Debbie Coffey (c)copyright 2011 All Rights Reserved

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 A Six-Point Plan to Avert a Global Crisis” and the 2010 National Geographic’s special issue cover story was “WATER: Our Thirsty World.”   Would it be too much to hope that Dept. of Interior Secretary Ken Salazar or BLM Director Bob Abbey might have read these and consider water issues?  (Oh wait a sec, the Gulf Oil Spill happened under their watchful eyes.)  Or that as leaders of U.S. land management agencies, they’d be concerned with vanishing supplies of uncontaminated water? 

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The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is selling YOUR land right out from under you.  Concurrently, the BLM is blitzing the media with PR spin to justify removing all of our publicly owned wild horses off of our public lands.  If you want to see what has really been happening to our wild horses at recent roundups, go to http://blog.grassrootshorse.com/

Do you know how many acres of your public lands are being sold off in each state?  This is a policy being pushed by your President, your Congress, Ken Salazar (Secretary of the Dept. of the Interior) and Bob Abbey (BLM Director).  Your state and local governments have their hands out to receive part of the profits.  Your “public agencies” (like the Department of the Interior and the Bureau of Land Management) are actually corporations and their priority is to make money. 

Each BLM office is required to have quarterly “lease sales” of your public lands.  The BLM is making their money off of you and the remains of your United States of America. 

To keep this simple, we’ll just look at one state’s lease/sales of our public lands to oil and gas companies.

Wyoming, as it turns out, is going gung ho on oil and gas “leasing.”  The BLM calls giving the use of our public lands to extractive industries for as little as $2 an acre a “lease sale.”  These are 10 year leases and they can be renewed.  Oil and gas companies can ask for certain parcels of public property to be leased. 

However, unless you’ve ever heard of an oil pipeline being ripped out after it was installed, I’d call this a “permanent” use of our public lands.   An oil or gas (or mining) company will extract all of the oil/gas/ore.  They often contaminate water, land and air.  They use a LOT of our water from aquifers in their extracting process. 

The oil and gas companies pay a 12.5% royalty to the Dept. of Interior’s Minerals Management Service on the amount or value of oil or gas removed or sold from each lease.  BUT THE OIL AND GAS COMPANIES DON’T PAY ANYTHING FOR ALL OF THE WATER FROM OUR AQUIFERS, WHICH IS IRREPLACEABLE AND INVALUABLE.

Let’s look at what happened in Wyoming in 2010.

Starting with the most recent 2010 quarterly BLM Competitive Oil and Gas Lease Sale Results:

November 2, 2010, Wyoming BLM leased/sold about 108,049 acres of your public lands.

August 3, 2010, Wyoming BLM leased/sold about 77, 712 acres of your public lands.

May 11, 2010, Wyoming BLM leased/sold about 70,446 acres of your public lands.

February 2, 2010, Wyoming BLM leased/sold about 52,993 acres of your public lands.

This is about 309,200 acres.  So, it’s well over of a quarter of a million acres sold only to oil and gas  industries, in only one state, in only one year. 

These lands were leased/sold with a FONSI (Finding of no Significant Impact) by a BLM Field Office Manager.  Do you consider leasing/selling over a quarter of a million acres of your public lands to be significant?

The BLM does a boiler plate Environmental Assessment, but then the BLM Field Manager just “declares” a FONSI, and it is so.  Like little mini-dictators. 

BLM Field Office managers state that oil and gas extraction is of no significance.  They write something like “I have determined that the project is not a major federal action and will not significantly affect the quality of the human environment, individually or cumulatively with other actions in the general area.  No environmental effects meet the definition of significance in context or intensity as defined in 40 CFR 1508.27 and do not exceed those effects described in Kemmerer Resource Management Plan.  Therefore, an environmental impact statement is not required.” 

However, the Environmental Working Group found that oil and gas exploration impacts ARE significant.  There are many documentaries available to describe the damage caused by hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” (“Gasland” and “Split Estate”) and if you want to see what one group of concerned citizens has to say about fracking, go to www.damascuscitizens.org.

The Environmental Working Group stated “Drilling often removes enormous amounts of groundwater.  Companies frequently pump out thousands of gallons of water per well, particularly in oil wells and coal bed methane operations…The removal of water can create several problems: water may be depleted from nearby aquifers if large quantities of water are pumped out of the ground…removing water from coal beds creates the potential for underground coal fires, and vast quantities of water that are saline or contaminated with drilling fluids can contaminate soils, surface water and groundwater.”

Oil companies use “thumper trucks” in exploration.  These giant trucks with tires as tall as a man, lower huge plates applying 64,000 pounds of pressure to the ground and sending a seismic jolt into the ground to measure the waves as they return.  In Utah’s red rock desert, these trucks pulverized the earth, wiped out a 15 foot swath of vegetation wherever they drove and obliterated the cryptobiotic soil, which holds the red sand in place from wind and erosion. 

A USGS expert on soil damage, Jayne Belnap, had submitted an official letter to the BLM about the fragility of the desert crust, and warned that it could take 50 to 300 years for the dry soil to recover from the damage incurred by heavy equipment.  In my opinion, the BLM probably labeled Jayne Belnap an eco-terrorist, then allowed the thumper trucks to just thump away. 

However, the BLM Field offices really knock themselves out doing Environmental Assessments to remove our wild horses from our public lands.  They’ll bury you in over 120 pages of minutia over some hoof prints and a measly 15 gallons of water a day per horse. 

Given these extremes, which are outlandish assessments, doesn’t it seem like the BLM is perpetrating FRAUD against the American people?

In 2008, Scientific American magazine’s cover story was “Running Out of Water: A Six-Point Plan to Avert a Global Crisis” and the 2010 National Geographic’s special issue cover story was “WATER: Our Thirsty World.”   Would it be too much to hope that Dept. of Interior Secretary Ken Salazar or BLM Director Bob Abbey might have read these and consider water issues?  (Oh wait a sec, the Gulf Oil Spill happened under their watchful eyes.)  Or that as leaders of U.S. land management agencies, they’d be concerned with vanishing supplies of uncontaminated water?  Bob Abbey may have been too busy with photo ops with mining company execs from Coeur Rochester for the Nov. 4 -10, 2010 Lovelock Review-Miner (Nevada), to have taken the time to read any articles about the global water crisis.  (Bob and the execs were all smiles after Coeur Rochester’s mining expansion received a FONSI.)  The Lovelock Review-Miner stated that (Bob Abbey said, in referring to the BLM) “the agency took its time to write a decision that can withstand any potential legal challenges down the road.”

Now that I think about it, I haven’t seen Bob Abbey at any of the many roundups of our wild horses, either.  I guess it wouldn’t be such a good photo op for him, since Josh Hellyer might almost be landing a helicopter on the back of a wild horse in the background.  Or heavily pregnant mares might be seen being chased by the helicopter long distances over snow, ice and rough terrain. 

I can guarantee you that similar lease sales are happening in other states.

Nevada has a lot of mining, which is sucking billions of gallons of water from the aquifers from one of the driest states in the nation.  It matters, because Nevada will need to borrow some water from its neighbors, like California, Utah and Idaho.  But what happens when California, Utah and Idaho run short on water.  Who will they borrow from?  Eventually, there will be fewer and fewer places to get any uncontaminated water.

There’s not going to be water for wildlife (that means no hunting and fishing).  There won’t be water for livestock or irrigation for farming.  What will you eat?  There won’t be water for our wild horses OR for you. 

Why is the BLM perpetuating this disaster?  When will there be a Congressional investigation into the BLM’s mismanagement of our public lands and their cruel eradication of our wild horses, which the BLM is supposed to protect?

SOURCES:

www.ewg.org

The Lovelock Review-Miner (Nov. 4 – 10, 2010) “Officials Celebrate Coeur Rochester Expansion”

http://www.blm.gov/nv/st/en/fo/wfo/blm_information/newsroom/2010/october/blm_issues_decision0.html

National Geographic (April 2010)   “Water – Our Thirsty World: A Special Issue”

Scientific American (August 2008)

http://www.blm.gov/pgdata/etc/medialib/blm/wy/programs/energy/og/leasing/2010.Par.2142.File.dat/11results.pdf

http://www.blm.gov/pgdata/etc/medialib/blm/wy/programs/energy/og/leasing/2010.Par.92740.File.dat/08results.pdf

http://www.blm.gov/pgdata/etc/medialib/blm/wy/programs/energy/og/leasing/2010.Par.79688.File.dat/05results.pdf

http://www.blm.gov/pgdata/etc/medialib/blm/wy/programs/energy/og/leasing/2010.Par.20000.File.dat/02results.pdf

http://www.blm.gov/wy/st/en/info/NEPA/documents/og-ea/1110.html

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