Public Land Policy (10-8-08)
Public lands are federal, state, county or municipal areas that belongs
to U.S. citizens. Public lands provide open space, clean water, habitat for
plants and animals, and opportunities for outdoor recreation. Public
land exchanges include any transactions that transfer publicly owned
land from one owner to another. Such transactions could involve trading public land
for private land or the transfer of jurisdiction over land between different
federal agencies. Public land exchanges often involve mining or fossil fuel
rights and may include financial payments to compensate for trade
Senate Runs Out of Time to Pass Public Lands Omnibus
The interest of Congress in narrowing the gender gap in the sciences has some concerned. By looking at the university level, the studies are ignoring those who say the gender gap begins much earlier with fewer girls taking an interest in the subject during high school. Women in the sciences are worried that Title IX quota systems could hurt them and the sciences by enforcing old stereotypes that women are not capable scientists or by hindering merit-based research by focusing on meeting quotas. Tierney concluded that the federal government is investigating a problem that may not exist instead of working to increase the funding levels for the sciences. Regardless of the use of Title IX in the sciences, encouraging under-represented populations to pursue science careers is a worthy goal. (9/08)
House Passes Natural Resources Measure
The cooperative agreements would be between the Secretary of the Interior and ” State, local, or tribal governments, other Federal agencies, other public entities, educational institutions, private nonprofit organizations, or participating private landowners” to protect natural resources within national parks. The agreements must demonstrate “science-based natural resource stewardship”.
The advanced energy technology centers were in the Energy Policy Act of 2005 and the new bill amends some of the details related to these centers. The Secretary of Energy will make grants to “nonprofit institutions, State and local governments, cooperative extension services, or institutions of higher education” to operate programs that “encourage demonstration and commercial application of advanced energy methods and technologies through education and outreach to building and industrial professionals, and to other individuals and organizations with an interest in efficient energy use.” (04/08)
The full text of the legislation is available from Thomas at: http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/D?c110:3:./temp/~c110nRcI9m::
Government Accountability Office Considers Moving the Forest Service
“Today the evolution of our forests has gone away from production and more towards preservation” suggested Representative Todd Tiahrt (R-KS) at a February 12th hearing at which he supported the move of the Forest Service from Agriculture to DOI. Representative Norm Dicks (D-WA) supports the move and believes the transfer might help improve the Forest Service’s budget and align the land agencies better.
The GAO will be looking at two key issues – Would it be more efficient, effective and coordinated to move the Forest Service to DOI and can any money be saved by making the move. Stakeholders and others outside the government will also be considering whether such a move will mean any significant change in the Forest Service’s mission, particularly from harvesting and development to preservation. In addition, the Forest Service deals with mining requests on their lands, is currently revising their mining rules and will be part of any mining law reform, so the GAO may consider these factors in their study.
The study’s objectives are not as ambitious as former Representative Leon Panetta’s suggestion in 1991 to combine DOI, Agriculture and Department of Energy into one agency, a Department of Natural Resources. (03/08)
House Natural Resources Committee Passes Landscape Conservation
The conservation system was originally established during the Clinton administration by former Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt. NCLS formalizes the 26 million acre conservation system managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). The text of the bill states “In order to conserve, protect, and restore nationally significant landscapes that have outstanding cultural, ecological, and scientific values for the benefit of current and future generations, there is established in the Bureau of Land Management the National Landscape Conservation System.”
The NCLS would be similar to the National Park Service based on the language in the bill, but managed by BLM and would initially consist of major conservation areas in 12 western states, including 15 national monuments, 13 national conservation areas, Steens Mountain area in Oregon, Headwaters Forest Reserve in northern California, 36 wild and scenic rivers, 148 wilderness areas, 4,264 miles of national trails, and more than 600 wilderness study areas. The measure would allow additional lands to be added to the NCLS.
While the Bush Administration supports the bill, committee Republicans led by Rob Bishop (R-UT), National Parks Subcommittee ranking member, are fearful that the “vaguely” worded legislation will have negative effects on adjacent landowners, limit grazing, recreation, natural resource access and other multi-use functions currently allowed on BLM lands.
Numerous amendments were offered during mark-up in an attempt to address those concerns, but none of the amendments were adopted. According to National Parks Subcommittee Chairman, Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), a provision in the bill prevents management of the system beyond existing federal law. The approved measure requires that any new lands for the conservation system be approved by Congress and also removes the authorization of appropriations for current lands, which are already funded from other sources.
A similar bill (S.1139) was introduced in the Senate in April 2007, and was been reported out of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee in June 2007, but is still pending action in the full Senate. (03/08)
The full text of the legislation is available from Thomas: H.R. 2016 – http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/z?d110:h.r.02016: and S.1139 – http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/z?d110:SN01139:
In the United States, there are over 500 million acres of public lands—lands managed by the federal government, city governments, or state authorities. The Bureau of Land Management, the Bureau of Reclamation, the National Parks Service, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service—agencies of the Department of the Interior—as well as the U.S. Forest Service—an agency of the Department of Agriculture—have jurisdiction over federal public lands. These lands include national parks, national forests, national conservation areas, wilderness areas, wildlife refuges, and national historic and scenic trails. The Bureau of Indian Affairs within the Department of the Interior holds 66 million acres of land in trust for American Indians and Alaskan natives.
Sources: Hearing testimony, NYTimes, Nevada Wilderness Coalition NEWS, The Salt Lake Tribune, Land Trust Alliance, and agency websites.
Contributed by Laura Bochner, 2008 AGI/AIPG Summer Intern, Paul Schramm, 2007 AGI/AIPG Summer Intern, Rachel Bleshman, 2006 AGI/AAPG Fall Intern, GAP staff
Please send any comments or requests for information to AGI Government Affairs Program.
Last updated on October 8, 2008.