fnding o no signifcant impact and decision to approve the exchange.The administrative record showed that anagency ofcial wanted to avoid compilinga ull environmental impact statement andthus understated the scenic impacts o theproject. Emails revealed that the agency rushed the analysis and decision in order tocomplete the exchange beore the apprais-als expired. The Forest Service says it isnot currently planning to revive the proj-ect with the improved analysis that wouldrequire.
Western Lands Update           3   Spring 2008

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