Thursday, November 29, 2012

Feds duck complaint about suppressing harm to public lands

Scientific integrity problems continue at US Interior, BLM

WASHINGTON -- The biggest and most ambitious scientific undertaking in the history of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management is languishing after it was revealed the agency directed scientists to exclude livestock grazing as a possible factor in changing landscapes. The agency has also yet to respond to a scientific integrity complaint filed one year ago by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) charging that the exclusion of livestock data constituted political interference.

Launched in 2010 with more than $40 million in stimulus funds, BLM sought to analyze ecological conditions across six “eco-regions” covering the Sagebrush West. There was only one catch: when scientists were assembled BLM managers informed them that there was one “change agent” that would not be studied – the impacts of commercial livestock grazing. BLM managers told stunned scientists the reason for this puzzling exclusion was due to “stakeholders” opposition and fear of litigation, according to documents appended to the PEER complaint. Since that complaint –
  • These so-called “Rapid Ecoregional Assessments” have all stalled with no timetable for completion although they were slated to be finished this year;
  • To investigate the PEER complaint, BLM tagged Louis Brueggeman, its Fire Management Liaison, to act as “Scientific Integrity Officer.” It is not clear that Mr. Brueggeman has interviewed a single witness proffered by PEER. Nonetheless in an October 12, 2012 email, he said he was “in the process of finalizing the report” responding to the November 2011 PEER complaint; and
  • BLM now claims its studies are limited to “four overarching environmental change agents: climate change, wildfires, invasive species, and development (both energy development and urban growth)” but notes “Additional change agents may also be addressed based on ecoregional needs.”
What makes this last bit of revisionist rationale from BLM so questionable is that the agency’s own records show that the primary cause (nearly 80%) for BLM lands not meeting range health standards is damage from livestock, far eclipsing drought, fire, invasion by non-native plants or sprawl – the factors BLM now calls “overarching.” In fact almost 40% of all BLM allotments surveyed since 1998 fail to meet the agency’s own required land health standards due to livestock grazing – more than 33 million acres, an area bigger than the entire State of Alabama. Livestock occupies two-thirds of all BLM lands. Moreover, livestock is directly linked to aggravating drought conditions and spreading invasive species.

“After pledging not to repeat the pattern of political manipulation of science associated with the Bush years, the Obama administration has both embraced that pattern while striving to mask its manipulations though the charade of scientific integrity investigations,” remarked PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch, whose organization has likened these investigations to damage control operations rather than objective scientific reviews. “Because they were financed with stimulus funds, these landscape assessments were described as ‘shovel-ready science’ – a term far more apt than originally envisioned.”

Link to news release and supporting documents

Friday, November 16, 2012

Daniel's photo of the day, Nov 16: Hunting Arizona

My friend Sky Jacobs & I enjoyed a successful hunt for this 8 point Coues Whitetail Deer buck Nov 15 in the Canelo Hills, Coronado National Forest, SE Arizona. Tasty wild meat for the holidays. I'm thankful to the deer. Photo by Sky Jacobs. Follow @DanPattersonUSA

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Daniel's 2012 election views from Tucson, Arizona

Rep. Daniel Patterson with First Lady Michelle Obama, 2011

TUCSON -- Another big election day has come and passed, thank God. A few quick takes:

Barack Obama stays President, which I support. I encourage him to push hard in his second term, which will not be easy due to US House extremism likely to continue.  

Mitt Romney just proved to be a weak, out-of-touch candidate for the GOP. He lost big in my part of Arizona and much of America as the adrift GOP focused too much on trying to please angry, old, conservative white men.

Voters had problems. I worked election day as a Democratic Party representative poll observer in my precinct 46, at the Santa Rosa Library south of downtown. Unfortunately, there were many on-going problems with voter ID and accuracy of voter rolls. A lot of people were forced to wait in line to cast provisional ballots, at least 148 in just precinct 46 vs. 286 people who got to vote a regular ballot. These voting problems may be a growing controversy in Pima County this week.

Tucson voters helped the struggling legislature a bit by booting extremist Republicans Frank Antenori and Ted Vogt. I'm especially gratified to see dishonest freshman tea-bagger Vogt thrown out by voters. Vogt earned and deserved the loss. Congrats to LD10 Rep. Bruce Wheeler and Rep.-elect Stefanie Mach. In LD9 I'm disappointed voters did not elect fine State Rep. candidate Mohur Sarah Sidhwa and I salute her run.

I congratulate my friend and former colleague Kyrsten Sinema in her apparent win for US House in Arizona's new CD9 in and around Phoenix. She is a powerful leader and should make a great US Rep. Kyrsten will join my Rep. Raul Grijalva as a top progressive in the US House, now two from Arizona, showing the diversity of this changing state.

Arizonans wisely rejected Prop 120 for the state to try seizing the Grand Canyon and public lands. Will the GOP drop their anti-conservation platform as they consider their future? Doubtful, but they should.

In Pima County races, I'm bummed Elaine Richardson didn't win Treasurer, and Nancy Young-Wright lost for Supervisor. These two leading women were both fine candidates and would've been good in these positions.

Too bad Rich Carmona couldn't beat Jeff Flake. Rich gave it a good shot. I fear Arizona will continue to be poorly represented in the important US Senate, which costs us as a state. I hope Flake will moderate from his hard-right positions, but it seems unlikely. John McCain's seat is up for vote in 2014. He should retire.

It was encouraging and healing for me to see and talk with many old and new friends at the polls, Pima County Democratic HQ, and election events at Grijalva HQ and UA Marriott. Thanks for all the kind support people shared. I take responsibility for my mistakes. I've learned some important, tough lessons. At the same time I'm proud of my record and many accomplishments helping people. I'm optimistic about the future. I'm staying involved and I'll see you around. Thanks.

Read me on twitter for more political and other views @DanPattersonUSA including some views from New Mexico politics.