Monday, October 29, 2012

Vote 2012: Daniel's Arizona candidate recommendations

TUCSON (Oct 11) -- Early voting starts today in Arizona. Election day is Tuesday, November 6. As an 18-year progressive and independent Arizona political activist, former State Lawmaker, etc., here are my voting recommendations for selected general election races. Also see Daniel's 2012 Arizona Propositions voting recommendations and follow @DanPattersonUSA
US President: Barack Obama
US Senate: Rich Carmona
Arizona Corporation Commission: Sandra Kennedy, Paul Newman and Marcia Busching
US House, CD3: Raul Grijalva; CD2: Ron Barber; CD9: Kyrsten Sinema
Pima County Treasurer: Elaine Richardson 
Pima County Supervisor: Richard Elias, Ray Carroll and Nancy Young-Wright
Pima County Sheriff: Clarance Dupnik
AZ House, LD2: Rosanna Gabaldon; LD9: Mohur Sarah Sidhwa; LD10: Stefanie Mach and Bruce Wheeler; LD28: Eric Meyer
AZ Senate, LD10: David Bradley
TUSD Board: Betts Putnam-Hidalgo, Kristel Foster and Cam Juarez
Maricopa County Sheriff: Paul Penzone
I chose not to recommend in all races. More info may be added here as the election approaches.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Daniel's 2012 Arizona Propositions voting recommendations

TUCSON (Sept 27) -- Arizonans will start voting October 11 on nine ballot propositions. Based on my knowledge and experience, here are my recommendations for voting in the public interest. More info may be added here as the election approaches. You may also want to check the AZ SoS voter guide. Also see my candidate picks.
Prop. 114 NEUTRAL but why amend constitution here? Current law is enough. 
Prop. 115 NO to keep politics out of the judiciary.
Prop. 116 YES to help business and jobs.
Prop. 117 NO to keep property taxes fair.
Prop. 118 YES for more reliable school funding from state lands.
Prop. 119 YES to conserve state lands around military bases.
Prop. 120 NO to protect public lands & parks from unconstitutional land-grabs by legislature.
Prop. 121 YES for open primary elections that may support more moderate candidates.
Prop. 204 NEUTRAL Arizona needs more education and infrastructure funding, but our regressive sales tax is already too high and not a stable funding source.
Prop. 409 NO (Tucson only) Untrustworthy city management calls for rejection of this tax increase at this time. Where is the RTA sales tax money to help fix Tucson roads?

Mom wolf captured on Gila, removed from wild by feds

Feds doom critical mother wolf.

SILVER CITY, N.M. -- Conservationists condemned the action by government trappers who Wednesday captured and permanently removed a female wolf from Gila National Forest public lands in New Mexico for allegedly preying on a few livestock. The Fox Mountain alpha female, who had evaded trappers for two months, will now be put into captivity for life.

"There is no more powerful symbol of what’s wrong with the Mexican gray wolf recovery effort than this decision to remove a mother wolf with young pups for doing what comes naturally to her—preying on animals," stated Wendy Keefover, Director of Carnivore Protection at WildEarth Guardians. "We need new leadership, new vision and a new paradigm. This is a crime against nature."

On August 8, 2012, the US Interior Department's Fish and Wildlife Service issued a kill order for the alpha female (AF1188) for allegedly killing livestock. She has a mate (AF1158) and five pups, including four young of the year and one yearling pup.

Hundreds, if not thousands of people called the Service, the White House, and the New Mexico Congressional delegation protesting the decision. As a result of the public outcry, the Service rescinded the kill order two days later, but then ordered that she be captured live and moved to the Southwest Wolf Conservation Center.

"US Interior and USDA serve the wolf-haters, dooming this critical mother loba and ignoring science and citizens," said Daniel Patterson, Ecologist and Southwest Director of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). "Many lobos have been eliminated from our public lands, but the feds have refused to release any new Mexican wolves to the wild for nearly four years. Federal mismanagement and political pandering continue to jeopardize wolf recovery in the southwest."

In response, conservationists called upon government officials to leave the mother wolf in the wild with her pups and her mate. Removing her will create trauma for all of the individuals involved. It also eliminated a breeding female from the wild wolf population that struggling to survive.
  • AF1188 is only one of six breeding females in a population of less than 60 Mexican wolves. It is essential to preserve breeding females in the wild to support recovery of the species.
  •  AF1188 has 5 pups that she and her mate are provisioning.
  •  No wolves should be removed for livestock conflicts. Improved herd management practices can eliminate predation on livestock.
  •  The Service needs to release more captive Mexican wolves to address inbreeding problems in the wild population. 
adapted from WEG news release
 

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Farewell message that land agency BLM has lost its way

Feds go full-drill, shorting conservation duties.

VERNAL, Utah — The U.S. Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management has lost sight of its mission in a quest to maximize fossil energy and other resource exploitation on public wild lands, according to the retirement message sent by a career natural resource specialist and posted today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). The sobering message depicts cascading natural system failures due to unchecked oil and gas drilling and related cumulative damage to public lands, air and waters.

Stan Olmstead started his career in natural resource management inside public agencies 44 years ago, with stints in the National Park Service, U.S. Forest Service and Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. For the past 20 years he has been a Natural Resource Specialist and an Environmental Scientist in BLM’s Vernal Field Office in eastern Utah, near the Colorado border. On September 28th, his final day of federal service, he sent a memo entitled “Last Formal Comment” to all BLM employees throughout Utah.

In this memo, he decried a singular “focus on commodities and economics as opposed to environmental health.” He elaborated by writing “At the Vernal Office little concern has been shown to care for sensitive species … We promote energy development without stop and continue to measure natural resources by dollar value…” Olmstead offered these pointed examples:
  • BLM fails to protect sensitive wildlife and as a result “lost the mountain plover; the only known population in Utah… Little effort to prevent this loss was implemented.” He called this dereliction “a serious mission departure.”
  • “Plugging and abandonment of well sites have not been a priority. Numerous oil & gas wells have not produced for more than 15 years and yet these sites remain un-reclaimed.”
  • Cumulative impacts from oil and gas drilling. For example, “we disturb large percentages of our [grazing] allotments located in oil & gas fields and AUMs [Animal Unit Months] remain the same. If you lose 30% of the forage in a specific allotment it is logical to reduce the AUMs by 30%.”
“Stan is telling us that BLM has lost its way. BLM is supposed to be a ‘multiple-use agency’ but managers have misplaced the ‘multiple’ as they go full-drill and shortchange conservation,” stated Southwest PEER Director Daniel Patterson, an Ecologist in Tucson also formerly with BLM, noting that the BLM Director position is currently vacant. “BLM needs a visionary new leader who will keep public lands development at sustainable levels and understands you can’t have every use on every acre.”

Olmstead also cited poor land reclamation, unmonitored water depletion for endangered fish of the Colorado River watershed, and mounting air pollution, all due to divergence from BLM’s mission “to sustain the health, diversity and productivity of public lands for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations.” He concluded with this call to colleagues:

“We need to alter our bureaucratic method of operation …Be honest about what is happening.”

All links

High Country News coverage

and more coverage from Greenwire:

INTERIOR: Veteran BLM official blasts agency for valuing drilling over conservation

Emily Yehle, E&E reporter

Published: Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The Interior Department's Bureau of Land Management has lost sight of its mission in the political rush to use public lands for energy development, according to an experienced agency official.

Stan Olmstead retired last month after 20 years at BLM, most recently as a natural resource specialist and environmental scientist in the Vernal Field Office in eastern Utah. In his last few minutes on the clock, he decided to send a three-page memo to his colleagues outlining what he saw as the agency's focus on economics at the expense of natural resources.

He described an office that promotes energy development and measures natural resources "by dollar value," leading to the neglect of sensitive species and the land's health. As examples, he pointed to the loss of the mountain plover in Utah and the delay in reclaiming unused oil and gas wells.

"Without serious fulfillment of the mission we continue to harm public land as it has been harmed so frequently in our historic past," Olmstead wrote. "Be honest about what is happening. It is easier to break something than to fix it, so let us stop breaking the land."

Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility released Olmstead's memo today, calling for a "visionary new leader" at BLM who will steer the agency away from what it sees as a focus on oil drilling. Bob Abbey retired in May as BLM director; since then, Deputy Director Mike Pool has served as acting director.

A BLM spokesman did not immediately return a request for comment.

Abbey had left BLM in 2005, citing the agency's singular focus on oil and gas drilling. He came back in 2009 as director and engineered a sweeping overhaul of oil and gas leasing on federal lands, promoting an expansion of renewable energy and a renewed focus on conservation.

But Olmstead depicts an agency that is still grappling with balancing its mission to protect public lands while reaching administrative goals to expand energy production. In an interview today, he pointed to a recent New York Times article that describes the close relationship between drillers and BLM officials in Utah.

Olmstead said his memo was "one last attempt to try to draw attention to the other values we have." His pleas -- and those of other natural resource employees -- while within the agency were mostly ignored, he said; protection of the health and diversity of public lands was simply not a priority."I think my main motive is to communicate," he said, adding that he has a meeting later this month with BLM Utah Director Juan Palma. "I have been somewhat quiet during my employment, and now that I'm in retirement I plan to speak out."

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Rising doubts on Interior Inspector General's independence

WASHINGTON — A sizeable and growing segment of the investigators and supervisors within the Interior's Department's Office of Inspector General (IG) believes the office is pulling punches to avoid embarrassing the administration, according to new staff survey results posted today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). These concerns echo criticisms by Congress and PEER that under acting Inspector General Mary Kendall the Interior IG has compromised its "independence and honesty" to please political superiors, in the words of one agent.

The 2012 survey was completed by 82% of all IG staff with final results reported in mid-September. A key finding was employee response to the question of whether the IG "conducts its work in a manner that is independent (free from improper influence) from the Department [of Interior]." Nearly one in seven respondents said no and more than a quarter would not say either way. Less than 60% said yes, a lower percentage than in surveys from the previous two years. Staff comments included the following:
  • "I think there is widespread distrust and low morale in the organization right now. There are at least perceptions the acting IG and COS [Chief of Staff] did not do the right thing, ie [sic], improperly quashed investigations, and have not been forthright with Congress";
  • "Wake up and quit trying to 'get approval' from DOI [Interior]...we have a job to do"; and
  • "Be careful with how much reports get softened to avoid 'slamming' the Department in the interest of maintaining a good relationship."
These issues are brought into stark relief by a House Natural Resource Committee investigation into whether the IG skewed its own report into claims that the Obama White House and top Interior officials falsely reported that its 6-month Gulf of Mexico drilling moratorium following the 2010 BP spill had been endorsed by outside experts. Internal IG emails complained its probe was improperly blunted. In her September 19th memo transmitting survey results to staff, Ms. Kendall complained of "scrutiny from the House Resources Committee" among the factors which may have affected results.

"As an acting IG, Mary Kendall's tenure depends upon pleasing the very people she is supposed to investigate. As a result, this watchdog is not just on a very tight leash, it is on a choke chain," stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch. "To be effective and remain independent, an IG must be willing on a daily basis to get canned or resign if the mission is compromised."

Pleasing her superiors entails not only softening reports or quashing probes it can also include targeting employees who inconvenience senior Interior managers. Last week, for example, it was revealed that the IG conducted a controversial investigation into Arctic scientists as part of an effort to stem and discredit the source of embarrassing leaks. The more than two-year effort identified no scientific misconduct but did interrupt one scientist's extensive research and disrupt his career.

"Kendall doesn't seem to get it that her job is to seek and tell the truth, not please politicians and lobbyists," said PEER Southwest Director Daniel Patterson, an Ecologist based in Tucson, Arizona who formerly worked with Interior agency BLM. "The serious troubles in her office undermine Interior employees' ability to honestly do their jobs based on science and truth, not politics and money."

Although Kendall seeks to be nominated as the permanent IG, even after confirmation every IG serves at the pleasure of the President – a status often cited for the tendency of many IGs to concentrate on low-level misconduct and eschew probing improper or imprudent political interference. This has long been a pattern at Interior IG, one perfected by Kendall's mentor, Earl Devaney, who was Interior IG until 2009.

"Under the current system, IGs revel in petty scandals and flee profound corruption," Ruch added. "If the Inspector Generals were truly independent, groups like PEER would not be so infernally busy."

Related links

Thursday, October 04, 2012