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NACo Public Lands Steering Committee - 2013 Legislative Conference


Posted Date: 
March 12, 2013
Contact: 
Lesley Robinson, Phillips County & Mike Murray, Lewis & Clark County

Commissioner Mike Murray serves as Chairman, and Commissioner Lesley Robinson serves as Vice Chair of the NACO Public Lands Committee, which had several speakers from the USDA Forest Service and the Department of Interior BLM.

Carl Roundtree, director National Landscape Conservation System, BLM spoke to the group about monuments. He said that multiple use will be permitted unless it negatively affects the object or the value of the land. Existing and valid rights are protected but grazing is a privilege, not a right. He went on to say that traditional and compatible uses will continue such as grazing, motorized use, hunting and fishing. A portion of his presentation was about the economic benefits of a monument. Six and a half billion dollars a year is produced by recreational uses on public land. He had a power point of a study by Headwaters Economics claiming that monuments raises the per capita income for the residents around the monument. The counties surrounding the Upper Missouri River Breaks Monument would most likely disagree with that study. The delegation from Utah brought up several instances of communities struggling that are adjacent to a monument.

Neil Korze, acting BLM Director spoke to the group. He is a former policy advisor for Senator Harry Reid of Nevada. One of the subjects that he spoke about was the wild horse and burros. Forty thousand horses have been taken off BLM range and placed in facilities and ranches across the west. There are forty thousand that remain on the BLM range. The optimal number is twenty six thousand. The horses reproduce at a rate of approximately twenty percent a year.

Our Montana State BLM director, Jaimie Connell is in Washington DC for the next few months filling in as BLM Deputy Director until the position is filled. She was able to attend our public lands committee and have lunch with the committee leadership.

Tom Tidwell, Chief USDA Forrest Service spoke about how collaborative efforts make a difference. Litigation takes staff away from doing beneficial work. I can delay projects for two to three years. By then a new environmental analysis is needed because the landscape has changed (more dead trees).

At the WIR board meeting Butch Blazer, Deputy Undersecretary USDA stated that if the drought continues it could reduce use on forest service lands by fifteen to twenty percent nationwide in the next few years.

Brent Gardner, executive director Utah Association of Counties and Paul Gutierrez, executive director New Mexico Association of Counties gave us an update about trends in their state legislature concerning transfer of public lands to the state.

Mike Nedd, Assistant Director for Mineral and Realty management, BLM told us that foreign oil is less than fifty percent of domestic use.

National Association of Counties set up a meeting with Assistant Secretary, Department of State Dr. Kerri Ann Jones for Lesley Robinson, Richard Dunbar, Phillips county,  John Prinkki, Carbon county, Carl Seilstad, Fergus county and Connie Eissinger, McCone county. We were there to discuss the Keystone XL Pipeline. There were also five other State Department staff in attendance at the meeting. We and commissioner Eissinger from McCone county explained the positive impacts the pipeline would have for our counties. If the pipeline is approved and built they most likely be our number one taxpayer in the county. The draft environmental impact statement (EIS) has been released for public comment. It is important to comment on this EIS. If your business will benefit from the construction of the pipeline send in specific comments on how you will benefit. A good example is the infrastructure that will be built for transmission of power. When we talked about infrastructure being built they were especially interested. There will be numerous comments sent in from people who oppose the pipeline. To comment by email keystonecomments@state.gov, at http://www.keystonepipeline-xl.state.gov or mailed to the following address:

U.S. Department of State
Attn: Genevieve Walker, NEPA Coordinator
2201 C Street NW, Room 2726
Washington DC  20520

Lesley Robinson | commissioners@phillipscounty.mt.gov | (406)673-3394 and Mike Murray | mmurray@lccountymt.gov | (406)447-3197