Sunday, January 9, 2011

The Big Bad Wolf ... Not the One You're Thinking Of

Why it took U.S. Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar two years to restore administrative authority to the Bureau of Land Management when it comes to protecting some of the best hunting and fishing country in the West is beyond me. But predictably, it took extremists like U.S. Rep. Rob Bishop about five minutes to start whining about the return to the way things used to–and ought to–be.

Back when Gale Norton occupied Salazar's office in D.C., she conspired with the likes of Bishop to effectively hamstring the BLM and prohibit the federal land management agency from, well, managing land. Specifically, Bishop and his bought-and-paid-for buddies in Congres didn't want any more wilderness  or wilderness study areas on public land, particularly in Utah. See, wilderness locks out industrial development while protecting fish and wildlife habitat. In other words, Bishop's campaign financiers (read, the extractive industry lobby) would be unable to drill, mine, rape and pillage on land belonging to every single American if that land–worthy as might be–were to be designated as wilderness or a wilderness study area.

God forbid. The BLM has active drilling leases on a collective Western land mass the size of Ohio. "Locking up" land from industry would be bad for business. And that would be bad for Bishop, a Utah Republican. He's so protective of his funding sources that, in a recent article in the New York Times, he's quoted as saying Salazar's return to the way things used to be represent "a blatant attempt to usurp Congress' role over public land management," and "I don't know anywhere else where an administration has been brazen enough to think they can establish policy without the legislative authority to do so."

Congressman Rob Bishop ... being pretty brazen himself.
Uh ... well. Let's just go back a few short years when the Bush administration ordered the BLM to fast-track nearly every oil and gas drilling application on public lands and give exemptions from bedrock environmental laws (you know, like the National Environmental Policy Act) to industry as if it was handing out candy to kids on Halloween. That was pretty "brazen," don't you think Congressman BoughtAndPaidFor? It got so ridiculous in the mid-2000s, that the BLM couldn't keep up with the application workload and was forced to bring in help–from the industry–to rubber stamp drilling permits. That was, uh, pretty "brazen," don't you think? I wonder if the folks who died on the Deepwater Horizon last summer, or the communities along the Gulf Coast who are still dealing with the impacts of the terrible industrial disaster would call the NEPA exemption BP received for its drilling permit "brazen." I'm guessing they just might.

Don't believe the "bought-and-paid-for" claim? Bishop's top campaign donors in the 2009-2010 funding cycle? Oil and gas. Nothing wrong with that, I suppose, unless you happen to be a hunter or an angler who can appreciate the need for wide open, wild country for hunting and fishing success. Since 2002, Bishop has collected more than $60,000 from the oil and gas industry, which, truth be told, hasn't done much for hunting and fishing success on public lands in the West.

And here's the really sad part. I would wager that a lot of the folks who support Bishop also hunt and fish. Representing sportsmen in Congress while criticizing an effort to protect fish and game habitat... that's brazen.

As for the hunters and anglers who have allowed that to happen? That's just plain ignorant, and they have nobody to blame but themselves. They've been duped–willingly–by a guy who's just out to protect his job and the money he needs to run a campaign to keep that job.

You want to see brazen? Next time Bishop's name is on a ballot, vote for the other guy. 


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