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Legislative and Regulatory Update

• Bush Proposes Cooperation in Land Conservation
Sand Harbor State Park, NY (AP)—George W. Bush recently proposed tax incentives for private conservation efforts and more money for federal programs to promote preservation instead of simply placing land off-limits by federal order.

Standing on the shores of Lake Tahoe on a crisp, late-spring day, the Republican presidential contender said his five-point proposal would place oversight of conservation efforts where it properly belongs.

He criticized the Clinton-Gore administration, which he said has steadily increased the government's grasp on forests, monument properties and seashores.

"This Washington-centered mind-set breeds resentment and it breeds needless conflict," Bush said. "It's time to build conservation partnerships," he said, among the federal government, state governments, local communities and private landowners.

The governor said that in his home state of Texas, "we have succeeded not by antagonizing people but by inviting folks to become part of the solution."

In particular, Bush proposed:

• To give a 50-percent tax break on capital gains incurred when private landowners sell property for conservation purposes.

• To abolish the inheritance tax so landowners won't be encouraged to sell property in order to pay taxes.

• To provide full funding of the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund, and to mandate that 50 percent of the proceeds be spent on state and local efforts.

• To provide $50 million in matching grants for states to establish a program that would offer incentives to private landowners to protect rare species and to restore habitats while engaging in such endeavors as farming and ranching. He also recommended spending $10 million to establish a stewardship grant program for private conservation efforts.

• To establish the President's Awards for Private Stewardship, which would recognize the best examples of private conservation.

"Our philosophy is we trust local folks to make the right decisions for the community in which they live," Bush said. "Somehow the mentality of Washington is 'we know better."

Bush was joined at the event by Govs. Kenny Guinn of Nevada, Jim Geringer of Wyoming and Bill Owens of Colorado.

• Federal Government Shuts Down Recreational Mining in Idaho
This was the headline of a recent Associated Press article. The article stated, "The federal government has jumped the claims of recreational gold miners in the state." The National Marine Fisheries Service advised the state of Idaho to close numerous tributaries because of the "potential harm" to several endangered species of fish from dredgers.

Over two dozen tributaries were added to the list of waters closed to dredging in the state, expanding the list of closed waters to close to 300.

A. La Vance, from Lewiston, Idaho, a "reader and subscriber to the CMJ for over 40 years," expressed his frustration over the revised list. He stated, "The few waters still open are in [the] southern part of the state and probably contain no Au anyway."

Dredgers should contact the state to obtain the revised list. Phone (208) 327-7900, fax (208) 327-7866, or write: State of Idaho, Department of Water Resources, 1301 North Orchard Street, PO Box 8.3720, Boise, ID, 83720-0098.

• Forest     Service     Considers Grassland Comments in Wyoming, Nebraska. North and South Dakota
Gillette, WY (AP)—Campbell County commissioners said they are skeptical the U.S. Forest Service will consult them in preparing a plan to manage national grasslands.

"I think the dialogue between us has not been good. I hope it gets better," said Comm. Fred Oedekoven.

The Forest Service is updating its management guidelines for the grasslands, which include 553,000 acres of the Thunder Basin National Grassland in northeast Wyoming and others in Nebraska and the Dakotas.

Forest Service officials have said they will work with local governments in the next phase of the planning process.

But the county sent questions and concerns to the Forest Service several months ago. Campbell Commissioner Alan Weakly said the Forest Service has not contacted the county since January. "We haven't received anything from them but promises, "he said.

Conservationists, industry and agricultural interests are at odds over how the guidelines should treat recreation, mineral development and grazing.

"We will try to come up with a balance of these interests to preserve the landscape," said Bob Sprentall, acting planning team leader for the Forest Service.

The Forest Service's preferred plan, "alternative three," would ban motorized off-road vehicles and reduce grazing by 3 to 5 percent.

It recommends Congress create a roadless area out of 14,850 acres and expand the number of developed sites, such as campgrounds, picnic areas and trailheads, from 5 to 80.

It would set aside 51,400 acres to reintroduce the endangered black-footed ferret. Other habitat would be preserved for prarrie dogs, sage grouse and plains sharp-tailed grouse.

The plan calls for maintaining minerals production at about its current level. A final draft of the plan is expected in December.

The four state's governors have accused the agency of violating the National Environmental Policy Act by not working more closely with state and local officials.

They state a draft environmental study released last summer does not sufficiently describe the existing conditions in the grasslands.

Weakly said state and community officials from the four states will meet later this summer to discuss their shared concerns. Some of the proposed ferret habitat would be within two miles of mining operations and could cause some problems, he said.

• Babbitt Proposes More National Monuments
Washington, DC (AP)—Babbitt recently recommended creating a 164,000-acre Canyons of the Ancients National Monument near Cortez in southwestern Colorado. He also recommended creating other new monuments in Arizona, Oregon and Washington state.

The monument proposal is no surprise to local officials, who have discussed the plans with Babbitt and other federal officials for more than a year. Several local officials and Republicans in Congress oppose the plan but admit that there is nothing they can do to stop Clinton from creating the monument.

"Here we have the last days of the administration and the president and Secretary Babbitt are treating public lands like they're treating their offices—they're turning off the lights, locking the doors and leaving," said Chris Changery, spokesman for Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R-CO).

Campbell had introduced a bill to give more protections to the Canyons of the Ancients area, but abruptly pulled it earlier this year, saying residents of the area could not agree on a conservation plan.

"Massive amounts of land like this should go through Congress for open debate," said Republican Rep. Scott McInnis, who represents the area.

Babbitt has said he believes the oil and gas production in the area has been environmentally responsible, but mining should be banned.

If Clinton approves the request, as expected, he will have used the 1906 Antiquities Act to protect nearly 3.7 million acres—the second most by a U.S. president.
© ICMJ's Prospecting and Mining Journal, CMJ Inc.
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