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People for the West -Tucson

Newsletter Volume 8, No.4, April 2002

Information and commentary on the environment, property rights, and multiple use of federal lands.

Our Constitution is the contract with America

How Many Species?

Jonathan DuHamel

Pima County proposes to protect 55 "vulnerable species" under the Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan (SDCP). That’s down from 56 species; apparently they lost a talus snail along the way. The SDCP steering committee is currently contemplating how many of those species should be protected, how many we can afford to protect, and what activities will be permitted or denied under the proposed land classification system.

Part of SDCP is to formulate a regional habitat conservation plan to qualify for a Section 10 incidental take permit under the Endangered Species Act.

There are eight federally listed "endangered" species in Pima County. Four other species are candidates for federal listing , and ten additional species are "species of concern" according to the Arizona Game & Fish Department. In reality, only two of the endangered species, the pygmy owl and the pineapple cactus, are widespread enough to cause trouble, that is, to require mitigation.

Pima County biologists recommend a list of 55 species to be included in a regional habitat conservation plan (HCP). Many of these species are not endangered or even threatened, and, in fact, are widespread. However, they would act as "umbrella species." Protecting them automatically protects hundreds of other species, and gives the county control of as much land as possible.

The downside of this scheme is that the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service will require inventories, monitoring plans, mitigation, and species management for each species listed in the HCP, the same as if each was formally listed as endangered. The county claims that the eight species listed as endangered by USFWS would require 96% of the land that 55 species would require. So, why do we need the added expense and effort to list the other 47 species? Is there something special about the remaining 4% of the land?

In my view, the quest for obtaining a section 10 permit need address no more than 11 species, the eight listed and three of the four candidate species. Of the eight listed species, one, the desert pupfish, is extinct in the wild, and two other aquatic species are known to occur only in areas already protected. Only the pygmy owl and the cacti are "at-large" on private and state land. County biologists, therefore, have searched desperately for other riparian species, mainly frogs and birds, which they could use to control riparian areas, and hence our water supply. The birds, however, have such large ranges that Pima County need not protect them and the frogs live in areas already protected. Several of the 55 species have such limited ranges that they already occur only in currently protected areas. At least eight species no longer occur in Pima County, but the county wants to reintroduce them, again, to control more land.

Over the past year or so, we have often heard about the 55 or 56 species, but do you know what they are? What follows is an inventory of species under consideration. In this review, I have relied on four main sources: "Priority Vulnerable Species" (PVS), the flawed report by county biologists; "A Natural History of the Sonoran Desert", published by the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum (2000); Roger Tory Peterson’s "Field Guide to Western Birds" (1990 edition); and "The Sibley Guide to Birds", published by the National Audubon Society (2000), probably the best bird book out there.


The "Endangered" Eight

Cactus ferruginous pygmy-owl (Glaucidium brasilianum cactorum) seems to favor suburban Tucson for habitat. They are suspected to occur on the Tohono O’odham Indian reservation, but nobody has looked. Southern Arizona and south Texas represent the extreme northern fringe of its range which extends through Mexico, Central and South America. Sibley, Peterson, and ASDM don’t recognize the "cactorum" subspecies. This species was listed by political science, not real science. It’s not really endangered, but is scarce, we think, in Arizona.


Lesser long-nosed bat (Leptonycteris curasoae yerbabuenae) is a migratory species which occurs mainly in Mexico. During the spring, thousands of female bats come to Arizona to feed on agave and saguaro flowers, and to bear their young. Known major roosts are the Bluebird Mine on the Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge, Copper Mountain Mine in Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, Box Canyon Crevice in Saguaro National Park (only 1 or 2 bats in 1991), and Cave of the Bells, in Coronado National Forest. These areas are already protected. This bat was listed in 1988 based on faulty information. According to PVS: "If the most recent census numbers are correct, the lesser long-nosed bat has had a substantial increase in numbers since the status surveys of 1984-85. Its population sizes appear to be far larger (by 2 orders of magnitude in Arizona alone) than was known in 1985, and its numbers at some locations appear to be relatively stable from year-to-year." This bat is apparently doing well without SDCP.

Southwestern willow flycatcher (Empidonax traillii extimus) has no recorded locations in Pima County, although migrants are occasionally seen. Neither Sibley nor Peterson recognize the "extimus" subspecies. The Willow flycatcher is distinguished from the Alder flycatcher only by voice. Both bird books report that the range includes the entire U.S. and Mexico. This is another non-endangered, "endangered" species.



Desert pupfish (Cyprinodon macularius macularius), a 3" long fish, has no known habitat in conservation areas and lands owned or controlled by the County, according to PVS. According to Arizona Game & Fish, "The only known existing desert pupfish in Pima County are at the International Wildlife Museum in the Tucson Mountains." However, several hundred Desert pupfish occur also at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, but these are a different subspecies. PVS reports that reintroduction attempts over the years have failed. This species is essentially extinct in the wild and should be delisted.

Gila topminnow (Poeciliopsis occidentalis) is a 2" long fish which once inhabited the Gila River drainage. Currently the only known wild population is in Cienega Creek, within the Empire-Cienega Resource Conservation Area.


Pima pineapple cactus (Coryphantha scheeri var. robustispina) is sparsely distributed in semidesert grassland and alluvial fans in the Arizona Upland subdivision of Sonoran desert scrub. It occurs from approximately 2,300 to 5,000 feet in elevation, and is usually found on flat ridge tops with little slope and in soils that are mostly rocky loams. It is present in Arizona desert (upper edge), desert grassland, and the lower edge of southwestern oak wood-land. Its known range is Pima and Santa Cruz Counties, and Sonora, Mexico.

Nichol’s Turk’s head cactus (Echinocactus horizonthalonius var. nicholii) occurs in Pima and Pinal Counties, Arizona, and Sierra del Viejo, Sonora, Mexico. In Arizona, the range extends from the Vekol Mountains in southwestern Pinal County south to the Waterman Mountains in Pima County, and includes the Silver Bell Mountains. It occurs only on limestone-derived soils, in rocky soil or soils composed largely of talus chips, and appears to be limited by soil. It occurs through an elevation range of 2,400 to 4,100 feet. However, Echinocactus horizonthalonius is widely distributed in the Chihuahuan desert of west Texas.

Huachuca water umbel (Lilaeopsis schaffneriana recurva) is a semi-aquatic lily. The only population in Pima County for which the Heritage Data Management System has records is in Empire Gulch, a tributary of Cienega Creek, which is managed by the BLM as part of the Empire-Cienega Resource Conservation Area. Other populations occur in Santa Cruz County, mainly in stock tanks.



The Candidates

These species may be federally listed in the future, unless good science prevails.

Gila chub (Gila intermedia) is a 6" to 10" long fish which inhabited the Colorado River Basin. Its nomenclature has gone through about a dozen changes over the years. ASDM does not mention this fish in its "Natural History." According to PVS, the only population currently considered secure and stable occurs within Pima County in Cienega Creek. Two other known populations occur in Pima County: the Redfield Canyon population in the San Pedro drainage, which is considered stable but threatened, and the Sabino Canyon population, which is considered unstable and threatened. The Center for Biological Diversity has a suit pending to list this species.

Acuña cactus (Echinomastus [=Sclerocactus] erectocentrus var. acunensis) is a cactus in search of a name. Taxonomists can’t agree. Five populations of Acuña cactus are currently known, four in the U.S. and one in Sonora. The U.S. populations include one in Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, one near a mine pit on private land at Ajo, one northeast of Ajo, Arizona, on BLM land, and one east of the jail in Florence, Arizona.

Western yellow-billed cuckoo (Coccyzus americanus ssp. occidentalis) is another fake subspecies not recognized by either Sibley or Peterson. Its range is from Southern Canada, throughout the U.S., Mexico, the West Indies to Argentina. The Center for Biological Diversity is petitioning for listing because this bird has the potential of being another spotted owl.

Chiricahua leopard frog (Rana chiricahuensis) is one of nine species of leopard frogs in the Sonoran desert region. PVS claims this frog needs a 1.5 mile buffer around its home ponds, springs and streams. Its total range includes Arizona, New Mexico, and Mexico. This is another Center for Biological Diversity project, but it is not yet an official candidate.


Arizona Game & Fish "Species of Concern"

This bunch of critters includes four bats, two mice, a hawk, a frog, and a snake.

Western red bat (Lasiurus blossevillii) is a medium-sized, insectivorous bat which ranges throughout the western U.S. and Mexico. According to PVS all sightings in Pima County were between May 30 and September 30 during migrations, so it probably doesn’t live here.

Western yellow bat (Lasiurus xanthinus) is another medium-sized, insectivorous bat known to roost in palm trees and riparian deciduous trees. Its range is western Sonora and Baja California, with northern fringes in Southern California and southern Arizona. It is known to roost in palm trees in Tucson.

California leaf-nosed bat (Macrotus californicus) is another medium-sized, insectivorous bat with a range from the southwestern U.S. through the New World tropics. Within Pima County, these bats have been observed in inactive mines.

Pale Townsend’s big-eared bat (Plecotus townsendii pallescens) is another insectivorous bat which ranges from British Columbia southward to Mexico and eastward to Virginia. According to ASDM, this bat occupies a great variety of habitats and belongs to the second largest family of mammals.

Mexican long-tongued bat (Choeronycteris mexicana), a nectar feeder, ranges from Venezuela north to southern Arizona.

Arizona shrew (Sorex arizonae) has no know locations nor suitable habitat in Pima County according to PVS.

Merriam’s mouse (Peromyscus merriami) occurs mainly on the Tohono O’odham reservation and in Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument.

Swainson’s hawk (Buteo swainsoni) has no recorded locations in Pima County. It ranges from southern Canada to Mexico. This prairie buteo is a grasslands hunter.

Lowland leopard frog (Rana yavapaiensis) remains abundant in Cienega Creek County Park, the lower San Pedro River, Montrose Canyon, and in and around the Saguaro National Park eastern unit according to PVS. According to ASDM, there are nine species of leopard frogs and they range from coast to coast, and from Canada to Mexico.

Mexican garter snake (Thamnophis eques megalops) has a historic range of Arizona, New Mexico and Mexico. Apparently Tucson is the type area. Currently the only know location in Pima County is in Cienega Creek according to PVS.


The Other 34 Species

Of the other 34 species on the wish list, at least 15 are Talus snails with habitats so small that they could be handled on an individual basis if you could find them. Apparently, the only way to distinguish the species is to dissect them and look at their genitals. The Arkenstone Cave pseudoscorpion occupies one cave in the Colossal Cave Mountain Park. Neither Talus snails nor pseudoscorpion need be considered by SDCP. That leaves, mainly, a few bats, birds, and bushes.

Allen’s big-eared bat (Idionycteris phyllotis), an insect eater, is not known in Pima County and was not observed in Arizona prior to 1955.

Burrowing owl (Athene cunicularia hypugaea) ranges from Canada to Argentina, and throughout the U.S. Within their geographic range, burrowing owls inhabit open areas such as grasslands, pastures, coastal dunes, desert scrub, and the edges of agricultural fields. They also inhabit golf courses, airports, cemeteries, vacant lots, and road embankments, wherever there is sufficient friable soil for a nesting burrow.

Bell’s vireo (Vireo bellii) has a range from central and southwestern U.S. to Central America. Pima County may be including this species because it favors brushy riparian areas.

Abert’s towhee (Pipilo aberti). PVS claims that Abert’s towhee has no recorded locations in Pima County and PVS also claims that it is expanding it range in Arizona and has colonized backyards in Tucson. It ranges from Southwestern Arizona through Mexico. It’s another alleged riparian bird.

Rufous-winged sparrow (Aimophila carpalis) has a range from central Arizona to central Mexico and is mainly a grasslands dweller. PVS again schizophrenically claims no known locations in Pima County and that it has been recorded in 64 quadrangles in Pima County.

Tucson shovel-nosed snake (Chionactis occipitalis klauberi) is a small colorful snake that inhabited portions of the Mohave and Sonoran deserts. Currently there are no known locations in Pima County.

Organ Pipe shovel-nosed snake (Chionactis palarostris organica) is a subspecies of the Sonoran shovel-nosed snake, a species with its primary range in Mexico. Only this subspecies extends its range into the United States, and only into a small portion of western Pima County.

Giant spotted whiptail (Cnemidophorus burti stictogrammus) is a small lizard which is common in Sabino Canyon although PVS claims no known locations in Pima County.

Red-backed whiptail (Cnemidophorus burti xanthonotus) is another small lizard whose entire range is in Organ Pipe National Monument and adjacent Sonora.

Ground snake (valley form) (Sonora semiannulata) is another small snake which ranges from Idaho through Sonora. In Pima County it is known only on a portion of the Tohono O’odham reservation.

Desert box turtle (Terrapene ornata luteola) is another species for which PVS claims no known locations in Pima County, but its range is listed as southeast Arizona, southern New Mexico, and Chihuahua and Sonora, Mexico.

Longfin dace (Agosia chrysogaster) is a 2" long fish said to occur in the Bill Williams River and Gila River drainages and, in Pima County, in Cienega Creek.

Desert sucker (Catostomus clarkii) is a small fish with no recorded locations in Pima County.

Sonora sucker (Catostomus insignis) is native to the Gila River basin, but there are no recent records from Pima County.

Gentry indigo bush (Dalea tentaculoides) is not currently known in Pima County, but occurs in Santa Cruz and Cochise Counties. The Center for Biological Diversity is campaigning to get this bush listed as endangered.

Needle-spined pineapple cactus (Echinomastus [=Sclerocactus] erectocentrus var. erectocentrus) is known from southeastern Pima and western Cochise Counties.

Tumamoc globeberry (Tumamoca macdougalii) was named for Tumamoc hill in Tucson. It was listed as endangered in 1986, but delisted in 1993 because USFWS found a bunch of it upon actual field investigation during the survey for the CAP canal. V

Please comment on SDCP to newspapers and county supervisors.

Some talking points:

1) Immediate to supervisors: To be credible, the economic analysis must be done by an outside, independent organization, not by the county staff. (See following story.)

2) The county claims that the eight species listed as endangered by USFWS would require 96% of the land that 55 species would require. So, why do we need the added expense and effort to include the other 47 species?

3) Show us the money. How much will plan cost? How will it be funded? How much will it cost each taxpayer?

4) No net loss of private land. If the county buys land for mitigation, they should sell other government land to the private sector to avoid loss of tax base.

5) Mineral resources must be part of the plan.

6) Comment on what should be allowed within the biologic preserves. The county’s definition of "multiple use management areas" is: "Land use and management goals...will focus on balancing conservation, restoration, and enhancement of natural communities... Land uses must be consistent with maintaining open space, natural vegetation, and wildlife habitat values." Doesn’t sound like multiple use, does it?

Write to:
Your county supervisor
Pima County Board of Supervisors
130 West Congress St., 11th Floor
Tucson, AZ 85701
Arizona Daily Star
Fax: 573-4141
P.O. Box 26807,
Tucson, AZ 85726-6807
Tucson Citizen
Fax: (520) 573-4569
P.O. Box 26767
Tucson, AZ 85726-6767

Pima Follies

The Best Laid Schemes ....

Robert Burns once noted that "The best laid schemes o’ mice and men Gang aft a-gley." This month, Pima County’s Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan (SDCP) experienced a significant setback when the Morrison Institute, which the county had hired to do an economic analysis, pulled out, claiming the county did not provide Morrison with the information it needed to complete the study.

When first hired, last August, for $169,000, without competitive bidding, Morrison was touted by County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry as "uniquely qualified to conduct the study." According to a story in the Arizona Daily Star, "[Morrison] Institute Director Rob Melnick said ... that the county failed, despite his group's requests, to supply a large amount of data needed for the study on land use, zoning and the biological health of the land within the plan boundaries. He said Maeveen Behan, County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry's assistant, had promised to send the information but never did."

The recriminations have devolved into a "he-said, she-said" argument, with the county alleging that they sent the data, but found out only later that Morrison’s computers couldn’t handle the format. However, I recall that at the January 9 steering committee meeting in which Morrison presented its work to date, Dr. Melnick said repeatedly that they needed more information from the county. Ms. Behan, who was present at the meeting, promised to send it within two weeks. Apparently, she never did.

Steve Emerine, leader of the Greater Tucson Planning and Conservation Council remarked, "I find it hard to believe that the county, with 8,000-plus employees and a billion-dollar budget, can't provide the information for them in any format. The county said we couldn't give them information they could use - that just kind of strains credibility. It almost seems that they didn't want the economic information to come out.''

An editorial in the Tucson Citizen echoed that sentiment, "Events of the past several days raise even more questions about the credibility of the county's planning process.... The county's approach to the plan has been controversial almost from the beginning. The City of Tucson (which, among other things, is the area's key water provider) and other communities insist they were excluded from the planning process. The state, which owns huge chunks of land in Pima County, opted out of the county's planning process, contending it also was excluded."

Morrison will report on two of the five areas they were to study, and they intend to keep $80,000 that the county already paid them.

The economic study is a necessary part of the process to obtain a section 10 permit under the Endangered Species Act as part of the SDCP’s quest to establish a county-wide habitat conservation plan. The Morrison incident will set this process back 45 to 180 days according the Ms. Behan, while the county seeks bidders for another contractor to perform the economic study.

On March 16, Huckelberry told the steering committee that the county has the information and expertise in-house to construct an economic impact statement without outside help. Doing so would provide more timely information. However, he admitted, the county lacks credibility and such an in-house study would meet with community resistance. In fact, both major newspapers warn against an in-house analysis. At the March 19 county supervisors meeting Chairperson Bronson proposed that the county draw up specifications to put the economic analysis out for bid, and that the county develop its own analysis on a parallel track. The supes will decide early in April on which course to follow. Is Emerine’s speculation correct? Does the county feel that SDCP could not withstand an impartial economic analysis?

The failure of the county to supply needed information is quite believable because the county has been stonewalling the steering committee also. For more than a year, steering committee members have requested copies of the numerous reports produced by the county at taxpayers’ expense, but the county has, so far, failed to make those reports readily available. On March 16, however, supervisor board chair Sharon Bronson assured the steering committee that the county was working on supplying all members with all the reports on CD.

Possible Costs of SDCP

Also on March 16, the county handed each steering committee member a 1¼ inch thick report entitled "Comparison of Multi-Species Conservation Plans and Implementing Agreements." Pima County’s scheme is most like San Diego’s plan, but covers twice the area. According to the report, San Diego’s plan, which covers 26 listed species and 59 other species, was initially estimated to cost $411 million (vs $500 million for Pima County), but recent estimates exceed $1 billion for San Diego. These costs include $6.6 million annually, for management and administration. In absence of any hard numbers from Pima County, we can anticipate that SDCP will incur at least similar costs to taxpayers. Where will that money come from?

Where are the maps?

On February 20, John Regan, head of county GIS presented many interesting maps showing species distributions and other data to the steering committee. He claimed that these maps were on the county GIS database. Upon checking, via computer, I could not find the maps. I queried Mr. Regan, who admitted that they were not yet on the public access system, but promised to get them up by March 22. Guess what. They still are not available. You can try your luck at www.dot.co.pima.az.us/gis/maps.

To use the interactive map guide, you will have to download a free viewer.

Brave New Roads

Pima County, in conjunction with biologists and the Coalition for Sonoran Desert Protection have been scheming on new environmentally friendly road designs that will possibly go into effect by the end of the year, according to John Bernal, deputy county administrator.

These changes for creating an environmentally friendly roadway design were suggested by a special panel appointed by County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry. The panel’s general recommendations were: establish environmentally sensitive roadway designation; develop native plant use, set salvage and maintenance standards; create the position of natural resource manager for the county; and adopt a revised design process. More specifically, the panel recommended identifying and legally adopting environmentally sensitive lands and roads. It also made suggestions for new design guidelines, including lower speed limits and fewer and narrower lanes. Just what we need to solve our traffic problems. This is the "tunnels for turtles" crowd. It is reported that the special panel studied that age-old question: why animals cross the road. [Inside Tucson Business].

Tucson Tax Dollars

According to the Arizona Daily Star, the City of Tucson has spent $628,953, so far, in an effort to "give voters information about its proposed half-cent-per-dollar sales tax increase to fund transportation projects." The city claims it is not attempting to influence voters, "it's simply providing information to voters about a complex transportation program that would be paid for by the sales tax increase."

Meanwhile, the Feds plan to close 1 million acres west of Tucson to everyone except drug smugglers, illegal entrants and the Border Patrol agents who chase them. From March 15 to July 15, dirt road closures meant to protect the endangered Sonoran pronghorn will prevent the public from accessing about 85 percent of Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge and one-third of Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, an area about the size of Rhode Island.

However, the Feds still allow millions of illegal entrants to pour across our border and require that local hospitals absorb their medical bills. University Medical Center in Tucson predicts it will have to absorb $8 million to $10 million this year in uncompensated care to foreign nationals. And Good Samaritan Regional Medical Center reported it lost $1 million treating 75 undocumented immigrants in the first quarter of fiscal 2002. It anticipates greater losses in the months ahead. The Washington Times reports that in just the last three months, hospitals along the Mexican border have incurred expenses of $44 million. These hospitals are legally required to provide care. The Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act requires hospitals and ambulance services to provide care to anyone needing emergency treatment regardless of citizenship, legal status or ability to pay. This puts an unfair burden on local hospitals, paying patients, and taxpayers. Senator Jon Kyl writes that the cost of providing federally-mandated health care to illegal immigrants is between $1.5 billion and $2 billion annually. Representatives Jim Kolbe and Ed Pastor have introduced bills to Congress which would require the Department of Health and Human Services to set up a five-year pilot program for directly reimbursing hospitals and ambulance services for emergency treatment given to foreigners who are in the country illegally. 'Property Rights


In the Arizona State legislature:

Support HB 2638: This bill, introduced by Tucson Republican, State Rep. Marian McClure, would require counties enacting habitat conservation plans to reimburse property owners if the plans diminish the value of the owners' lands by 10 percent or more. Additional provisions include a requirement that the water resources element of a city or county plan include recognition and protection of existing surface water and groundwater rights; and stipulates that the city or county plan cannot regulate or reduce existing animal husbandry activities (including grazing livestock or domestic animals) on private, state or federal lands.

Pima County officials and the environmental zealots are scared to death of this bill because it would interfere with their plans for implementing the Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan, and they are going all out to kill it. County opposition to the bill is being led by Republican supervisor Ann Day.

Why do we need this bill since the U.S. Constitution says "...nor shall private property be taken for public use without just compensation?"

The problem is that the definition of "taking" has been subject to debate in the courts. If government condemns private land for a public project, the issue is straight forward and the owner is usually compensated. But it has been less clear in the courts for the situations where a property owner has been denied beneficial use of all or part of a property through zoning ordinances, "growing smarter" schemes, conservation easements, habitat plans, ecosystem management districts, Border 21, or for the alleged protection of endangered species, wetlands, historic districts, heritage areas, conservation areas, wilderness areas, wildlife preserves, buffer zones to the foregoing, or for the many other excuses government uses to restrict land use. In Pima County we have seen land owners denied beneficial use of part of their land through ordinances such as BOZO (Buffer Overlay Zoning Ordinance); through the interim requirement that builders in pygmy owl country set aside 80% of their land as mitigation; and through the Peaks and Ridges ordinance which prohibits someone from building within 150 feet of the top of a hill or ridge in order to preserve the aesthetic quality of "viewshed." There are hundreds of ways governments can "take" your property or property value that would not qualify, so far, as a legal taking.

HB 2638 is important because it would rectify these quasi-legal devaluations or denials of beneficial use by compensating the victims.

Oppose HB 2650: Municipalities are required to adopt a general plan, which is a municipal statement of land development policies that outlines the principals and standards for local growth. Current statute (A.R.S. §§ 9-461.06) stipulates in applying an open space element or a growth element of a general plan, a municipality shall not designate private land or state trust land as open space, recreation, conservation or agriculture unless the municipality receives written consent of the landowner or provides an alternative,
economically viable designation in the general plan or zoning ordinance, that allows for at least one residential dwelling per acre.

HB 2650 would change that by allowing municipalities to designate land as open space, recreation, conservation or agriculture without complying with certain general plan requirements if the land was zoned as such before May 1, 2000.

You can find contact information for your state legislator at:

House: http://www.azleg.state.az.us/members/45leg/house.htm

Senate: http://www.azleg.state.az.us/members/45leg/senate.htm

Legislature switchboard is 1-800-352-8404.


National Issue to Watch: Eminent Domain Seizures


Local and state governments are increasingly using eminent domain laws meant to allow them to confiscate property for public works projects to instead grab land to make way for private developments and the fat tax revenues they bring.


Amending the Antiquities Act

The House Resources Committee approved H.R. 2114, the National Monument Fairness Act, which amends the Antiquities Act of 1906 to require the President of the United States to solicit public comment and consult with the governor and the congressional delegation of impacted states at least 60 days before the creation of any national monument. Congress has two years to approve the creation of national monuments in excess of 50,000 acres. If Congress does not approve the monument in that time, the federal land reverts back to its prior use. '




EPA uses scam science for new rules

As Congress gets exorcized over fraud perpetrated on Enron shareholders, it's allowing the Environmental Protection Agency to perpetrate a more costly fraud on us all.

"Study Ties Pollution, Risk of Lung Cancer" proclaimed the Washington Post this week. "The results are likely to influence political debate and lead to tougher regulations," reported the Wall Street Journal.

A Journal of the American Medical Association study reported fine particulate air pollution causes 12 percent more lung cancer in the most polluted cities as compared with the least polluted.

What's really gasping for breath, though, is the basic science and honesty steam rolled by the EPA.

The study can't show particulates cause lung cancer; it's merely statistical, not scientific in nature. The researchers only developed weak statistical correlations between air pollution and lung cancer. Statistics isn't science and these extremely marginal correlations don't even rate as statistics.

The researchers don't know how much pollution was inhaled by even one of the 500,000 study subjects. They guessed at exposures.

No lung cancer was medically linked with fine particulate air pollution. They could easily have been caused by smoking and other risk factors.

The researchers tried to surmount this problem with statistical adjustments -- as if you can overcome missing medical data by waving a statistical wand.

It's not even biologically clear that exposure to airborne particulates can cause lung cancer in the first place.

The story now moves from bad science to secret science. A similarly flawed version of this study appeared in 1995. The EPA used it to propose in 1996 more stringent air pollution regulations estimated to cost $100 billion per year -- twice as much in one year as the Enron vaporization.

Concerned about the study data, staggering cost estimates and uncertain health benefits of the proposed rules, Congress asked the EPA to provide the data to independent scientists for another look.

After all, independent replication of results is a hallmark of science and taxpayers paid for the study. The EPA and researchers refused, admitting no purpose in re-analysis. Congress backed off. The data remain secreted away from public scrutiny.

The EPA issued its rules in 1997 and successfully defended them before the Supreme Court without addressing the science problems. The agency is now working on imposing the new rules -- and their costs -- on the public.

The new study conveniently appears just as the Bush administration considers relaxing other costly and dubious EPA actions against power plants emitting particulate matter. It was funded by the EPA, conducted by the same data-hiding researchers, and uses much of the same data as the 1995 study.

The new study will be used to push for more stringent air pollution standards -- even before the 1997 rules have been implemented.

Congress should cease grandstanding on Enron, a matter that can be left to our courts, regulatory agencies and financial markets.

What really needs to be addressed -- something only Congress can undertake -- is EPA-ron's costly and possibly fraudulent hidden transactions. [Steven Milloy, in Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Steven Milloy is the publisher of JunkScience.com, an adjunct scholar at the Cato Institute and the author of "Junk Science Judo: Self-defense Against Health Scares and Scams."].


ESA Revision Hampered by Bush Administration:

Republican lawmakers hoping to restructure the Endangered Species Act were discouraged from doing so, not just by environmentalists, but by Bush administration officials who said the proposals would be costly and delay efforts to protect wildlife.

House Committee on Resources chairman Jim Hansen, R-Utah, is among supporters of two bills to reform the law. "This is the only act in this country that I’m aware of that elevates species of flies, rats, slimy slugs and a host of other creatures nobody has ever heard of over the needs, desires and the pursuit of happiness of American citizens."

Hansen’s committee is looking at two bills that would change the Endangered Species Act by requiring the Interior Department to add several steps to the process of designating a species as endangered. Both bills would instruct the secretary to create an independent review board to look at the science behind petitions to list a species. Two administration officials called to testify said that while they agreed with the goal of using better

science, they felt the House bills were in some ways redundant and too costly or inflexible. And the ESA isn’t? [MSNBC].


Regulatory Cowboys

[Even some Easterners are getting fed up with Federal environmental follies, hence this editorial from the Richmond Times - Dispatch]

2002 is not shaping up as a good year for federal environmental protection. First came the revelation that federal biologists submitted falsely labeled samples in a national lynx survey that could have implications for logging and recreation in the Northwest. Supervisors aware of the impropriety did nothing about it. Those involved received oral reprimands - and subsequent bonuses.

Then came the decision by the National Marine Fisheries Service to rescind critical-habitat designations in the Northwest after a trial uncovered a government memo admitting, "When we make critical- habitat designations, we just designate everything as critical, without an analysis of how much habitat" a species requires for protection. A National Academy of Sciences report also found federal officials had "no scientific support" for water restrictions in the Klamath Basin that bankrupted more than 20 farmers.

Now a federal judge has ruled that Forest Service actions related to protection of the spotted owl in California were "arbitrary, capricious, and without rational basis." The Service cancelled timber sales based on an assumed but unproven spotted-owl presence in old-growth forests. The federal government is paying millions in restitution.

The news causes concern on several counts. First, of course, is the shoddy scientific work at agencies where the science should be unimpeachable. Each time an incident akin to those described above occurs, it gives ammunition to anti-environmental critics who will attempt to subvert even plainly necessary efforts at species and habitat protection.

The second concern stems from the suspicion that the episodes have been caused by an underlying agenda. If the Army Corps of Engineers traditionally has been predisposed to approving large projects, then it is fair to ask whether the agencies involved here - the Forest Service, the Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Marine Fisheries Service - are predisposed against human activity, at least in the Northwest part of the U.S.

Third, all the episodes are related to the Endangered Species Act. The Act has a woeful history both in terms of its effects on people - it often can render property worthless to the owner - and in terms of fauna. Of the 27 species removed from the ESA list, 14 never should have been listed in the first place, seven have become extinct, two were saved by the DDT ban, and three were . . . kangaroos in Australia.

That is not much of a record to boast about. Tampering with surveys, treating sound science as optional, and acting like regulatory cowboys will only make it worse.


Ice Hysteria

According much of the media, doomsday was surely at hand when they reported that the Larsen B ice self in Antarctica collapsed. The self was 650 feet thick and had a surface area of 1,250 square miles.

The collapse was predicted in 1998 by the British Antarctic Survey. The ice shelf occupies the Antarctic peninsula which sticks up into the southern oceans and has been warming over the past 50 years. Meanwhile, the rest of Antarctica, about 98% of the continent, has been cooling and the continental glaciers have become thicker. A paper in Nature says that the bulk of the continent has cooled by 1 degree Fahrenheit over the past 14 years.

An ice shelf is simply a glacier which reaches down all the way to the coast and then spills out over the sea, pushing it's way further and further from land, floating on the sea, until tidal forces, water erosion from beneath, and sunlight from above, finally weaken the floating mass and breaks it off. It's a very natural occurrence.


A Wilderness Utopia

Few people know –– including most congressmen –– that the management of 73,270,583 acres of the United States is determined by 34 non-Americans, who are elected by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. This land –– larger than Tennessee and Kentucky combined –– is distributed in 47 U.N. Biosphere Reserves, managed according to principles and guidelines established by the Man and the Biosphere International Coordinating Council, and set forth in the "Seville Strategy" and the "Statutory Framework."

The U.S. Biosphere Reserves are a small part of a global network of 411 similar reserves, which are the starting point for the implementation of the U.N. Convention on Biological Diversity.

Each Biosphere Reserve consists of a "core wilderness" area, surrounded by a buffer zone, managed for conservation objectives –– both of which are surrounded by an "outer" buffer zone, also called a "zone of cooperation." The function of a Biosphere Reserve is to continually expand, and to eventually "connect" with each other through "corridors" of wilderness.

The Southern Appalachian Biosphere Reserve was designated in 1988 as the 517,000-acre Great Smoky Mountain National Park. Today, the U.N. lists this reserve as 36,727,139 acres, with the zone of cooperation reaching from Birmingham, Ala., to Roanoke, Va. Neither Congress, nor the legislatures of any of the affected states, debated or approved the designation or the management plan.

At the first meeting of the delegates to the Convention on Biological Diversity, Peter Bridgewater, then-chairman of the MAB Council, offered the network of Biosphere Reserves as the beginning of implementation for the Convention. The United States has not ratified this treaty. Nevertheless, our land is being managed as if we were a party to the treaty.

The ultimate objective is to convert as much as half of the land area of the United States to "core wilderness areas," which are off-limits to humans, with government management of most of the remaining land "for conservation objectives." This leaves only "sustainable communities" for people, which are described by Science magazine as "islands of human habitat surrounded by wilderness."

This scenario is not idle speculation. The plan is well documented in the 1,140-page U.N. publication Global Biodiversity Assessment, which names "The Wildlands Project" as central to the management scheme required by the Convention on Biological Diversity. The Wildlands Project, developed by Dr. Reed F. Noss, under contract with The Nature Conservancy and the Audubon Society, calls for "at least half" of the lower 48 states to be set aside as wilderness. Through an incredibly well-orchestrated campaign, hundreds of foundation-funded so-called environmental organizations, assisted by federal and state agency personnel are working to see that land is converted to wilderness, corridors to connect the wilderness areas are developed, and regulations are put into place to control the use of "buffer zones." Still, there has been no congressional debate or approval of this land management regime.

Congress has looked only at small segments of the land management regime in isolation –– never at the total picture as described in the "Seville Strategy," the "Statutory Framework," the "Global Biodiversity Assessment" or the "Wildlands Project." Consequently, the nation's land is being transformed into a utopian vision conceived by a handful of international socialists.

Just as the nest of environmental extremists have worked to expand the Southern Appalachian Biosphere Reserve, another nest is working to expand "Yellowstone to Yukon," an area that contains several Biosphere Reserves, and seeks to control all the land between Utah and Alaska.

When the New World Mine was on the brink of satisfying more than $33 million in permit requirements, the Greater Yellowstone Coalition, with assistance from the Clinton administration, called upon UNESCO to declare Yellowstone to be "in danger" and thereby triggered regulatory authority to stop the mining operation, even though it was on private property.

The Mexican-border area is also a hot-spot of expansion for U.N. Biosphere Reserves, including a border region that reaches 62 miles on either side of the border. A major goal here is to eventually eliminate the border altogether. Development activity in the region that utilizes federal or international funds must be approved by a committee of un-elected environmentalists and agency bureaucrats.

Environmental extremists think this situation is wonderful. They have been working for years to achieve this result. Far too few people –– including congressmen –– are even aware of the transformation, and don't want to be bothered by the evidence. Therefore, day by day, our land of the free is being transformed into the land of government control. [WorldNet Daily].

You can Check out the Man and the Biosphere Program at: http://www.unesco.org/mab/mabicc.htm


Media Sundries


Expensive Government: Each year, by law, the Office of Management and Budget is supposed to produce an estimate of the costs of federal regulations in conjunction with the federal budget. The report is late and Chairman Ose wanted to know why. Each year, Americans pay a "hidden tax" of some $800 billion complying with federal regulations. In addition, federal information requests and paperwork impose a burden of roughly 7.8 billion hours on consumers and businesses at a cost close to $150 billion annually. The costs of excessive government regulations are significant. In fact, the regulatory burden is estimated to exceed total discretionary spending in 2002 by over $100 billion. Yet regulations receive little of the scrutiny that accompanies federal spending. [Citizens for a Sound Economy].

Wyoming County Bans Bears: The Board of County Commissioners, Fremont County, Wyoming, passed a resolution which prohibits the presence, introduction, or reintroduction of any animals which pose a threat to public health, safety, and livelihood within the boundaries of Fremont County. They have named grizzly bears and wolves as unacceptable species within the county.

Biosphere Mystics: Just when you thought it was once again safe to go to Biosphere 2, Columbia University’s tourist attraction of pretended science in Oracle, AZ, we have this announcement. The Audubon Society will hold "Planet Awakening Workshops" on "Faith, Health, Population and Environment" there April 14-16, and it will cost you only $125. They claim that the workshop "provides an in-depth experience in grappling with the issues of reproductive health and family planning, the relationship to ecological health and well-being, ecological justice for nonhuman species and social justice for all Creation." Apparently Audubon is not just for the birds anymore. Don’t forget your love beads and tambourine. ƒ

You must lie upon the daisies and discourse in novel phrases of your complicated state of mind, The meaning doesn’t matter if it’s only idle chatter of a transcendental kind. (Pirates of Penzance).