The Environmental Quality Council is just wrapping up their discussion for Fish, Wildlife & Parks funding proposals.
They are taking a break and will come back at 3:20 to get into the discussion of control of Federal Lands.
Aaaand, they're back. Sen. Brenden said they would be taking random public comment.
The committee is waiting for panelists from Wyoming, Utah, Idaho and Nevada to sign in to a conference call.
Sen. Jennifer Fielder is introducing the discussion. A focus on what other states are trying to do with federal land management. The Montana working group wanted to look at what other states are doing.
Fielder: the working group wants to extend the SJ15 committee beyond the interim to deal with federal land issues.
Starting with Wyoming Sen. Eli Bebout, chair of Federal Natural Resource mgmt cmte.
Bebout, VP of the Wyoming Senate: giving some background of their activities.
Bebout: A couple years ago after hearing about the fed overreach into grazing and resource development, the Fed Nat Res Mgmt Cmte became concerned about "overreach." In SW Wyoming, the govt was going to transfer land from Bureau of Reclamation to the Fish and Wildlife service for a bird refuge without public participation. After protest, it was transferred to the BLM instead.
Bebout: We take up things brought to us by the public: Thunder Basin grasslands issue of introduction of blackfooted ferret and others. Because of our success, we set up a permanent committee.
We conducted our first interim agenda last year. We decided to get more involved iwht the EPA.
"You're very much aware of the over-reach of the EPA."
Bebout: We have 13 or 14 areas where we're involved in potential litigation or in talks.
One of the most egregious ones is regional haze. The capital cost would be over a billion dollars. So we were very involved in public comment.
Bebout: The Wind River Indian Reservation boundaries might expand into an area that could impact our state's rights.
Bebout: The EPA wants to institute rules on fracking that don't do any good anyway.
Bebout: The last thing is the sage grouse. We're very involved in that issue.
Bebout: we set up the fed research management account. We put that money in the gov's office so he has a resource to involve Wyoming in all these decisions.
Bebout: $16,000 and $20,000 in that account.
Bebout: We've expanded the duties of the cmte in the discussion of federal lands.
Montana Sen. Brenden: Thank you, Senator. It sounds like we have a lot in common. We've been fighting this Clean Water Act which I consider a takings.
Fielder: Could you elaborate on the fund allocation to the county commissioners?
Bebout: In the Wyo. statutes, we gave commissioners special expertise so the BLM could not exclude them from discussions so they have cooperating agency status.
Sen. Lieser: What have the outcomes been?
Bebout: Particularly with the Forest Service with the beetle kill, we've seen a difference of opinion. It is beneficial. The big wild card is the EPA or the ESA - we can't seem to get their attention.
Bebout: People in teh BLM and FS live in our communities so I think they have to deal different. But we don't have a hammer since we don't deal with their budgets.
Bebout: We just had a meeting about the grizzly bear. The FS is trying to put some difficult limitations on lessees but we're handling that.
The hammer we have is the ability to step up and sue and litigate.
Bebout: We're just not going to agree on some things and everyone knows that. But we just find what we agree on and go from there.
Lieser: Who are the members of the cmte?
Bebout: 3 members that serve the pleasure of the (senate) president and 3 that serve the speaker.
Brenden: Sounds like we have a lot of the same issues. I just stayed in Ely, Nevada, and it's the same problems that we're having here.
Bebout: Let's keep the lines of communication open and have unity between the western states.
Now Idaho Sen. Chuck Winder is talking about Idaho.
Winder: We have House Res. 21 that established our interim cmte on fed lands.
Winder: all the active environmental groups, state and fed agencies, universities, white papers and opinions from law schools, elected officials and the public has testified. We're a year behind Utah. OUr expectations aren't quite as high as theirs are.
Winder: Our AG determined the legal prospects didn't have much merit.
Winder: we planned this summer and fall to go out to regional meetings and deal with natural resource issues. All the things you're having problems with, we're having those same kind of problems. We've learned that at the local level we get help or at least an ear but when it goes up to D.C., we don't get what we think.
Winder: We are in the early stages of oil and gas. It could be a significant impact on our state. We're learning from our neighboring states. We're not dealing with fracking yet but we probably will.
Winder: what we've learned so far is the Fed govt controls 2/3 of our state. Those counties have no tax breaks. In the past, they've had forestry or mining but not now.
Winder: "The management of federal lands is broken."
Winder: We will probably never agree wiht the environmental groups. But stakeholders want changes. Some want better management, some want actual transfer.
Winder: We know those payments in lieu are going down so we've got to come up with ways to pay for things. We know that permitting is getting impossible to do. In Hell's Canyon, too expensive to permit dams, primarily due to lack of aproval processes and they keep changing the rules.
Winder: We know that we're fuel loads are reduced, we can reduce the prospect of fire. But they're making it more difficult for people to thin around their properties.
WINDER: Mineral development is taking decades.
Winder: We've learned that stakeholders want multiple use to allow for motorized use of those lands.
You don't have to agree with Bundy and there's probably reason you shouldn't, but everyone has reasons for wanting change.
Winder: If we can keep the 11 western states to work and cooperate together, we'll be a whole lot more effective in this process. We have one of the reddest states in America and we want to protect our communities.