RBC I The White River and Douglas Creek conservation districts joined the Rio Blanco County commissioners and several members of the public for a meeting with U.S. Rep. Cory Gardner on Friday to address shared concerns about a number of natural resource issues.
One of the top concerns is the potential “threatened” or “endangered” listing of the Greater Sage Grouse by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services and the BLM Resource Plan Amendment.
Gardner expressed his understanding of the devastation that a threatened or endangered listing of this species would cause Colorado’s economy. In fact, he said he has joined fellow U.S. Rep Scott Tipton and others in introducing legislation “to prevent the sage grouse from being listed under the Endangered Species Act for 10 years, and instead requires states to develop conservation management plans to meet the unique needs of the sage grouse in each state” (the Congressman’s website).
White River District Board Member Gary Moyer shared the boards’ concerns about several ongoing federal agency actions. These include the “proposed directive” by the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) to require permit applicants to assign their water rights to the USFS as a condition of permit approval and a second directive regarding the groundwater resource management on USFS lands.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is proposing a rule regarding the “waters of the United States” under the Clean Water Act (CWA) “defining the scope of waters protected under the CWA.” These directives are of grave concern as stand-alone issues. However, there is cause for even greater concern when we recognize their cumulative impacts.
District executive director Callie Hendrickson, stated, “the Federal Register had 7,468 pages of ‘actions’ just for the month of July,” and she asked Gardner to take action to stop federal agencies from drafting and implementing these types of rules through the Federal Register that are in essence circumventing Congress. He acknowledged that Congress must take back the control by passing good solid bills that will prevent this kind of overreach by the agencies.
The last statement of concern by the attendees was that the Equal Access to Justice Act (EAJA) is being abused by special interest groups and is negatively impacting the federal agencies’ ability to manage natural resources.
The EAJA requires the federal government to pay the litigants’ legal fees even if they settle out of court or if they win a case on a technicality. With so many rules and regulations on the books, i.e. the 7,468 pages per month, anyone can find a technicality to win a case.
Gardner shared this concern and said he is carrying a bill that will require transparency of the Judgment Fund, which is an unlimited pot of money being used to pay some of the legal fees, judgments and settlements against the federal government.