NACO Report to Sublette County
by Joel Bousman, Commissioner and 2nd Vice President Western Interstate Region
March 9, 2016
National Association of Counties (NACO)
2016 Legislative Conference and Western Interstate Region Board Meeting
REPORT to SUBLETTE COUNTY
Thank you Sublette County for the privilege of representing Sublette County, Wyoming, and the Western Interstate Region at the NACO Spring Legislative conference. Wyoming was well represented by thirteen commissioners from 8 counties as well as Wyoming County Commissioners Association(WCCA) staff Gregory Cowan.
Feb 18th: Traveled to DC
Feb 19th: Met with USDA Deputy Undersecretary Butch Blazer. Our discussion included Wyoming’s Public Lands Initiative (WPLI) which is an effort by Wyoming counties to address the numerous Wilderness Study Areas (WSAs) in Wyoming. This is a county led effort to offer a solution on Wyoming WSA’s to congress in the next two to three years. Three of these WSAs are on USFS lands and one of those is in Sublette County (Shoal Creek WSA).Sublette County also has two WSA’s on BLM. We discussed the WCCA socioeconomic initiative which is a project for Wyoming Counties to develop a Socio Economic Baseline to be used for various purposes including involvement in federal land use planning. We discussed Sublette County’s involvement as a cooperating agency in the Wyoming Range Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement and the fact that Sublette County actually performed the Socio Economic analysis in the Wyoming Range SEIS soon to be out for public comment. We met with Brian Ferebee, Assoc. Dep Chief USFS and again discussed WPLI and WCCA’s Socio Economic Initiative. We also discussed concern about the objection process in forest service planning and used the recent permit renewal on the Sherman Cattle and Horse Allotment here in Sublette County as an example of our concern that counties, after being engaged as a cooperating agency, were left out of the discussion resolving the issues brought up by NGOs in the objection process. We met with Rob Winthrop, BLM socio economic head, and again talked about the WCCA Socio Economic Initiative and Sublette County’s involvement. We also expressed concern about the BLM Planning 2.0 Initiative recently released for public comment. Wyoming Counties are concerned that the Planning 2.0 Initiative will result in more influence in BLM decision making in Washington and less influence at the local level where the best decisions are always made. Also, more influence by the national environmental groups in Washington DC, and less influence by the local people and counties serving as cooperating agencies.
Feb 20th: I represented Wyoming in the Western Interstate Region (WIR) Board of Directors Meeting, where I am currently serving as 2nd Vice President of WIR. The portion of this meeting relevant to Sublette County included a presentation by Jim Ogsbury, Executive Director of the Western Governors Association. We discussed the Endangered Species Act and ways that the Western Governors Association can partner with WIR and be more effective in accomplishing needed changes to the ESA. Also an informative discussion with Jordan Smith, executive director of the National Endangered Species Act Reform Coalition (NESARC),its legislative efforts, regulatory initiatives, and how a collaborative effort with WIR, Western Governors Association, and NESARC could be more effective in accomplishing these efforts. In the afternoon I participated in the resolutions subcommittee meeting of the NACO Public Lands Steering Committee. One resolution relevant to Sublette County was a resolution opposing continued BLM Wilderness Characteristic Inventory without the right of public entities to comment, challenge, protest, and appeal. This resolution passed as interim policy and will be considered as permanent policy at the July NACO meeting. Later that afternoon I was fortunate to be invited to the National Governors Association (NGA) Natural Resource Committee meeting chaired by Wyoming Governor Matt Mead. The focus of this committee meeting was State Innovations in Conservation and Resource Management. Governor Mead and other Governors provided Secretary of Interior Sally Jewell examples of how states are leading the effort in species conservation and natural resource management. Governors provided excellent examples of how state and local efforts can be more effective than top down regulatory efforts from Washington.
Feb 21st: I represented Sublette County in the Public Lands Steering Committee meeting. We had updates on the Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) Program which provides payments to counties with BLM lands that are not taxed. Also updated on the Secure Rural Schools (SRS) program which provides similar payments to counties with forest service managed lands. 2016 will be the last year of SRS funding unless reauthorized by congress. We had a panel discussion with USFS Chief Tom Tidwell and BLM Director Neal Kornze. Again I brought up concerns previously discussed with the USFS and provided BLM Director Kornze with a letter from Sublette County supporting Pinedale BLM’s Record of Decision on the EA for year round drilling in the northern portion of the Johan Field. I expressed concern about Planning 2.0 and was advised by Director Kornze that more discussion would be warranted. I hope that proves to be true.
Feb 22nd: I attended the NACO General Session and numerous workshops.
Feb 23rd: Again, I attended the NACO General Session and more workshops in the morning. In the afternoon the WIR leadership went to Capitol Hill and met with the House Interior & Environment Appropriations Subcommittee, the Subcommittee on Federal Lands, House Committee on Natural Resources, the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy & Natural Resources, Majority and Minority Staff, and the Senate Interior & Environment Appropriations Subcommittee. In all these meeting with House and Senate staff, we discussed the need to support mandatory long-term funding for PILT, the need to reauthorize SRS, the need to enact meaningful federal forest management reforms that will improve forest health and restore production and forest revenue sharing to sustainable levels. We discussed the need to end the budgeting practice known as "fire borrowing", which takes dollars away from normal Forest Service operating accounts to pay for fire suppression. We also discussed our opposition over Waters Of The United States (WOTUS) and the impacts on county-owned bridges, roads, wastewater and storm-water systems, and general negative impacts on agricultural operations in the country. We discussed the NACO resolution opposing the moratorium of new coal leasing and asked for feedback concerning any Congressional action on this issue.
Thank you and if you have any questions please contact me.