Time to take off the gloves when dealing federal land bureaucrats

Let’s just say our favorite red-headed Nevada congressman doesn’t turn the other cheek when he gets slapped by a miffed Washington bureaucrat.

After Nevada Republican Congressman Mark Amodei added a rider to the Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act of 2015 — the temporary budget for those who don’t speak Washington jargon — delaying for one year any potential listing of the greater sage grouse under the Endangered Species Act, Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell tossed a hissy fit.

“It’s disappointing that some Members of Congress are more interested in political posturing than finding solutions to conserve the sagebrush landscape and the Western way of life,” Jewell whined in a press release, after said Members had already left town.

“Rather than helping the communities they profess to benefit, these members will only create uncertainty, encourage conflict and undermine the unprecedented progress that is happening throughout the West.”

Uncertainty? Progress? Tell that to the people of Utah and Colorado who thought they were working successfully with the Interior Department and its U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to protect the habitat of the Gunnison sage grouse only to be blind-sided a month ago with a listing decision that will hamper economic development in both states. The listing came despite the fact the bird’s population has increased by nearly 10 percent in the past decade.

Jewell, despite her protestations, claimed the rider would have no effect on ongoing efforts to conserve sage grouse habitats. “The Omnibus (still another name for the spending bill) continues funding for Interior and USDA to conserve sagebrush habitat and to advance the unprecedented collaboration happening across 11 Western states. The Fish and Wildlife Service will continue to collect data and conduct analysis, and the agency will reach a decision as to whether listing is warranted or not,” she assured rather unconvincingly.

Amodei promptly shot back with tongue firmly affixed in his stinging cheek: “After nearly two years on the job, I am pleased Secretary Jewell is now ready to engage on the issue of the Sage Hen. I want to welcome her to the discussion. Back in March, in explaining why Interior had once again failed to submit a meaningful budget request for habitat conservation, Secretary Jewell testified to the Interior Appropriations Committee that the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) needed time to finalize its 98 resource management plans (RMPs) across 11 Western states encompassing more than 186 million acres of habitat. At the time, she indicated no appreciation for the fact that the vast majority of those RMPs would not be completed until after the decision to list the Sage Hen was made. Nine months later, I find it perplexing she has become incredibly comfortable criticizing Republicans and Democrats in Congress for providing precisely what she said was needed: one last chance for her to show some leadership and request funding to fulfill Interior’s habitat responsibilities as the majority land owner in the West.”

Amodei went on to say that he found Jewell’s criticism “interesting” since her boss has already signed the appropriations bill and his rider had been discussed for months ahead of its passage.

“The resort to shallow political attacks does not hide the fact Ms. Jewell’s
department chose, through budgetary inaction, not to make any attempt to avoid an endangered species listing,” Amodei seethed. “This is all the more insidious, since the habitat owner, BLM, and the Endangered Species Act Administrator, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, both work under Secretary Jewell’s supervision. So, in effect, on this issue, the Secretary would apparently like to simultaneously perform the roles of judge, jury and prosecutor and shame on the U.S. Congress and the President for passing a bill, which does not allow her to do that.”

He accused Jewell of issuing a “CYA news release” and engaging in “incendiary communication strategy.”

We hope a few more of our representatives in Washington take off the gloves and challenge the bureaucrats who think they really do own the West rather than we who live here and must pay the consequences for their rash and unsupported decisions. — TM

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