Latest from The Spokesman-Review
SHOOTING — Exploding targets are officially a no-no on national forests throughout the West.
Citing public safety concerns and the potential for igniting wildfires, Northern Region Forester Faye Krueger has signed a regional closure order prohibiting unpermitted explosives on national forest system lands, specifically to prohibit the use of exploding targets.
This closure for national forests in Idaho, Montana and the Dakotas follows last year's closures by some other Western national forest and the entire the Pacific Northwest Region.
- A shooter was fined $168,000 last year for igniting a forest fire with an exploding target.
“National Forest System Lands are ideal for a wide range of recreational activities that include hunting and sport shooting,” Krueger said. “We must also ensure that recreational users are safe in their pursuits, and that we eliminate the risk of wildfires from explosive targets.”
In the past two years, exploding targets have been identified as the cause of at least 16 wildfires in the western states, costing taxpayers more than $33 million in fire suppression costs. The closure order includes all 12 national forests and grasslands in the Northern Region, covering northern Idaho, Montana, North Dakota and remaining portions of South Dakota not already under a closure order by the Rocky Mountain region.
Read on for more from the Forest Service:
The Daily Show was off during the height of the standoff between Cliven Bundy and the Bureau of Land Management. Last night, Jon Stewart made up for lost time.
There are two clips on the segment, although you'll have to wait through a commercial at the start of each one.
UPDATED 3:18 p.m. to properly attribute Taylor quote.
PUBLIC LANDS — Washington State Rep. Matt Shea has ridden out of his Spokane Valley district on his white horse to save us from the overpowering federal government as he stands in lock-step with a Nevada rancher who's stolen more than $1 million in grazing favors from public land.
Whom will Shea stand up for next? The guy who says he has a Constitutional right to rob the Post Office?
Shea says he was compelled to back Cliven Bundy as he joined Rep. Dave Taylor for a trip to the Bundy Ranch. As Taylor put it,“If we don’t stand up for our neighbors, there won’t be anybody left when they come for us.”
The confrontation stems around a Nevada rancher who doesn't recognize the U.S. Bureau of Land Management as the owner of the public land he wants to graze his cattle on. Bundy has declined to pay about $1 million in fees while he lets his stock run amock where law abiding ranchers don't.
Trouble is, the BLM isn't the only voice saying Bundy is breaking the law. So have the courts, twice.
The courts, at last check, are our nation's way of settling points of law.
BLM backed away from confiscating Bundy's cattle — seizing the stock was authorized by a judge — when supporters came in and posed the climate for a violent confrontation.
So where do we go from here?
The public owns the land, not the rancher. If every man who fabricates a disagreement with the government decides to run his cattle — or cuts his trees, builds his roads, kills his game, nets his fish, or fires up his bulldozer — the way he sees fit, the American icon of public land will be lost.
That, Mr. Shea, is what's worth standing up for. Not one man's greed and selfishness, but rather the rule of law and the overwhelming advantages of regulated public land.
The federal government has declared “war on rural America” with its rules and regulations on land use, a Spokane Valley legislator said in the wake of last week’s standoff between a Nevada rancher and the U.S. Bureau of Land Management.
In a speech on land near the center of the dispute, Republican Rep. Matt Shea called for federal land to be transferred to the states. A coalition of legislators from Western states was forming to stand up for Cliven Bundy and others in the fight against overbearing federal rules, he said.
But a spokesman for the group challenging Bundy's rights to graze hundreds of cattle on federal land without a permit or paying fees, said the rancher is trying to do something other cattlemen can't. And a federal judge's order supports that view. . .
To read the rest of this item, or to comment, continue inside the blog.
To read the federal judge's order in the legal battle between the BLM and Cliven Bundy, click on the document below.
PUBLIC LANDS — The federal government said today it is collecting $168,500 to cover fire suppression costs after an Illinois man ignited a 440-acre blaze in central Idaho in 2012 while shooting at an exploding target.
According to a story by the Associated Press, the U.S. Attorney’s Office announced the agreement after Jeffrey Kerner was target shooting on Aug. 18, 2012 on private land near Salmon in Lemhi County. As temperatures hit 95 degrees, prosecutors say Kerner’s target blew apart and ignited the blaze that later spread to adjacent federal land.
- This is one of several cases that prompted some national forests in 2013 to ban the use of exploding targets, as I reported in several stories this summer.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Amy Howe in Boise said the settlement in the Idaho case was reached after negotiations with an insurance adjustment company representing Kerner.
Though the fire was relatively small at less than a square mile and was contained within 48 hours, costs quickly escalated as federal firefighters arrived in force to keep the flames from consuming at least two nearby homes.
Howe said the incident — during high summer, when temperatures were climbing — underscores the danger of shooting at exploding targets that produce a large cloud of smoke when struck by a bullet. Federal and state agencies across the West have enacted a patchwork of regulations designed to limit or ban exploding targets on public land, though there’s little uniformity.
Read on for more more of the story from the AP.
PUBLIC LANDS – Led by a ban on exploding targets issued by Northwest national forests on July 9 and bans by other public land managers, a similar ban was issued on Monday by Rocky Mountain Region Forest Service officials who cited the products enjoyed by target shooters as a major cause of wildfires.
Shooters who use exploding targets have ignited 16 wildfires since last year, including seven in the Forest Service’s Rocky Mountain region that includes Colorado, Wyoming, Kansas, Nebraska and South Dakota, the officials said.
The ban extends to all national forests and grasslands in those five states.
The public should understand that exploding targets can cause fires, said John Walsh, the U.S. Attorney for Colorado, said in this story by the Durango Herald.
Exploding targets are legal to buy. They are made in a small canister by mixing dry chemicals that become volatile in each other’s presence. When struck by a bullet, they emit a brief flame and puff of smoke.
- One manufacturer says its product is different and should not have been included in the bans.
- But the tests shown in the video with the Durango Herald story prove that some exploding targets cause fires.
On a national level, the U.S. Forest Service says this:
“Exploding targets pose a very real safety threat to visitors and our employees” said U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell. “In the past year alone, at least 16 wildfires on national forests have been associated with exploding targets, causing millions of dollars in suppression costs while threatening the safety and well-being of surrounding communities.”
PUBLIC LANDS — Idaho state lawmkers supporting House Concurrent Resolution 22 say they don’t intend to sell off the federal land, but to manage it more efficiently.
Many people in the realm of recreation are not fond of the idea of the state — not widely acclaimed as a perfect public land steward — taking over land currently managed by the U.S. Forest Service or Bureau of Land Management.
- A hearing is scheduled at the Capitol in Boise for Tuesday morning before the House State Affairs Committee.
The resolution’s premise is that the federal government broke its promise to the states to dispose of all its lands and give the states 5 percent of the revenue.
Most legal scholars agree that the federal government had the right to change its mind, but there is a minority view that the states’ claim may be held as constitutional. That view passed the Utah Legislature last year, catching the interest of lawmakers in Arizona, Wyoming and New Mexico.
- Here are links with more background on the legislation.
Read on for the details in an Associated Press story originating from the Idaho Statesman.
PUBLIC LANDS — In another example of their self-centered approach to the outdoors and the world, Idaho lawmakers are suggesting they are going to waste state time and money making a stab and taking over federal lands within Idaho's borders.
- S-R Boise reporter Betsy Russell blogs it here.
You're not expecting public support on this, are you?
Click “continue reading” to see the Associated Press report on Monday's Statehouse meeting in Boise.
PUBLIC LANDS — The 350-acre fire on BLM land that prompted a temporary evacuation of Fishtrap Lake Resort recently was fairly well contained with minimal damange, officials say.
The photo above shows the edges of the fire burning up to the Farmer Landing trailhead west of Fishtrap Lake.
“Horseback riding and hiking along the trail from that trailhead should still be through unburned landscape,” said Steven Smith, BLM recreation manager in Spokane.
“So far, about 54 different fires in Eastern Washington have affected BLM lands,” said Scott Pavey, Spokane District spokesman, noting that some fires farther west are still burning. “A rough total of about 42,500 BLM acres have burned.”
PUBLIC LANDS — The Eastern Washington Resource Advisory Council (RAC) will hold a meeting on May 23 in Moses Lake focusing on the East Side and San Juan Resource Management Plan and the Forest Plan Revision for the Colville National Forest.
The meeting will run 10 a.m.-4 p.m in the Hardin Room of the ATEC Building at Big Bend Community College, 7662 N.E. Chanute St.
The meeting will be open to the public and there will be an opportunity for public comments at 10:00 a.m.
The Eastern Washington RAC is comprised of 15 members from a variety of backgrounds who are appointed by the Secretary of the Interior. The Eastern Washington RAC provides advice to the Bureau of Land Management Spokane District Manager and the Colville National Forest Supervisor regarding management of federal public land in eastern Washington.
For info about the Eastern Washington RAC contact the Spokane BLM District Office, 1103 N. Fancher Rd, or call (509) 536-1200.
The Bureau of Land Management’s Blackwell Island boat launch will close for the season on Sunday evening (Oct. 16) . The popular launch site, located on the south side of the Spokane River, has been in operation for nine seasons. Blackwell Island recreation area will also be closed to day-use activities after Sunday. The main gate will be closed for the season and toilet facilities winterized. The site is a popular area for walking, picnicking and wildlife viewing during the summer season. Blackwell Island typically opens in late May dependent upon lake water levels/Rich Landers, Outdoors.
Question: Which North Idaho boat launch do you use? And/or: Which is the best launch in North Idaho?
ROCK CLIMBING — The Bureau of Land Management is proposing a ban on rock-climbing at Cedar Fields near Burley, Idaho, to protect cultural resources in that area and would also ban climbing on BLM lands in the Castle Rocks Inter-Agency Recreation Area.
The federal agency is taking public comment on the plan until Oct. 28.
PUBLIC LANDS — The U.S. Bureau of Land Management plans to scale back costly roundups of wild horses.
In a news release issued Thursday, BLM officials said they will reduce the number of wild horses removed from the range by about one-quarter — to 7,600 per year. The agency also will expand the use of fertility controls and increase the number of animals adopted by individuals or groups. The bureau continues to oppose horse slaughter, which some in the West have advocated as a way to thin herds.
Other groups have called the past roundups inhumane.
The BLM can't win on this issue. But it's clear the land and wildlife habitat is losing the battle where wild horse herds have grown too large.
The new approach comes a week after the House approved an amendment to cut the agency’s budget by $2 million to protest the roundups. The program’s annual cost has tripled over the past decade to $66 million. Annual costs are expected to reach at least $85 million by 2012.
More than 38,000 wild horses and burros roam in Nevada, California, Wyoming and other Western states. An additional 40,000 animals are cared for in corrals and pastures in Kansas, Oklahoma and South Dakota.
An analysis of the public’s comments and a detailed proposed implementation strategy will be posted at www.blm.gov on Feb. 28. Public comments will be accepted through March 30 by e-mail to email@example.com with “Comments on Strategy” in the subject line.
WILDLIFE — A breeding bird density map for the greater sage-grouse released today by the Department of Interior could be a step in controling development to help keep the prairie bird off the Endangered Species list.
The map identifies important areas having high density occurrences of greater sage-grouse, a ground-dwelling bird that inhabits much of the West. These areas were determined by estimating the male’s attendance on “leks,” the name biologists use to describe the communal breeding grounds of the bird.
The U.S. Bureau of Land Management will work with the state fish and wildlife agencies to refine the map by incorporating more specific state-level data.
More Info: Hinson said he’s heard concerns that the land swap is a “North Idaho giveaway” to benefit residents of southern Idaho. To address those concerns, Idaho Forest Group is willing to put an easement on the land requiring public access in perpetuity, said Bob Boeh, a company vice president. State Sen. Joyce Broadsword, R-Sagle, said she supports the swap for its economic development potential. Idaho Forest Group estimates that the BLM ground contains 80 million to 100 million board feet of timber.
Question: Do you think this proposed land swap gives away North Idaho public land? Or is a good deal because it puts that land on tax rolls and public access will be guaranteed?