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Legislative and Regulatory Update

• California Senator proposes locking up 2.5 million acres with “Wilderness” designation
Senator Barbara Boxer, a Democrat from California, intends to introduce legislation to lock up 2.5 million acres in California by designating the areas as wilderness. Her proposal is based on the California Wilderness Coalition’s (CWC’s) Missing Linkages report we profiled in the May 2002 issue of ICMJ.

The CWC sent a letter to California Governor Davis, urging him to take action and support wilderness designations they say are needed for plant and animal conservation. The CWC is now mired in controversy after it was discovered they solicited signatures from government employees, then added official government seals  to make it appear as if government agencies were endorsing the proposal. The scheme was detailed in a letter to Vice President Cheney by ICMJ reader Larry Thompson. The Vice President’s office has turned the matter over to the Department of Justice for investigation.

Boxer’s legislation would halt US Forest Service proposals to drill for oil in portions of the Los Padres National Forest, logging in the Duncan Canyon area of the Tahoe National Forest, and mining and off-road access in 75 specific areas of the state.

The bill also would expand the Ansel Adams Wilderness area east of Yosemite National Park.

“Opponents will say this bill will add to public lands. It doesn’t. It just gives them a higher level of protection,” said Boxer.

Boxer has no support at the moment among California’s 20 Republicans in the GOP-controlled House of Representatives.

But Boxer, who plans to seek re-election in 2004, said the process will take time.

“This bill will be put into law bit by bit, year by year,” she said.

The largest wilderness additions would be in southern and southeastern California. Boxer is proposing some 425,000 acres of new wilderness in the Inyo National Forest, including a new 282,880 acre White Mountain Wilderness Area.

In Central and Northern California, the legislation would add a 51,790-acre Yuki Wilderness Area to the Mendocino National Forest, create a new 68,480-acre Mineral King Wilderness Area in the Sequoia National Forest, establish five new wilderness areas totaling about 70,000 acres in the Tahoe National Forest, and add 97,590 acres of potential timberlands to the Trinity Alps Wilderness area east of Willow Creek. Over 41,000 acres would be added to the Kings Range area in the Ukiah District.

Dozens of rivers and creeks would be also be declared off-limits to mining under Boxer’s proposal by designating them as Wild and Scenic.

Tom Bohigan, an aide to Senator Boxer, already tried to seek an endorsement for the proposal from the Inyo County Board of Supervisors on May 7. Multiple-use advocates, including Larry Thompson, learned of the plan and presented evidence of the CWC’s improprieties at the meeting, effectively thwarting the endorsement for now.

Make sure you let your elected officials know how you stand on this proposed legislation, including your local board of supervisors. Our website contains contact information for representatives and senators.

California already has roughly 14 million acres designated as wilderness, which is off limits to logging, mining and other forms of commercial development.

• Battle over the rights of people versus fish continues in the Klamath Basin
Several environmentalist groups filed suit to force the National Marine Fisheries Service and the US Bureau of Reclamation to release more water from upstream dams and place further restrictions on the amount of water farmers receive in the region. They also sought a temporary restraining order to force immediate government action.

US District Court Judge Saundra Armstrong rejected the motion for a temporary restraining order, but the suit will continue. The judge stated there was insufficient scientific evidence to support the need for the restraining order.

Interior Secretary Norton issued a statement commending the judge for her decision.

Sound science or “fairy tales”
A group of scientists converged on Washington in early May to point out the lack of scientific evidence behind the global warming craze.

Harwig Volz, a geophysicist from RWE Research Labs in Germany, questioned climate projections coming from the United Nations sponsored Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The IPCC’s projections have been used by environmentalists as the backbone for further restrictions on industry.

Volz stressed that the IPCC calls the climate models “projections” or “story lines.” Volz said the projections would be more aptly termed “fairy tales.”

S. Fred Singer, an atmospheric physicist with the University of Virginia, called the IPCC’s global warming projections “completely unrealistic.”

Singer accused the IPCC of “assuming extreme scenarios of population growth and fossil fuel consumption.” Singer called on the Bush administration to assemble a team of scientists to review the IPCC’s facts and write a more accurate assessment using the same data.

Dr. Ulrich Berner, a geologist with the Federal Institute for Geosciences in Germany, said global temperatures have varied greatly in the earth’s history and are unrelated to human activity.

Sally C. Pipes, President and CEO of the California-based Pacific Research Institute, a non-partisan think-tank, stated environmental extremists and the media chose to ignore a report by the Weather Channel.

The Weather Channel reported that the last two months of 2000 were the coldest on record since the US began keeping records over 100 years ago.
© ICMJ's Prospecting and Mining Journal, CMJ Inc.
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