Friday, May 27, 2011

The Usual Suspects

Ahem... first, an apology. I kind of dropped off the face of the earth there for a bit. The "day job" has been particularly demanding lately, and I just haven't had the energy to respond to every brain-dead moron who wants to trash America's public lands and ruin the hunting and angling legacy these great places provide.

Until now...

It seems The Usual Suspects are back at it. Since they haven't had any luck kicking Medicare to the curb, and since they've spent the first six months of the new Congress tackling symbolic legislation in order to make the other party look like a bunch of pansies (which, let's face it, ain't too tough), the Republicans bolstered by the Tea Baggers are now out to repay their cronies in the industry. The idea, they say, is to open all this wasted public land here in the West to "multiple use."

And, of course, we know what that means, right? Oil and gas. And off-road vehicles, of course. Because there's nothing easier than pleasing a bunch of high-school graduates who like to rip and snort through perfectly good country just for the hell of it.

The Blue-Ribbon Coalition is just giddy at this latest effort, called the Wilderness and Roadless Area Release Act, to hamstring the protective status of the West's best fish and game habitat. This bill would remove the protections from 43 million acres of Bureau of Land Management wilderness study areas and U.S. Forest Service roadless areas and open them up to "access" for the little guy.

Well... that's a little deceptive. All of us elitists who want to lock up the land from "Joe Six Pack" can get into the backcountry with a good pair of $60 hiking boots. The "regular guy" this bill would benefit owns a $7,500 Polaris four-wheeler with knobby tires and some impressive horsepower. Who's the elitist, I wonder?

U.S. Sen. John Barrasso
And, yes, it's the usual suspects who are pushing for this bill, and, as usual, it's a bill that's really aimed at making it easier to turn the West into a industrial pincushion, with a bonus for the thrill-seeking ORV rider who drinks the Kool-Aide, no questions asked. I mean, these guys are Republicans, right? They can't do anything wrong, can they?

Usual suspect No. 1: Wyoming's own John Barrasso, a bought-and-paid-for oil and gas advocate who's in debt to the tune of $179,000 to the oil and gas industry (his No. 3 campaign financeer, behind the health professionals industry and the GOP leadership PAC). It's no surprise that this dude wants to release 12 million acres of BLM wilderness study areas and remove millions of acres in U.S. Forest Service system from the roadless inventory–he's got to make good on his promise to perform legislative felatio on his energy industry benefactors.

Rep. Steve Pearce, New Mexico
Barrasso's bill is the mirror image of a bill put forth in April in the House. This "twin brother" bill was introduced by Usual Suspect No. 2, U.S. Rob Bishop of Utah, who owes the energy industry almost $20,000 worth of favors (No. 2 on his donation list behind ... sigh ... lobbyists). Also involved in this piece of legislation, which would gut the protective status on some of the best hunting and fishing ground in the country, are Usual Suspects Nos. 3 and 4, Reps. Steve Pearce of New Mexico ($319,000!) and Kevin McCarthy of California ($68,000).

It seems the notion of public lands that belong to every single American rubs these guys the wrong way. God forbid we protect a small portion of the untracked backcountry to ensure the next generation of hunters and anglers the opportunity to stalk game and cast for wild trout in landscape that looks just like it's supposed to look.

But, hey, we know our problem. We can't muster the resources to cough up thousands of dollars in campaign contributions to get these guys to bat an eye. We don't have the cash, baby. We barely matter.

And, until that changes ... until we can muster the support from within our educated ranks and throw these bought-and-paid-for "lawmakers" out on their ear, we're going to have to beat back every single effort they undertake to take away our birthright. It's really our fault. It's our own apathy (and the propensity of many of us to mistakenly vote for the wrong set of douchebags) that keeps us from having the appropriate amount of influence on The Usual Suspects.

Thankfully, these bills are a lot like the others the GOP has pushed out like cheesy turds this session--symbolic. They don't have the votes in both houses, but they're doing their best to prove to their financial and ideologic benefactors that they're willing to get dirty to accomplish a little bit of evil.

Meanwhile, we're in "react" mode. The solution? Sadly, we have a couple of Novembers to go before we can do much about it. But, if you're interested in letting these stooges know we're onto them, get in touch with them and say something.

Couldn't hurt, right?