Inside the Capitol

Thursday, June 21, 2012

FW: 6-27 Congress should look at lizard agreement process

62712 lizard

SANTA FE – Amazing history was made last week down in the southeastern corner of New Mexico as totally divergent groups of interests got together on an agreement that saved the dunes sagebrush lizard and 20 percent of American oil output all in one fell swoop.
Parties to this groundbreaking endeavor were landowners in the habitat of this evidently valuable but tiny reptile, environmentalists, members of Congress from New Mexico and Texas and officials from the federal Department of the Interior.
The landowners included oil and gas companies, ranchers and private citizens in a small corner of New Mexico and West Texas. Environmentalists included those groups willing to sit down and talk rather than insisting that all landowners just get out. Members of Congress included New Mexico Sens. Jeff Bingaman and Tom Udall and New Mexico Rep. Steve Pearce. Texas had its counterparts to our delegation.
Government officials included representatives of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the federal Bureau of Land Management and various state and local agencies.
Evidently this agreement is the first of its kind and should serve as a model for how these kinds of issues are dealt with, according to Sen. Tom Udall. Actually, Tom, this agreement should serve as a model for how Congress deals with all issues. We haven't seen cooperation like this in Congress for quite some time.
Not everything is sweetness and light concerning this agreement. Environmental groups that didn't participate in the talks insist that the Interior Department sold out to the politicos and the oil and gas industry and that the agreements will never work. Big oil has been most gracious about the agreements, which will cause it to dismantle quite a bit of infrastructure. They probably figure it is the best deal they are going to get in an environment so sensitive to preserving little creatures.
One oil industry representative did suggest that the federal government made its decision based on the political implications of causing the oil industry headaches just before the presidential election. Maybe so, but President Obama isn't likely to pull many votes from the oil and gas people regardless of his decision. But environmental organizations usually are big Democratic supporters and some of them aren't a bit happy right now.
As usual in such high stakes negotiations both sides came in overstating their cases. The oil industry talked in terms of the entire Permian Basin being shut down instead of the small area where this little lizard exists. Some environmental groups said it was less than one percent of the basin.
The WildEarth Guardians declared "There is no species more deserving of federal protection than the dunes sagebrush lizard." The group further said that even these agreements may be too weak to keep the species from becoming extinct.
I suppose if the lizard does become extinct, terrible things will happen to this earth. I understand our world is not supposed to survive past December 21 of this year anyway so maybe it doesn't matter. All I know is that since the beginning of life on earth, huge numbers of species have gone extinct. Maybe if they had all survived, we would have a perfect world – with dinosaurs.
Let's hope all these agreements with each of the landowners work out because the lesser prairie chicken is following close behind. It seems like a never-ending stream of critters, evidently vital to our existence, that keep impeding businesses that carry the promise of producing more jobs.
According to news reports, voluntary conservation agreements were sought between the federal government and each landowner in the lizard habitat. Landowners in about 88 percent of dunes sagebrush lizard land enrolled in the program.
The cost to landowners in the program isn't small. The fee to enroll in the program is $2 an acre. Each activity within the habitat is then charged a fee. In the case of drilling an oil well, the fee could run as high as $20,000.
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> Subject: 6-27 Congress should look at lizard agreement process
> Date: Wed, 20 Jun 2012 17:54:33 -0600


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