• Pombo to introduce ESA reform bill
House Resources Committee chairman Richard Pombo will publish a draft bill that will address many of the problems inherent with the Endangered Species Act.
An aide to Pombo disclosed that the bill will move critical habitat designations to later in the process, require peer reviewed science, provide incentives to landowners to protect species and provide states with a greater role.
Even some environmentalists are agreeing that the current process is flawed.
John Kostyack of the National Wildlife Federation stated, “Congress should push back the deadlines to three years after listing, thereby giving the wildlife agencies the time they need to get the science right.”
Pombo’s target date for the draft bill is August.
The Fish and Wildlife Service currently is under orders from 42 lawsuits to designate habitat for 87 species. Another 35 lawsuits involving 57 species are pending.
• Utah addresses roadless areas
Utah Governor Jon Huntsman will not petition the federal government for protection of roadless areas in his state said a spokesman for the governor’s office.
Under the recently announced changes to the Clinton-era Roadless Rule, individual governors can petition the federal government to manage roadless areas in their respective states.
Lynn Stevens, Utah’s state public lands policy coordinator, said the state will allow the US Forest Service to complete forest management plans already in progress in four of the state’s six national forests.
Utah environmentalist Kevin Mueller believes this amounts to bad news for the state. “It sounds to us like they’re going to come up with something that amounts to minimal protection. The fewer areas that are petitioned and included for protection, the quicker and easier the process will be. The less roadless areas, the less hassle,” said Mueller.
• Appeal by active duty soldier
In a recent Interior Board of Lands Appeals decision, Judge H. Barry Holt ruled that the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) should consider the request of an active duty soldier for an exemption from paying annual mining claim assessment fees.
The Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Civil Relief Act (SSCRA) provides for a six-month exemption from the fee if all parties to the claim are on active duty.