Betreff: Editorial re Govt Thinking "Outside the Box" to Resolve Shoshone Land Dispute/Article re Horse Roundups and Oil & Gas Lease Influence
Von: "Carrie Dann"
Datum: Wed, 15 Dec 2004 15:31:21 -0800
An:

FYI.  Two Pieces of interest.  Also -- tonight, Wed. Dec. 15, KPFA, 94.1
FM (Northern California) will air a short piece on the Western Shoshone
Horse Canyon Dispute -- listen on line at www.kpfa.org  - between 6:00
and 7:00 pm (PST).

1.  Dec. 14th Editorial re U.S. Government Needing to Think "Outside the
Box" to Resolve Shoshone Land Dispute
2.  Washington Post Article connecting Horse Round Ups to Oil and Gas
Leases.  Possible connection to mining??

1.  New model needed to help tribes, BLM settle dispute

Editorial 
RENO GAZETTE-JOURNAL
12/14/2004 10:07 pm 
    
 
American Indian tribes and the federal government need a new model for
dealing with Western lands. The continuing discussion about land
ownership and land uses that includes the 1863 Treaty of Ruby Valley
satisfies no one. An entirely different way of thinking about land is
called for.

The recent federal approval of expanded exploration for a gold mine in
the Horse Canyon area is just the latest example of how the 1863 treaty
and other land agreements aren't working. The treaty allowed non-Indians
to settle and mine the land, but never ceded ownership. Recent
legislation claims to compensate for the lands that were whisked away.
But lucrative mining agreements were drafted with the profits going to
private domestic and foreign companies.

It is understandable that the Shoshone are protesting. They see the land
as theirs and mining as a disrespectful and illegal encroachment. Their
claim grows in magnitude since contracts include sites considered sacred
and containing important artifacts. It isn't enough that workers are
cautioned to avoid disturbing or destroying historical and
archaeological remains. It is too much that the natural environment is
disturbed. 

It is clear that the Ruby Valley treaty and other plans fall short of
the goal to compensate the tribes for lost land and lost use, or protect
the land or even cede ownership where arguably it belongs.

It is right to find a way to honor the tribes' claims and realistic to
see that industrialization and modernity create new demands. Since
economic uses of the land will go forward and the tribes won't back down
(some object to taking monetary compensation proposed by this state's
representatives in Washington and passed by Congress), it's time to call
in policymakers who specialize in thinking outside the box. It's time to
negotiate a different kind of agreement and settle the conflict.



Copyright C 2004 The Reno Gazette-Journal  
   ***********

2.  Washington Post Article on Horses

Shortcut to:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn/A48739-2004Sep24?language=print
er

Oil and Gas Hold the Reins in the Wild West 
Land-Use Decisions Largely Favor Energy Industry 

By Joby Warrick and Juliet Eilperin

Washington Post Staff Writers
Saturday, September 25, 2004; Page A01 


PARACHUTE, Colo. -- The last sanctuary of the West Douglas wild horse
herd is a desolate, forbidding place, which is just how the horses like
it. As many as 60 skittish sorrels and bays make their home on the
steeper slopes and stony ridges north of here, abandoning the valleys to
growing throngs of oil and gas men looking for places to drill.

Now, even this refuge may soon be lost. The U.S. Interior Department,
which has leased 93 percent of the horses' preserve to energy companies,
recently unveiled plans for evicting the entire herd. Under the
proposal, the animals will be rounded up with nets and tranquilizer
darts and then hauled away for adoption. The reason cited: Wild horses
are incompatible with the region's intensive gas production.

The removal of the horses, if accomplished, will be little felt outside
the area. But the move to strip Colorado's West Douglas Herd Area of its
only herd is emblematic of a larger effort underway to rewrite the rules
governing millions of acres of undeveloped federal lands in the West.
With few exceptions, the changes decisively favor energy development at
a cost of reduced protections for some of the country's last wild
spaces, a Washington Post analysis shows.

>From his first days in Washington, President Bush has built an
environmental record marked by extraordinary controversy, with decisions
that have outraged environmentalists while drawing praise from industry
trade groups and political conservatives.

In the view of the administration and its supporters, Bush's solutions
to problems such as global warming and mercury pollution reflect
pragmatism and a preference for consensus over confrontation. Opponents
contend that Bush's policies unabashedly favor industry at the expense
of the environment. With support from Democrats and moderate Republicans
in Congress, environmentalists have rallied to block or stall several
key initiatives, including a high-profile effort to open Alaska's Arctic
National Wildlife Refuge to drilling.

But the administration's most enduring environmental legacy may lie here
in the West, where a series of policy decisions and little-noticed
administrative actions have eased development restrictions on millions
of acres of federal lands. More than 60 million acres -- an area twice
the size of Virginia -- are more vulnerable to logging or drilling as a
result of policies that weakened federal restrictions on their
development. Other administration actions have made it harder for
government officials to apply the most stringent protections to federal
wild lands. As part of a legal settlement reached last year with Utah,
the administration banned government workers from surveying public lands
to identify areas worthy of being set aside by Congress as federal
preserves off-limits to development of any kind. More than 3 million
acres that had been nominated for a congressional designation lost their
protected status.

In addition, Interior officials have worked rapidly to revise dozens of
federal land-use plans. The documents, developed without congressional
oversight, determine whether large swaths of federal territory will be
protected or thrown open to businesses seeking gas, oil, grazing lands
or timber.

Under the Bush presidency, this little-known policy tool is being used
to increase energy companies' access to federal lands, an analysis of
the documents shows. Draft plans that have been made public in the past
year would open millions of acres that were previously off-limits to
drilling.

The actions fulfill a pledge by Bush three years ago to squeeze more oil
and gas from federal lands, reducing at least slightly the country's
dependence on imported energy. In interviews, White House and senior
Interior officials strongly defended the administration's policies and
insisted there would be no wholesale sacrifice of wilderness lands for
the sake of energy development.

"It is our obligation to use the land wisely, and sometimes not to use
it at all," said James L. Connaughton, chairman of the White House
Council on Environmental Quality. He said Bush had replaced some of the
"extreme" and "top-down" programs of the Clinton administration with
more flexible policies that allowed state and local governments to help
decide how nearby federal lands would be used. "We have a strong
commitment to preserving roadless areas," he said. 

Connaughton and other administration officials contend that Bush has
forged a robust environmental legacy that includes protecting forests
from wildfires and promoting wetlands preservation. The officials also
pointed to recent decisions, announced as the presidential election
approaches, to temporarily halt new gas and oil leases in some sensitive
areas and to designate a new national park in Colorado's Great Sand
Dunes desert. At the same time, they said, Bush takes seriously the
congressional mandate to tap into the energy riches hidden beneath
federal lands. 

"Encouraging [energy] production is something important to the
administration because it's so fundamental to our economy -- but it is
not our sole focus," said Rebecca Watson, assistant interior secretary
for land and minerals management. "Many times it's portrayed as the
administration ramming this through and running over people. We're
trying to take a thoughtful, measured approach."

Energy executives support the administration's actions. Some say the
Bush White House is merely correcting an imbalance that occurred under
President Bill Clinton. Applications for permits to drill stalled under
Clinton, said Lee Fuller, vice president for government relations at the
Independent Petroleum Association of America.

"The Bush administration sees the domestic development of oil and gas as
a priority," Fuller said. "Energy has as much right in the hierarchy of
decision making about the use of these lands as any other uses. That's
one of the principal shifts with the Bush administration."

But that shift has triggered outrage from environmentalists and
consternation among many former and current Interior Department
professionals. John D. Leshy, the department's solicitor under Clinton,
blasted the current administration's approach as a "throwback to the
19th century's Gilded Age."

Leshy added, "Sifting through its decisions in this area produces only a
single common, explanatory thread, a sense that its political appointees
ask one basic question: 'What does industry want?' "

Also criticizing the changing priorities are groups that compete with
energy companies for use of federal lands, including
conservative-leaning ranchers and outdoorsmen as well as the
fast-growing recreation industry. Governors of two western states that
rely on the energy industry for jobs and revenue have filed legal
challenges charging that the Bush administration's pro-energy policies
are hurting other economic sectors.

"The federal government needs to take the thumb off the scale," Wyoming
Gov. David Freudenthal, a Democrat, said of the administration in an
interview. "Right now the thumb is on the side of mineral development.
That thumb is really big."

Taxpayers' 260 Million Acres 


The Interior Department's Bureau of Land Management is the nation's
largest landlord. It supervises more than 260 million acres of
taxpayer-owned land. Its turf includes virtually every type of landscape
imaginable, including Alaskan tundra, Utah salt flats and the canyon
lands of Colorado, where wild horses roam.

The BLM's endless expanses also contain large stands of timber, prime
grassland for cattle grazing, and, beneath it all, vast deposits of
coal, minerals, oil and natural gas. And there is more still: hiking
trails, trout streams, white-water rapids, and rare habitats for plant
and animal species that exist nowhere else on earth.

By congressional mandate, BLM lands are managed for "multiple use,"
meaning they are potentially available for outdoor recreation and what
the agency calls "solitude" as well as for resource extraction. The
bureau's job is to balance the competing interests. Both critics and
defenders of the agency acknowledge that the scales recently have tipped
in industry's favor.

While the annual number of new leases by oil and gas companies is down
from historic highs in the mid-1990s, the amount of acreage under lease
is up 16 percent since 2000. Meanwhile, approved permits for new wells
have soared under Bush, from slightly more than1,900 wells four years
ago to nearly 6,000 in the current fiscal year. Energy industry
officials say higher prices and greater demand help fuel the rise. But
so does a president who, since the first days of his administration, has
made no secret of his intention to promote energy production.

The White House issued a pair of executive orders in the first four
months of Bush's presidency directing federal agencies to "expedite
energy projects" on public lands and requiring a written explanation of
any actions that adversely affect energy production. The president, a
former oilman, also appointed former energy company executives,
lobbyists and lawyers to key positions overseeing public lands. Both J.
Steven Griles, the No. 2 official at the Interior Department, and Watson
had worked on behalf of oil and gas companies operating on Interior
lands.

Department memos and internal documents reveal how the new emphasis on
energy translated into action. 

"The current administration has assigned a high priority to oil and gas
exploration . . . including increased access to oil and gas resources on
public lands and expedited processing of federal drilling permits," a
senior BLM official said in a memo to staff members written in January
2002.

In other documents in 2002 and 2003, BLM and Interior officials offer
awards and incentives to field office employees who work "diligently"
and "creatively" to speed approval of new drilling permits. In January
of this year, Interior Secretary Gale A. Norton challenged Wyoming BLM
workers to triple the number of drilling permits approved annually, from
1,000 to 3,000 a year. Pressure to crank out more permits faster of was
blamed for an unusually high number resignations in some BLM offices,
according to agency officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity
for fear of repercussions.

Yet industry officials still complained that too many areas remained
off-limits. Some blamed outdated land-management plans, the documents
that set rules for federal lands in the same way zoning codes do in
cities and towns. Most of the 162 management plans covering scores of
BLM districts across a dozen states had not been revised in three
decades. The plans were badly out of date -- a problem the Clinton
administration recognized and began to correct, according to David
Alberswerth, a former Interior Department senior adviser.

"We were looking at a host of reasons to update the plans: new
endangered species, proposed new national monuments," said Alberswerth,
now BLM program director for the Wilderness Society. "Bush grasped the
fact that if the new administration wanted to increase oil and gas use,
they'd also have to modernize the plans."

In February 2002, the BLM launched an effort to rapidly update all the
agency's management plans, setting a goal to revise all 162 within a
decade. But first, the agency decided to select a group of
"time-sensitive" plans that were considered high priorities, either
because of court-imposed deadlines or perceived opportunities to
"facilitate energy development," BLM records state. 

While past plans had been written by BLM employees themselves, an
internal BLM study shows that virtually all the new ones were being
drawn up by corporations, including several large multinational
consulting firms with extensive government contracts. In an internal
survey last year, BLM employees were generally happy to delegate the
work, though some expressed concerns about perceived biases on the part
of the contractors.

"In some cases, the contractor seemed to be operating on their own
agenda," a report summarizing the survey stated.

Huge Opportunities for Industry 


Twenty-one BLM districts were picked in 2002 to receive the first
updated plans. Some, such as the Jack Morrow Hills in Wyoming, a
620,000-acre rainbow-colored high desert known for its towering buttes
and 2,000-year-old native rock paintings, had been mostly off-limits to
oil and gas companies. Others, such as Wyoming's gas-rich Pinedale
district, allowed restricted drilling.

Draft documents that have been released for some of the districts call
for changes that translate into immensely greater opportunities for
energy companies.

The Jack Morrow Hills draft plan, for example, calls for opening about
63 percent of the land for gas and oil leases. In New Mexico's Otero
Mesa region, a new management plan would allow drilling in about 94
percent of land that is home to herds of pronghorn antelopes, prairie
dogs and the nation's largest stands of Chihuahuan desert grasses.

In central Utah's Price district, a newly released draft plan would lift
restrictions on 77 percent of the district's 2.5 million acres,
including more than a million acres that had been proposed for federal
wilderness protection in the 1990s. Among the formerly protected areas
that could now sprout oil fields are Desolation Canyon, whose narrow
gorges and white-water rapids are treasured by kayakers, and the
spectacular 1,000-foot-high Book Cliffs, the world's longest continuous
escarpment.

Locals have fiercely resisted each of the plans.

"You can't make new wilderness," said Liz Thomas, an attorney for the
Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance who is fighting to preserve the 3
million-acre wilderness that lost protection after the Bush
administration's April 2003 settlement with Utah. "There are other areas
in Utah where it makes sense to drill because the pipelines and
infrastructure are in place. Here, there's none of that. I can't see how
allowing one oil company to make money is worth destroying all this
scenery," Thomas said.

Energy industry officials counter that their desire to drill is in
keeping with the part of the law that requires "multiple use" of BLM
lands. Fuller, of the petroleum trade association, says
environmentalists fight over every acre, scenic or not. "We're not
talking about parks," he said.

But Peter Aengst, oil and gas campaign coordinator for the Wilderness
Society, said oil companies have access to most federal lands. He noted
that a 2002 federal study of five mountain states -- Colorado, Montana,
New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming -- showed that just 15 percent of the land
containing proven oil reserves -- and 12 percent of the proven gas
reserves -- are now off-limits.

"Why," Aengst asked, "do we need to be going into that last 5 or 10
percent that's really sensitive?"

Debate Over the Roan Plateau 


In west-central Colorado near the town of Rifle, a latticework of
hundreds of gas wells and service roads in the energy-rich Piceance
Basin ends abruptly at the foot of the Roan Plateau, which vaults 3,500
feet above the Colorado River valley. From this vantage, the stakes in
the national debate over federal wild lands come into stark relief.

The plateau's white-shale cliffs support a summit that is an undeveloped
island of green -- 73,000 acres of virgin aspen forests and trout-rich
streams. But it may not remain so for long. Energy companies want the
natural gas that sits under the plateau. The Interior Department, which
received title to the land in 1997, intends to grant access to at least
some of it. The details await one of the 21 "time-sensitive" management
plans now under development at the BLM.

Local BLM officials know well the many natural treasures of the plateau.
Elk herds and rare plant communities abound. The mountain streams are
populated by a species of cutthroat trout of unusually high genetic
purity. During a visit to the plateau on a cloudless midsummer morning,
Steve Bennett, an assistant BLM field manager in Colorado, said the
government is trying to craft a plan that would satisfy both local
communities and energy companies, who were promised access to the
plateau when Congress turned over the deed to the BLM seven years ago.

"We're looking for consensus," Bennett said as his SUV bounced along one
of the plateau's few dirt roads, kicking up dust and sending dozens of
chipmunks scurrying. "The urgency to lease the top of the plateau can be
debated. But we feel that our critical resources can be protected, and
you can still have some development that wouldn't wreck the
environment."

Opponents of drilling, including many local business leaders, are deeply
skeptical that the fragile Roan would survive. They paint a vision of a
dream landscape turned nightmare: towering gas rigs with their bright
lights and thundering diesel engines; endless truck traffic,
swimming-pool-size evaporation ponds filled with foul-smelling petroleum
residues, thousands of gallons of wastewater and miles of dusty dirt
roads in a region that rarely receives rainfall.

"Once the steamroller starts rolling, it doesn't pick and choose," said
Duke Cox, a builder and businessman from the nearby town of Silt. "It
just rolls over everything."

In areas where the BLM already permits oil and gas wells, resistance is
also building. The government has approved tens of thousands of wells
for coal-bed methane and natural gas on BLM lands in Wyoming's Pinedale
region and in the Powder River Basin, which straddles Wyoming and
Montana. New plans would allow thousands of additional wells, to the
dismay of many longtime residents who once supported energy companies.

In the town of Pinedale, Wyo., local officials are wary. Ward Wise, who
serves as the Pinedale mayor's assistant, said the economic boost from
gas production in the past was often short-lived. Even now, in good
economic times, the town gets relatively little money from energy
royalties -- about $88,000 this year.

"It's a boom-bust cycle," Wise said. "What happens when this thing
busts? And someday it will. What's going to happen to the environment,
which can never be replaced?"

Freddie Botur, 32, a rancher from nearby Daniel, Wyo., recently surveyed
his ranch from his four-door maroon GMC pickup, his border collie, Loki,
in the back seat. Already there were more than a dozen drilling sites,
most with several 30-foot-high holding tanks, dotting the high-desert
sagebrush plain on his ranch.

Eighty percent of Botur's ranch lies on federal land, which he leases
for grazing. His family has owned the other 20 percent for 16 years, but
they do not own the mineral rights below. Oil and gas companies can
drill without Botur's assent. In most cases, he said, he has no input
and gets no warning.

"The increase we've seen in the last five to six years is tremendous,"
Botur said. "I'm not vehemently opposed to oil and gas development, but
I'm also in disagreement with the idea that all is good in the name of
oil and gas. My concern is not what's happened but what's going to
happen."

Botur's ranch is home to 3,000 cattle and also serves as a birthing
ground for 200 pronghorn antelope. Botur senses the drilling is taking a
toll.

During winter months the region -- known as the Pinedale Anticline -- is
a sort of American Serengeti, a massive migratory corridor for tens of
thousands of pronghorn, mule deer, elk, moose and bighorn sheep. But it
is also home to 600 wells. The district's new land-management plan calls
for an additional 3,100.

"It's more driven by economics than anything else," said the BLM's
Pinedale field manager Prill Mecham. As for the gas, she added, "Where
it is, is where it is. And it is basically right here."

The region's energy riches are undisputed. Thirty miles to the east of
Botur's ranch, the Anticline's rich, sprawling Jonah Field has an
estimated 10.5 trillion cubic feet of gas within a 30,000-acre area. If
fully tapped, it could meet the energy needs of half the country for an
entire year.

"We haven't identified any place that has as much natural gas reserves
in a confined footprint," said Walt Lowry, director of community and
industry relations for EnCana USA, a division of the Canadian oil giant.

Industry officials say they have taken several steps to protect
wildlife, including cutting down on flares and not drilling near sage
grouse nesting and mating areas.

"We try to minimize our impact as much as possible," Lowry said.

But the combination of winter and drought has taken a toll on the mule
deer population. This past winter saw the death of roughly 20 percent of
the doe population and 70 percent of the fawns. The narrowing of the
second-longest migration corridor in the Western Hemisphere, scientists
say, is likely to reduce their numbers further.

Wild Horse Herd Dwindles 


In the West Douglas area of Colorado, sandwiched between the Roan
Plateau and Utah's Book Cliffs, the fate of the small band of wild
horses grows more tenuous daily.

The herd, which a decade ago numbered more than 150, has been documented
in the area since at least the early 1970s. Genetic tests trace the
animals' lineage back much further, to Spanish horses that came to North
America by ship centuries ago. Local historians hold that the horses
were present here in the 1600s, when they were encountered by Franciscan
priests who were among the first Europeans to survey the region.

Under a 30-year-old congressional act, the government is required to
designate a preserve where the horses can live freely. But the West
Douglas herd has been viewed largely as pests by ranchers and by at
least some of the local BLM officials. Numerous plans have been drafted
since the 1970s for reducing or eliminating the herd, mainly because
they compete for forage with local cattle.

Some local gas companies also fear that the horses will lead to future
limits on drilling. One firm, the El Paso Production Oil & Gas Co.,
filed a petition in 2001 urging the BLM to make good on its earlier
promises to eliminate the herd. The petition said that wild horses had
been a "destructive nuisance" on public lands.

In March, the BLM unveiled a plan to remove the horses as soon as
possible. The rationale was the poor quality of the herd's habitat,
owing to agency's earlier decisions to lease 93 percent of the preserve
for oil and gas production. And the plan allowed for drilling on most of
the other 7 percent. Steve Hall, a BLM spokesman in Colorado, said the
decision was difficult because of the horses' "emotional and symbolic"
value but added that the horses would be handled humanely. "It is overly
simplistic to say that oil and gas drove the horses off the land," Hall
said. "But years of management decisions resulted in so much development
that the horses can no longer thrive here."

The BLM plan would preserve the herd area in name only, keeping open the
option that wild horses might someday be returned to the region, "after
the oil and gas resources are depleted." That makes some horse lovers
laugh.

"We've never seen an area where horses were zeroed out and then put back
in -- and it isn't going to happen here," said Toni Moore of the
Colorado Wild Horse and Burro Coalition, which advocates preserving the
herd.

She sees the entire wild land going the way of the wild horses. 

"Once you've taken that away," she said, "you'll never get it back
again."

Researcher Alice Crites contributed to this report. 

Correction to This Article
A Sept. 25 article incorrectly described the status of 3 million acres
of Interior Department land affected by a legal settlement between the
agency and the state of Utah. While the 3 million acres had been
designated as "wilderness inventory" lands that merited government
protection, they had not yet achieved legally protected status. Also, in
some Sept. 25 editions, a Page One headline contained a typographical
error. The headline should have read "Oil and Gas Hold the Reins in the
Wild West," not "Old and Gas Hold the Reins in the Wild West."