• Federal budget priorities
The Bush administration is giving mixed signals on public lands priorities, evident by a proposed 2008 budget increase of $227 million for the National Park Service, while the Forest Service budget would be cut by $54 million. The proposed budget calls for an increase of 1,000 full time and 2,000 temporary new hires for parks, and a $20 million decrease for federal land acquisition.
Representative Norman Dicks (D-Washington) has hinted that the new majority may try to create a new conservation spending program, removing more public lands from the mining sector. Bush already proposed one new conservation program, titled the Healthy Lands Initiative, which would set aside $21 million to preserve hunting and fishing areas.
The proposed budget would increase Bureau of Land Management spending for energy and minerals to $141.2 million, up from $134.7 million in 2007 and $106.6 million in 2006.
In January, the House and Senate passed resolutions that keep spending levels the same as 2006 levels, at least for now. This is providing much confusion at the various federal agencies. Certain projects that received one-time funding are presumably going to be funded again, even though no additional funds are needed for the project.
• Wilderness bills proposed
It may be time to file on those mining claims you’ve been contemplating so you can establish valid existing rights.
Senator Barbara Boxer and Representative Hilda Solis, both Democrats from California, have introduced bills to designate another 2.4 million acres as wilderness in their home state.
Boxer called this a “first step” in preserving more areas of the state from mining and development. The companion bills, S 493 and HR 860, would make wilderness designations in the deserts and portions of the Eastern Sierra Mountains.
Senator Pat Murray and Representative Rick Larsen, both Democrats from Washington State, are trying anew to create the Wild Sky Wilderness in eastern Snohomish County, northeast of Seattle.
They are hoping that the new House Resources Committee, led by Democrat Nick Rahall, will be more receptive following the defeat of the former committee chair, Republican Richard Pombo.
• Inyo County fights back
Inyo County, California, has filed a lawsuit against the federal government over four RS-2477 rights-of-way.
The county argues that three routes were in use prior to the establishment of what is now Death Valley National Park. One route travels through an area that was designated as wilderness in 1994.
The county contends that the National Park Service demanded monetary damages after the county graded one of the roads.
The Inyo County federal court request for title to the RS 2477 rights-of-way, County of Inyo v. Department of Interior, is available at http://inyocounty.us/inyovdoi/road _closure.htm
• Comments needed by concerned miners in New Mexico
The New Mexico branch of the Bureau of Land Management is asking interested parties to participate in an online survey.
In the survey, the BLM asks numerous questions regarding how public lands in the state would best be used. Specific questions relate to items like bird watching and preservation, but there are no questions pertaining to prospecting or mining on federal lands.
Prospectors and miners should take time to answer the questions to let the BLM know that prospecting and mining should be a priority when considering public land use.
In addition, BLM is currently reviewing and modifying land use plans in New Mexico.
A review of the Taos management plan and the survey mentioned above are available on their website at www.nm.blm.gov
Click on “Destination Public Land” for the survey.