Western Lands Update • The Newsletter of the Western Lands Project • http://westernlands.

P.O. Box 95545
Seattle, WA 98145-2545
(206) 325-3503
Summer 2014
Volume 18, No. 1
In This Issue:
Continued on page 2
Republicans vs. Public
Building in Wilderness
Agency Land Deals
Harry Reid vs. Public Lands
Farm Bill Opens up Millions of
Acres to Fast-Track Logging
n February 7 of this year President Obama signed the Agri-
culture Reform, Food, and Jobs Act, also known as the Farm
Bill. As you may have noticed by its cyclic reappearances in
the national news, the Farm Bill is required to be rewritten and re-
authorized every five years. It is the government’s main policy tool
pertaining to agriculture, food safety, and nutritional programs.
With the Forest Service housed under the Department of Agricul-
ture, the Farm Bill frequently includes provisions that significantly
affect forest policy – certainly the case this year. One section of the
900-plus-page bill is a provision that could vastly accelerate logging on
some National Forests by allowing governors to nominate forest areas
in their states where insects, disease, and wildfire risk pose a need for
“treatment” – a euphemism for thinning or logging trees. The National
Association of State Foresters, lauding the program, estimates that
more than 45 million acres of National Forest could be affected.
There are three issues connected with this measure that we find
particularly disturbing.
1: The “treatment” proposed to confront fire, disease and, insects
could greatly worsen the health of our forests. Without a doubt, allow-
ing the construction of homes and communities right up to the edge
of forest land has led to terrifying conflicts between us and the natural
fire regime, and beetle-infested “red trees” offend our sense of what
a forest should look like. But as ecologist George Wuerthner wrote

New ecological insights now support the idea that insects, disease and
wildfire rejuvenate forest ecosystems. These processes are critical to
recycling nutrients, creating wildlife habitat (snags), and providing
2 Western Lands Update Summer 2014 Vol. 18 # 1
Farm Bill…
From page 1
important structural components (down
wood) to the forest. Indeed, a healthy forest
is one that has these ecological processes
intact. For example, the second highest bio-
diversity found in forest ecosystems occurs
after large stand replacement wildfires. And
dead trees are one of the most important
components contributing to fish habitat in
small to medium size streams.
While no one would advocate let-
ting fires burn through communities, the
pre-emptive approach of taking down the
forest before the bugs and fires do is really
about ramping up logging, and in the long
run may further compromise forest health.
2: The areas to be nominated for logging
or thinning can be as large as 3,000 contig-
uous acres (almost five square miles), and
their selection and “treatment” are exempt
from the National Environmental Policy
Act. This means no consideration of public
input, no environmental analysis, and no
citizen right to appeal a decision.
3: Some in the conservation sector have
wholeheartedly endorsed the Farm Bill’s
logging provisions, and actively partici-
pated in selecting the areas. Jamie Williams,
Executive Director of the Wilderness
Society, stated that his group “is committed
to seeing these provisions effectively imple-
mented on the ground.” In Montana, Trout
Unlimited and the Greater Yellowstone Co-
alition participated in closed meetings with
the Governor’s staff and logging interests
to identify 5.1 million acres to be “treated.”
The timber industry has been fairly quiet
about the proposal in public, but they have
to feel good about conservation groups
embracing this “restoration” program.
Idaho Governor Butch Otter has nomi-
nated 1.8 million acres for the program,
and Oregon Governor Kitzhaber, 5.7 mil-
lion. Washington Governor Inslee has said
that he will consult with “stakeholders” to
identify areas. Concerned citizens should
contact their governor’s office and inquire
about national forest lands they may have
nominated. Tell your governor you do not
want “treatment” that will further upset
forest ecosystems and without analysis or
public process.
Contact your state’s Governor ofce here:
President Obama signing
the Farm Bill.
Photo: The White House
Western Lands Update Summer 2014 Vol. 18 # 1 3
ith almost ritualistic zeal,
the House Republicans, par-
ticularly those hailing from the
West, love to introduce bills that parade
their contempt for public land. Because
sweeping measures to sell off federal land
consistently meet with loud opposition
from the public, these proposals don’t
amount to much more than shaking their
fists – (“Damn you, public land!”) – but
it is notable that they devote such effort
catering to a tiny constituency of anti-
public-land zealots.
Rep. Mark Amodei (R-NV) is spon-
sor of the clumsily-named Small Lands
Tracts Conveyance Act, allowing any-
one who owns land next to federal land to
buy up to 160 acres per year of adjacent
public land (year after year!). The eligi-
bility criteria in the bill are vague – e.g.,
excluding lands containing “exceptional
resources” – and the land management
agency would have to respond as to eligi-
bility within 30 days. The National Envi-
ronmental Policy Act (NEPA) would be
waived and thus there would be no envi-
ronmental analysis or public involvement.
The Federal Land Management & Policy
Act (FLPMA) would also be bypassed,
setting aside all of the normal reviews
and procedures that apply to disposal of
federal land.
The applicant would be required to pay
fair market value for the land, but based
on an appraisal he or she would provide,
rather than one based on federal appraisal
standards. A final flourish in the bill is the
disposition of the proceeds from sale of the
land: rather than going to the US Treasury,
as occurs with most federal lands sales, 50
percent of the proceeds would go to the
state in which the land is located, and 50
percent “shall be distributed annually to
those States in which the Federal Govern-
ment owns more than 33 percent of the
land area of that State.” In turn, the pro-
ceeds are to be used by the states only to
purchase yet more federal land.
Rob Bishop (R-UT) has introduced
The Land Disposal Transparency and
Efciency Act, which would freeze all
land acquisition by the Bureau of Land
Management, by exchange, donation,
or any means, until the BLM creates an
online database of public land potentially
available for disposal. Bishop wants what
amounts to a multiple-listing service for
federal lands, not taking into account the
vetting processes, environmental analyses,
and public involvement that must precede
any sale of public land.
The State-Run Federal Lands Act
from Rep. Don Young (R-AK) would
allow states to petition the Interior and
Agriculture departments for state man-
agement authority over National Parks,
Refuges, vast BLM lands, and National
Forests. Rep. Young, the sole member of
the House for Alaska for 40 years, has
been an inveterate land-dealer, pushing
federal land exchanges and conveyances
that benefit his constituents.
Rep. Rob Bishop wants what amounts to a
multiple-listing service for federal lands, not
taking into account the vetting processes,
environmental analyses, and public
involvement that must precede any sale of
public land.
News flash: House Republicans
still don’t like public land
4 Western Lands Update Summer 2014 Vol. 18 # 1
Congress nullifies court decision on
rebuilt structure in Wilderness
ongress managed to take anoth-
er big chunk out of the integrity of
the Wilderness Act upon passing
the Green Mountain Lookout Heritage
Protection Act, signed by the President in
mid-April of this year. The bill concerned
a fire lookout originally built in 1933 in
what is now the Glacier Peak Wilderness
in Washington State.
In 2009, the Forest Service recon-
structed the dilapidated lookout in viola-
tion of the Wilderness Act, which forbids
new construction in Wilderness. Moreover,
the agency did so using helicopters – also
forbidden – to take away the old building
and bring in the new parts, and completely
circumvented the National Environmental
Policy Act (NEPA) by failing to inform
the public or perform any environmental
analysis. Our colleagues at Wilderness
Watch, a Missoula-based organization
that works to protect already-designated
Wilderness, challenged the Forest Service’s
violations in Federal District Court and
gained a ruling that upheld all of their
contentions. The judge ordered the Forest
Service to remove the lookout.
The nearby Darrington Historical
Society led the call to keep the lookout in
place, touting its historicity – although, as
Wilderness Watch explained, “The…build-
ing was [given] an entirely new foundation
and support structure, new posts, beams,
joists, studs, catwalk, railing, rafters, and
roof. By the 1980s, the Forest Service
itself rejected nominating the lookout for
national historic register listing due to it
having received so many modifications
over the years.”
The Wilderness Society, once staunch
protectors of Wilderness integrity, came
down on the side of saving the structure.
The Green Mountain lookout during reconstruction. Photo: Wilderness Watch
continued on page 7
Western Lands Update Summer 2014 Vol. 18 # 1 5
A few of the agency land deals
on our watch list
Thompson Creek Mining Company is
proposing a land trade with the Bureau
of Land Management in which TCMC
would trade an 800-acre ranch on the
Salmon River in Custer County and an 80-
acre parcel outside of Pocatello for more
than 5,000 acres of public land in Custer
County adjacent to the corporation’s exist-
ing molybdenum mine. (Molybdenum is
used to harden steel and is found in many
alloys). If approved, the land trade (and
TCMC’s ownership of the land) would
allow the company to mine under state
regulations, rather than the stricter federal
rules that currently apply to their claims.
The exchange has generated some contro-
versy among Custer County residents, not
because of the mining but because it would
result in the loss of agricultural lands.
We are reviewing the sale of seven parcels
of BLM-managed land in Washington
County, Utah. These sales are authorized
under a section of the 2009 Omnibus
public lands bill. The original proposal by
then-Senator Bob Bennett (R-UT) was
to sell off almost 25,000 acres of acres of
public land in that county for housing de-
velopment, with no environmental review,
and with proceeds of the sales staying
in the state – modeled on Senator Harry
Reid’s Las Vegas slush fund (see “Reid be-
ing Reid,” page 6). Thanks to then-Senator
Jeff Bingaman, Chair of the Senate com-
mittee overseeing public lands, Bennett’s
bill was gutted. The land sales authorized
by the omnibus bill must meet all of the
usual agency requirements for environ-
continued on page 9
Palm Canyon, the site of a complex proposed land exchange in Southern California involving the
Agua Caliente Cahuilla Indians and the Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains National Monument.
Photo: Chris Clarke
6 Western Lands Update Summer 2014 Vol. 18 # 1
In the Senate: Reid being Reid
hile Republicans are (mostly
correctly) portrayed as en-
emies of public land, no one has
done more to divest us of public land than
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Dem-
ocrat of Nevada. Reid has been the master
of what we call quid pro quo wilderness
– legislation that combines selling off and/
or giving away public land in one area with
designation of new Wilderness in another.
Through these bills, he has facilitated the
privatization of thousands of acres of
public land in the Las Vegas Valley, and
the Wilderness provisions have bought
the compliance of national environmen-
tal organizations. The bills also created a
special fund whereby all money from the
land sales would stay within Nevada, with
the Bureau of Land Management keep-
ing 85 percent and the rest going to local
government entities. The BLM’s share is
doled out for projects such as local parks,
capital improvements at federal facilities in
the state, and even sidewalks referred to as
“urban trails.” Since 2000, spending in the
Parks, Trails, and Natural Areas category
has totaled $ 1.1 billion (that’s billion). In
one legislative iteration after another, Reid
has milked federal land sales to benefit
Reid’s latest bill is the Las Vegas Valley
Public Land and Tule Springs Fossil Beds
National Monument Act, designating a
new national monument at Tule Springs,
an area in the north Las Vegas Valley that
is extraordinarily rich in ice-age fossils.
The treasures of Tule Springs were first
proposed for protection by citizens back
in 2007. The area was within the public
land “disposal area” delineated in a land
bill Reid got through in 2002 and was
destined to be sold off for development.
But a movement grew to preserve the fossil
site, and it was bolstered by support from
Nellis Air Force Base, which did not want
development in the flight corridor used by
jets with live ordnance.
True to form, Reid has taken up the
cause of preserving the site and tacked on
a few land sales and conveyances. In ad-
dition to protecting some 22,000 acres at
Tule Springs, Reid’s bill would give away
more than 2,000 acres to three Nevada
colleges; 2,300 acres to be used for flood
detention for an airport yet to be built and
on habitat of a rare desert plant proposed
for protection under the Endangered Spe-
cies Act; 1,200 acres to Clark County for
an off-road vehicle park; more land to ex-
pand a police shooting range; and 660 acres
and 645 acres, respectively, to Las Vegas
and North Las Vegas for “job creation
zones.” The two cities would sell the land
competitively, with proceeds going to the
aforementioned special fund.
Somewhere around $3 billion has
passed through the Las Vegas BLM office
A fossil at the proposed Tule Springs National Monument.
Photo: U.S. Air Force
Western Lands Update Summer 2014 Vol. 18 # 1 7
Meeting its duty under the court ruling,
the Forest Service initiated a NEPA pro-
cess for disposition of the lookout, pro-
posing to put together a full environmental
impact statement rather than the environ-
mental assessment that would likely be
adequate. Many saw this as a move to up
the ante on the cost of complying with
the court. The Darrington contingent was
already asking members of Congress to
step in. Western Lands Project and Wilder-
ness Watch met with Senator Patty Mur-
ray’s Seattle staff to outline the implica-
tions for Wilderness of allowing this new
structure to stay. We found, as often is the
case, that the Senator’s interest in uphold-
ing the Wilderness Act was solid up to
the point where it inconvenienced people.
Murray and Rep. Susan DelBene (D-WA)
both sponsored bills that amended the
Washington Wilderness Act of 1984 to
grandfather the new structure into the
Despite substantial opposition, the bill
seemed likely to pass. Then, following the
appalling March 22 landslide that killed
dozens in the Oso/Darrington community,
saving the lookout was tied to healing the
towns’ wounds, and the bill was rushed
through both the House and Senate.
The bill says the Forest Service may
not move the lookout unless it finds it is
necessary in order to “preserve the Look-
out or to ensure the safety of individuals
on or around Green Mountain.” Which
is, of course, unlikely, given the brand-
spanking-new parts that make up this
“historic” structure.
from the land disposals and stayed within
the state, whereas most federal land sales
send money directly to the US Treasury.
The GW Bush Administration tried twice
to divert the money to the Treasury, but
Reid and the Nevada delegation managed
to protect the fund. Now, the Tule Springs
bill is being held up in the House by Rep.
Rob Bishop (R-UT), who considers the
sale proceeds an “earmark,” forbidden
under House rules.
While it is satisfying to see Reid’s
legislation stalled, it is chilling to contem-
plate what sort of deal he might make with
Bishop and other House Republicans to
keep safe the pile of money he has secured
from the sale of our public lands.
From page 4
Senator Harry Reid..
Photo: Center for American Progress
8 Western Lands Update Summer 2014 Vol. 18 # 1
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mental review, with the main effect of the
legislation being that the proceeds may be
used to buy inholdings in Wilderness and
other public land areas.
We await an environmental impact state-
ment on the Santa Rosa-San Jacinto
National Monument land exchange, which
would consolidate checkerboard land
ownerships between the BLM and the
Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians.
The BLM issued an environmental as-
sessment in 2011 that failed to disclose or
analyze how the public land traded to the
tribe would be developed, and in response
to public comment decided to issue a more
in-depth analysis in an EIS. We also await
analysis of a proposed land trade that
would privatize public land in the base
area of the Mammoth Mountain Ski Area
in the Inyo National Forest.
The Forest Service is compiling an EIS for
the Cooper Spur-Government Camp land
trade, mandated in a bill sponsored by
Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR). Western Lands
Project twice submitted testimony against
the bill that included this land deal. The
exchange is multilaterally awful. It was
conceived to resolve a dispute between
two private parties – Mt. Hood Meadows
ski resort (MHM) and the Hood River
Valley Residents’ Committee, who did not
want their views marred by the ski resort’s
planned development in the Cooper Spur
area. MHM approached the Forest Service
to propose a trade whereby it would give
the public its aging ski resort and Cooper
Spur and get public land in return that it
could develop. MHM wanted land in a vil-
lage called Government Camp the Forest
Service had identified for retention. The
Forest Service said no, recognizing that it
had no use for and could not maintain the
ski facility. But Senator Wyden came to
the aid of the private parties with a public
land deal, making the land exchange a key
provision in a big quid pro quo wilderness
bill for Mt. Hood.
Land deals…
From page 5
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