Interior Secretary Sees More Collaboration From States, Locals

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By Tripp Baltz

June 13 — Interior Secretary Sally Jewell said the ongoing Bureau of Land Management Planning 2.0 process will “make more space, not less” for collaboration between the federal agency and state and local governments, especially with respect to land-use planning such as that involved in the decision last fall not to list the greater sage grouse under the Endangered Species List.

But one Western governor challenged Jewell June 13 as to whether state leaders will have input early in the process of land use planning.

“With respect to the governors' consistency reviews, it doesn't look that way right now,” Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval (R) said. “In fact, it feels like its getting narrower versus broader. The way the process worked this last time with respect to the sage grouse, it felt perfunctory. I want it to feel like we've been listened to. We do want to be heard early in the process versus the end.”

The exchange between Jewell and Sandoval occurred during a session of the annual meeting of the Western Governors Association in Jackson, Wyo., in which Jewell addressed issues of federal and state cooperation on natural resource management and public lands, including climate research, wildfire, energy, and species conservation.

Decisions Affect ‘Lives and Livelihoods.'

Land use planning must “include state science” and “make sure there is collaboration up front with states,” Jewell said. “Lives and livelihoods are impacted by the decisions we make, and I'm keenly aware of it.”

Idaho, Nevada and Utah—along with Western counties and industry associations—have sued the BLM and the U.S. Forest Service for violating the Administrative Procedure Act and the National Environmental Policy Act in proposing amendments to numerous federal land-use plans designed to conserve the ground-dwelling greater sage grouse, which faces numerous threats across its 257,000-square-mile range in 11 states.

At its annual meeting, the WGA announced a policy resolution calling on Congress to amend and reauthorize the Endangered Species Act of 1973 based upon seven broad goals, including “maintaining the Act’s integrity and original intent to protect and recover listed species to a point where the protections of the Act are no longer necessary.”

“If you care, as western governors do, about species and conservation, you also have to care about making the ESA operate at the most effective level possible,” said Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead (R), WGA chair, who made species conservation and improvement of the Endangered Species Act the focus of his chairmanship over the past year. Among the seven goals stated in the resolution is the requirement to “clear recovery goals for listed species, and actively pursue delisting of recovered species.”

But Dan Ashe, director of the Fish and Wildlife Service, told Bloomberg BNA the “political environment” in Washington, D.C., means it is unlikely Congress will take up the recommendations referenced in the governors' resolution. “And as a practical matter, there isn't enough time” for Congress to do so under the current administration, he said.

Lowering Energy Costs

Also addressing the WGA was Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, who focused on energy innovation, the goal of which is to lower the cost of energy.

“First, if we expect emerging and developing economies to be part of the low-carbon future, we've got to lower the cost,” Moniz said. “Second, if we lower the cost, it makes policy easier to put into place.”

Moniz cited LED lighting as an example of an energy innovation that has brought significant cost reductions. “The cost of LED lighting has fallen by 90 percent in the U.S.,” he said. Two weeks ago, an Indian energy minister announced the nation had purchased 100 million LED lights for the poor in India, “and they are getting an 80 cent per 9 watt price,” Moniz said. “That's the equivalent of a 60-watt light bulb. Eighty cents. The payback period is like a week compared to other technologies.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Tripp Baltz in Denver at abaltz@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Larry Pearl at lpearl@bna.com