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Op-ed: GOP renews attack on Endangered Species Act

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Does this look like any congressman you know?

Lots of ruffled feathers and foot-stomping …

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — Watching the House Committee on Natural Resources field hearings on greater sage-grouse and the Endangered Species Act was a bit like watching the birds themselves during their magnificent mating ritual — a lot of puffed up rhetoric, ruffled feathers and foot-stomping, but very little substance.

The main take-home message appeared to be that there’s a vast conspiracy of liberal judges, conservation groups and Obama administration officials colluding to destroy the American way of life in the rural West (specifically Montana and Wyoming, where the hearings were held).

That’s probably not surprising, considering the list of witnesses was hand-picked by the committee’s ultra-conservative and anti-environmental GOP leadership, but the inflammatory words used by some of the more extreme committee members still comes as a shock. Continue reading

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Republicans continue outlandish forest health claims

As the politicians argue, forests die and regrow.

Hearing on forest treatment legislation turns into theater of the absurd

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — Congress took another half-hearted swing at the so-called forest health crisis this week, with a House Natural Resources Committee hearing on a trio of forest managment bills.

At their most extreme, the measures would eliminate consideration of impacts to endangered species and require the Forest Service to implement proposals under a strict timeline — even if the required environmental reviews aren’t complete.

While each of the three bills include some provisions that could help public land managers address beetle-killed forests and potentially facilitate restoration work, the hearing itself quickly degenerated into classic partisan political theater, with anti-environmental Republicans blaming the Forest Service for the pine beetle epidemic, and liberal Democrats drawing analogies between baseball players on steroids and climate change.

You can watch an archived video of the hearing at the committee website. Continue reading

Opinion: House GOP renews energy witch hunt

Instead of focusing on the environmental damage done by fossil fuel extractions, Republicans in Congress are nitpicking about procedural reports related to oil and coal development.

Resources committee to consider issuing subpoenas on mining stream buffers, Gulf drilling moratorium

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY —The radical anti-environmental leaders of the House Natural Resources Committee last week announced the latest chapter of their anti-Obama witch hunt, scheduling a March 28 full committee meeting to discuss possible subpoenas related to coal mining stream protections and a moratorium on Gulf of Mexico oil drilling.

At issue are two efforts by the Obama administration to raise environmental standards. To try and protect streams and riparian areas from the ravages of coal mining, the interior department set out to rewrite a stream buffer zone rule. Continue reading

Border security — or land grab?

A 100-mile strip adjacent to the U.S. border would be exempt from all environmental laws under a bill passed by the House Natural Resources Committee.

House committee passes border security bill that would exempt huge areas of land from environmental regulations

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Under the guise of homeland security, the  House Committee on Natural Resources this week passed H.R. 1505, the National Security and Federal Lands Protection Act, by a vote of 26 to 17.

The bill would cede control of all federal lands with 100 miles of the U.S. border to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security by prohibiting the Department of the Interior and the Department of Agriculture from using environmental regulations to hinder U.S. Border Patrol from securing the border on federal lands.

“H.R. 1505 is a common sense solution that addresses one of the prevailing issues preventing us from gaining full operational control of the border – the U.S. Border Patrol’s lack of sufficient access to millions of acres of federally owned land,” said Utah Rep. Rob Bishop, chair of the considered further and ultimately brought to the floor of the House for a final vote,” said National Parks, Forests and Public Lands Subcommittee.

Conservation groups are not happy with the bill — to say the least. According to the Wilderness Society, the measure would also exempt the Department of Homeland Security from compliance with dozens of environmental statutes that protect the air and water quality, as well as habitat for endangered species. The group characterized the measure as an unwarranted land grab. Continue reading

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