BLM carries out the order of one federal judge, while ignoring the order of another

A number of people have noted that the BLM was just carrying out a federal judge’s order when it bungled its attempt to roundup rancher Cliven Bundy’s cattle from federal public land in the Gold Butte area.

Federal Judge Lloyd George authorized the BLM to confiscate Bundy’s cattle and the agency dutifully attempted to do so.

Wayne N. Hage testifies before Congress.

But in September 2012 another federal judge, Robert Jones, found that in the Hage Ranch case Tonopah BLM manager Tom Seley and Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest Service ranger Steve Williams were in contempt for witness intimidation and attempts to circumvent the jurisdiction of the court over issues of grazing and water rights that were being litigated in federal court. The judge said there was “intent to deprive this court of jurisdiction by intimidation of witnesses and threats against witnesses.”

Judge Jones ordered from the bench, “Mr. Seley can no longer be an administrator in this BLM district. I don’t trust him to be unbiased. Nor can he supervise anybody in this district.”

A year later the son of the ranch owner who brought the case, Wayne N. Hage, testified before Congress that nothing was done to the two men cited. One still holds the same office and Seley retired.

In written testimony, which followed somewhat his spoken testimony, Hage stated:

“It is warming to know that with regard to the Courts that we still have the Rule of Law. Although as I have found out it is nearly impossible to defend a persons property and rights in the courts due to the financial burdens and the length of time involved. (My Mother and Father filed the original case and were not able to live long enough to see the end of the litigation. My step Mother died before there was an end to the litigation and it is looking like my siblings and I may be in old age before this is concluded.) However there it is becoming very apparent that there is no rule of law with regard to the employs of the BLM, USFS and perhaps the DOJ, there we have the rule of man. I remind congress that Aristotle explained that the difference between a correct form of government and perverse form of government is that the former is the Rule of Law and the latter is the rule of man.”

I guess some judicial orders are more equal than others.

What is the law of the land when it comes to public lands in Nevada?

Cliven Bundy. (Getty Images)

Now that the federal standoff with Cliven Bundy over his grazing cattle on public lands without paying grazing fees is at a hiatus, perhaps it is time to once again look at a couple of aspects of the legal arguments.

Bundy claims the federal government is wrongly claiming land that should be controlled by the state of Nevada and/or Clark County.

He lost that argument in federal court when Judge Lloyd George ruled against all his arguments by citing findings in a similar case out of Elko County by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The court ruled against rancher Clifford Gardner who had been running cattle on Forest Service land without paying a grazing fee. He was told to keep cattle off the land for a certain period after a wildfire.

Here is a footnote from that case:

“Gardners point out that Nevada recently passed a statute claiming ownership over all public lands within its boundaries, Nev.Rev.Stat. 321.5973. Gardners claim that the passage of this law further demonstrates that title to the public lands in Nevada properly rests in the state, not the federal, government. Gardners fail to note, however, that the Nevada statute by its own terms excludes national forest lands from the public lands claimed by Nevada.   See Nev.Rev.Stat. § 321.5963.”

Yes, the statute excluded “congressionally authorized national parks, monuments, national forests or wildlife refuges.”

But Bundy is grazing his cattle on BLM land. Whether that would have made a difference to the 9th Circuit is unknown.

In 1996, more than 56 percent of Nevada voters agree to remove from the state Constitution the so-called Disclaimer Clause under which the residents of the territory agreed to essentially deed all unappropriated land inside the future state to the federal government, though it said that land “shall be sold,” with 5 percent of proceeds going to the state.

Here is what was voted on in 1996. Note the portion with the strike-through:

SENATE JOINT RESOLUTION – Proposing to amend the ordinance of the Nevada constitution to repeal the disclaimer of interest of the state in unappropriated public lands.

WHEREAS, The State of Nevada has a strong moral claim upon the public land retained by the Federal Government within Nevada’s borders; and

WHEREAS, On October 31, 1864, the Territory of Nevada was admitted to statehood on the condition that it forever disclaim all right and title to unappropriated public land within its boundaries; and

WHEREAS, Nevada received the least amount of land, 2,572,478 acres, and the smallest percentage of its total area, 3.9 percent, of the land grant states in the Far West admitted after 1864, while states of comparable location and soil, including Arizona, New Mexico and Utah, received approximately 11 percent of their total area in federal land grants; and

WHEREAS, The State of Texas, when admitted to the Union in 1845, retained ownership of all unappropriated land within its borders; and

WHEREAS, The federal holdings in the State of Nevada constitute 86.7 percent of the area of the state, and in Esmeralda, Lincoln, Mineral, Nye and White Pine counties the Federal Government controls from 97 to 99 percent of the land; and

WHEREAS, The federal jurisdiction over the public domain is shared among several federal agencies or departments which causes problems concerning the proper management of the land and disrupts the normal relationship between a state, its residents and its property; and

WHEREAS, The intent of the framers of the Constitution of the United States was to guarantee to each of the states sovereignty over all matters within its boundaries except for those powers specifically granted to the United States as agent of the states; and

WHEREAS, The exercise of dominion and control of the public lands within the State of Nevada by the United States works a severe, continuous and debilitating hardship upon the people of the State of Nevada; now, therefore, be it

RESOLVED BY THE SENATE AND ASSEMBLY OF THE STATE OF NEVADA, JOINTLY, That the ordinance of the constitution of the State of Nevada be amended to read as follows:

In obedience to the requirements of an act of the Congress of the United States, approved March twenty-first, A.D. eighteen hundred and sixty-four, to enable the people of Nevada to form a constitution and state government, this convention, elected and convened in obedience to said enabling act, do ordain as follows, and this ordinance shall be irrevocable, without the consent of the United States and the people of the State of Nevada:

First.  That there shall be in this state neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, otherwise than in the punishment for crimes, whereof the party shall have been duly convicted.

Second.  That perfect toleration of religious sentiment shall be secured, and no inhabitant of said state shall ever be molested, in person or property, on account of his or her mode of religious worship.

Third.  That the people inhabiting said territory do agree and declare, that [they forever disclaim all right and title to the unappropriated public lands lying within said territory, and that the same shall be and remain at the sole and entire disposition of the United States; and that] lands belonging to citizens of the United States, residing without the said state, shall never be taxed higher than the land belonging to the residents thereof; and that no taxes shall be imposed by said state on lands or property therein belonging to, or which may hereafter be purchased by, the United States, unless otherwise provided by the Congress of the United States.

And be it further

RESOLVED, That the Legislature of the State of Nevada hereby urges the Congress of the United States to consent to the amendment of the ordinance of the Nevada constitution to remove the disclaimer concerning the right of the Federal Government to sole and entire disposition of the unappropriated public lands in Nevada; and be it further

RESOLVED, That, upon approval and ratification of the amendment proposed by this resolution by the people of the State of Nevada, copies of this resolution be prepared and transmitted by the Secretary of the Senate to the Vice President of the United States as presiding officer of the Senate, the Speaker of the House of Representatives and each member of the Nevada Congressional Delegation; and be it further

RESOLVED, That this resolution becomes effective upon passage and approval, except that, notwithstanding any other provision of law, the proposed amendment to the ordinance of the constitution of the State of Nevada, if approved and ratified by the people of the State of Nevada, does not become effective until the Congress of the United States consents to the amendment or upon a legal determination that such consent is not necessary.

Neither Congress nor the courts have taken any action in 18 years. They’ve basically thumbed their collective noses at the voters of Nevada. If a vote of the people is ignored for 18 years, could it be argued that it has become law by default? Silence constitutes consent.

Now, as for what powers the sheriffs of various counties might have, here is what the 9th Circuit said about the police powers reversed to the state’s under the 10th Amendment:

“Gardners argue that federal ownership of the public lands in Nevada is unconstitutional under the Tenth Amendment. Such ownership, they argue, invades ‘core state powers reserved to Nevada,’ such as the police power.

“Federal ownership of the public lands within a state does not completely divest the state from the ability to exercise its own sovereignty over that land.   The state government and the federal government exercise concurrent jurisdiction over the land. In Kleppe v. New Mexico, the Supreme Court held that the Wild Free-roaming Horses and Burros Act was not an impermissible intrusion on the sovereignty of New Mexico. … In so doing, the Court noted:

“Absent consent or cession a State undoubtedly retains jurisdiction over federal lands within its territory, but Congress equally surely retains the power to enact legislation respecting those lands pursuant to the Property Clause. [citations omitted] And when Congress so acts, the federal legislation necessarily overrides conflicting state laws under the Supremacy Clause.

“Indeed, a state may enforce its criminal and civil laws on federal land ‘so long as those laws do not conflict with federal law.’ … The state of Nevada, then, is not being unconstitutionally deprived of the ability to govern the land within its borders. The state may exercise its civil and criminal jurisdiction over federal lands within its borders as long as it exercises its power in a manner that does not conflict with federal law.”

What could the sheriff have done to keep the peace?

 

That hyperlocal ‘reporter’ may actually be miles away

Jim Romenesko’s journalism blog had an interesting piece earlier this week revealing the further depths of cheapness to which the latest management team at the Las Vegas Review-Journal will sink.

It seems that an outfit called Journatic —which was caught using fake bylines for reporters who actually worked out of the Philippines, as well as plagiarism and outright fabrication has risen from the ashes as LocalLabs. Like its forerunner the firm claims it creates hyperlocal news accounts for various newspapers and other outlets. Similar firms use “reporters” based in India who get local “news” via phone or Internet.

The company would not tell Romenesko who their clients are, but he managed to find a source who confirmed the Chicago-based outfit is providing copy to the R-J for its View sections — purportedly sections serving various neighborhoods but which are really market saturation vehicles for advertisers because versions of them are thrown in the driveways of non-subscribers.

Romenesko reports:

“I have learned, though, that the Las Vegas Review-Journal is using the Chicago-based LocalLabs for one of its View neighborhood sections. (Publisher Ed Moss, who is known for  cutting newspaper staffs, made the decision to hire LocalLabs as a cost-savings measure, I’m told. I’ve sent him some questions.)

“The Review-Journal View section last week had stories by LocalLabs writers Jessica Sabbah (based in Chicago) and Kasey Schefflin-Emrich (in New York), along with stories by the five fulltime Review-Journal View journalists who fear they could lose their jobs to LocalLab contributors.”

Romemesko’s source told him, “The writers and editors are upset, and raised concerns, but they’re also resigned to their fate.”

The alleged “stories” under those bylines in the past couple of weeks have been little more than ads for homes for sale or businesses such as tattoo parlors and webpage builders. Might LocalLabs be charging the paper for content and charging the local companies for placement? Just speculating.

Here is one example:

View "news" story.

View “news” story.

Fox commentator explains what probably will happen next in the Bundy saga

Cliven Bundy addresses crowd. (R-J photo)

Judge Andrew Napolitano on Fox & Friends today explains what the government did wrong in trying to impound Bunkerville rancher Cliven Bundy’s cattle and what they should have done.

As I mentioned Monday, the way to handle a civil judgment is not to send in an invading army but to sit down at a computer somewhere in a government cubicle and file a lien against Bundy’s property.

I wonder how many desert tortoises, just coming out of hibernation, got stomped to death in this fiasco. This is the very time of year the BLM told Bundy he could not graze his cattle on the Gold Butte range because they might step on baby tortoises — a contention that has been proven false.

As for why Harry Reid would have any knowledge or say in any of this is another mystery. But he told a Reno television station Monday: “Well, it’s not over. We can’t have an American people that violate the law and then just walk away from it. So it’s not over.”

Federal Judge Lloyd George dismissed out of hand Budy’s states’ rights arguments:

“Bundy principally opposes the United States’ motion for summary judgment on the ground that this court lacks jurisdiction because the United States does not own the public lands in question. As this court previously ruled in United States v. Bundy, Case No. CV-S- 98-531-JBR (RJJ) (D. Nev. Nov. 4, 1998), “the public lands in Nevada are the property of the United States because the United States has held title to those public lands since 1848, when
Mexico ceded the land to the United States.” CV-S-98-531 at 8 (citing United States v. Gardner, 107 F.3d 1314, 1318 (9th Cir. 1997)). Moreover, Bundy is incorrect in claiming that the Disclaimer Clause of the Nevada Constitution carries no legal force, see Gardner, 107 F.3d at 1320; that the Property Clause of the United States Constitution applies only to federal lands outside the borders of states, see id. at 1320; that the United States‘ exercise of ownership over federal lands violates the Equal Footing Doctrine, see id. at 1319; that the United States is basing its authority to sanction Bundy for his unauthorized use of federal lands on the Endangered Species Act as opposed to trespass, see Compl. at ¶¶ 1,3, 26-39; and that Nevada’s “Open Range” statute excuses Bundy’s trespass. See e.g., Gardner, 107 F.3d at 1320 (under Supremacy Clause state statute in conflict with federal law requiring permit to graze would be trumped).”

Instead of ordering a lien on Bundy’s property, George concluded “that the United States is entitled to seize and remove to impound any of Bundy’s cattle for any future trespasses, provided the United States has provided notice to Bundy under the governing regulations of the United States Department of the Interior.”

George cites a 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling against Humboldt rancher Cliff Gardner, who argued that the state Disclaimer Clause violated the Equal Footing Doctrine and cited the 10th Amendment — to no avail.

The court also dismissed his argument about the Guarantee Clause of the Constitution:

The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government, and shall protect each of them against Invasion; and on Application of the Legislature, or of the Executive (when the Legislature cannot be convened), against domestic Violence.”

Gardner was jailed for a month and fined $5,000.

Advice to the Bundys of Bunkerville: Time to liquidate

The Bureau of Land Management issued a statement when it backed down from an angry, armed mob and released Cliven Bundy’s confiscated cattle.

“After 20 years and multiple court orders to remove the trespass cattle, [rancher Cliven] Bundy owes the American taxpayers in excess of $1 million. The BLM will continue to work to resolve the matter administratively and judicially,” Fox News quotes a BLM statement.

Cliven Bundy (George Frey/Getty Images)

Bundy has refused to pay grazing fees for 20 years and BLM has been assessing fines and building interest.

Advice to all Bundy family members: Cash out your bank accounts and don’t expect an IRS refund.

The Washington Post this weekend reported that hundreds of thousands of people expecting income tax refunds this month are instead getting letters telling them their refunds have been seized to repay decades old debts, some incurred by their parents.

The WaPo story led with an example of Mary Grice of Maryland, whose IRS and state tax refunds were grabbed by the feds.

In 1960, When Grice was 4, her father died, leaving her mother with five children to raise with Social Security survivor benefits. Social Security claims it overpaid the family $3,000 and is taking the money from the surviving children. The mother died four years ago.

That could be what the words “administratively and judicially” mean. 

Where does one stand to protest something that takes place on a computer in some far-flung government cubicle?

 A federal judge rejected Bundy’s states’ rights arguments and gave the BLM the go-ahead to confiscate his cattle. If the feds say he owes a $1 million, there are many ways they can go about taking that money without going back to court.

Cattle confiscation in Bunkerville comes to an abrupt end, but what comes next?

Cliven Bundy forks hay. (R-J photo by John Locher)

The Director of the Bureau of Land Management Neil Kornze — a former aide to Sen. Harry Reid and a former Elko resident who just recently was named to head up the agency — released a statement today calling off the confiscation of privately owned cattle from public range land near Bunkerville. His statement implied a fear that continuing the operation might devolve into gunfire:

“As we have said from the beginning of the gather to remove illegal cattle from federal land consistent with court orders, a safe and peaceful operation is our number one priority. After one week, we have made progress in enforcing two recent court orders to remove the trespass cattle from public lands that belong to all Americans.

“Based on information about conditions on the ground, and in consultation with law enforcement, we have made a decision to conclude the cattle gather because of our serious concern about the safety of employees and members of the public. 

“We ask that all parties in the area remain peaceful and law-abiding as the Bureau of Land Management and National Park Service work to end the operation in an orderly manner. 

“Ranching has always been an important part of our nation’s heritage and continues throughout the West on public lands that belong to all Americans. This is a matter of fairness and equity, and we remain disappointed that Cliven Bundy continues to not comply with the same laws that 16,000 public lands ranchers do every year. After 20 years and multiple court orders to remove the trespass cattle, Mr. Bundy owes the American taxpayers in excess of $1 million. The BLM will continue to work to resolve the matter administratively and judicially.”

Yes, it is a matter of fairness and equity. At one time there were 52 cattle ranchers in Clark County. Cliven Bundy, whose family has run cattle in the area since 1880, long before there was a BLM, is the last of the breed.

Twenty years ago the BLM, as it is wont to do, came to Bundy and flat out told him he could not graze his federal allotment in the spring to prevent his thousand-pound cows from stomping on little baby desert tortoises, as recounted by then-Las Vegas Review-Journal columnist Vin Suprynowicz.

Up until then, Bundy paid the BLM so much per head per month to “manage” the public lands.

His cattle were being kicked off the range even though biologist Vern Bostic had demonstrated decades earlier that desert tortoises do better where cattle are grazed, the column said. He stopped paying for such “management.”

Bundy was also told to remove all his water tanks and the lines that feed them from local springs. Never mind that water rights are granted by the state and federal government is not allowed to interfere with those rights.

The column reported:

“But what’s real-world, empirical evidence provided by local yokels with calloused hands and funny western drawls, to ‘experts’ who’ve got the proper college degrees?

“The only time cattle will fatten on a desert range is in the springtime. Cliven explained to the BLM guys that he had no big feed lot on which to hold his cattle during the spring — even if he could afford to do so, with hay now at $400. The only option they were giving him was to sell his cattle for slaughter in February, and then to buy new stock and put them on the land in July. He says the BLM guys told him that would be fine.”

“But from mid-summer through February, cattle on a desert range LOSE weight. Besides which, ‘You can’t bring in cattle from elsewhere and start them in this desert,’ Bundy explains. ‘If they’re not raised on this range by their mamas, who show them what to eat, those cattle starve.’”

“But you can’t outlast the federal government, nor beat them with logic, principle, hard work or evidence.”

According to reports today, federal agents have brought in backhoes and torn up Bundy’s water pipes. Will the federal government reimburse him for his lost water rights? Sounds like a willful act of sabotage.

Also, there is no word as to what will happen to the 400 head of cattle the federal government has already rounded up.

Even though Bundy is in the headlines, the same thing is happening quietly all over the state.

J.J. Goicoechea — veterinarian, rancher, chairman of Eureka County Commission and past president of the Nevada Cattlemen’s Association — says the federal land agencies are using drought, sage hens and wild horses and any other excuse to kick ranchers off the land.

Goicoechea estimates Nevada has lost half of its breeding cows over the past three years — approaching 300,000, down from more than a million in the 1980s.

“We’re on a bubble right now. If we get this reversed and we get some moisture and we get what we need to get a green up, some of these guys can survive,” Giocoechea said. “They can bring their cattle back and see over the next couple of years a rebuild. If they liquidate and go away that next generation isn’t going to be there to fill their shoes. … The next 12 months will be critical to the livestock industry in the state of Nevada, and that will dictate whether we’re here in 10 years or not.”

Fox News quoted Bundy as saying“Years ago, I used to have 52 neighboring ranchers. I’m the last man standing. How come? Because BLM regulated these people off the land and out of business.”

Bundy, 67, is the last rancher standing in Clark County. It is questionable, in the face of BLM mismanagement, how long he and others of his ilk can survive.

 

BLM excuses for Bundy invasion: Cache as cache can

For some reason a web page the BLM had once posted listing its reasons for the confiscation of Cliven Bundy’s cattle in the Gold Butte area has been taken down, but a cache of the page is still extant.

Desert tortoise. (R-J photo)

“Cliven Bundy has no legal authority to graze cattle on federal lands in the Gold Butte area, including Lake Mead National Recreation Area. The U.S. District Court of Nevada has permanently enjoined Cliven Bundy’s trespass grazing, ordered him to remove his trespass cattle from public lands inside and outside the former Bunkerville Allotment (including from the Lake Mead NRA) before December 2013, and stated the U.S. is entitled to seize and impound any cattle that have not been removed by the judicially imposed off-date and that remain in trespass,” the page begins.

But one of the more unusual aspects of the page comes under the heading of “Examples of Restoration Funding and Viability Impacted”:

“Non-Governmental Organizations have expressed concern that the regional mitigation strategy for the Dry Lake Solar Energy Zone utilizes Gold Butte as the location for offsite mitigation for impacts from solar development, and that those restoration activities are not durable with the presence of trespass cattle.”

I have no idea what any of that means in English.

The desert tortoise, which was the reason for the Bundy’s dispute with BLM 20 years ago when the agency tried to limit when and where he could graze cattle, is barely mentioned.

But in a lengthy BLM document on regional mitigation for the 6,000-acre Dry Lake Solar Zone, the agency points out that erection of thousands of acres of solar panels would mean the “loss of desert tortoise habitat and the potential loss of individual desert tortoises. The desert tortoise is listed as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act.” So other areas need to be set aside as safe habitat for tortoises so they can be destroyed for solar panels at Dry Lake.

So, cattle bad. Solar panels good.

Harry Reid likes solar panels.

The mitigation plan notes:

“Niche modeling, completed by the National Park Service for the Lake Mead National Recreation Area, suggests, under future climate change, high-quality  desert tortoise habitat will remain in the Gold Butte ACEC while most of the adjacent desert tortoise habitat in the national recreation area will decline and disappear.”

It also says Gold Butte should be closed to mineral development, off-road vehicles and grazing.

Got to save the tortoises. Or is it the solar panel companies who contribute to Reid’s campaigns?

 

 

 

 

Newspaper column: Fracking good for the economy and not likely to harm the environment

Nevada Division of Minerals Administrator Rich Perry talks about fracking at a hearing in Elko this past month. (Elko Daily Free Press photo)

Recently the Nevada Division of Minerals held a series of public hearings across the state to obtain comments on its new rules regulating hydraulic fracturing, commonly called fracking, used in oil and natural gas wells.

At the hearings Division of Minerals Administrator Rich Perry explained how Nevada’s 20-page revised rules will require groundwater testing before and after drilling, pressure testing of equipment, notifications to landowners before fracking begins and abiding by strict engineering standards, as recounted in this week’s newspaper column, available online at The Ely Times and the Elko Daily Free Press.

Public comments ranged from the rationally cautious to the histrionic.

“We trusted the Bureau of Land Management to protect and preserve our public land so that future generations of Americans could continue to enjoy them, and now they’ve leased millions of acres to oil and gas companies, turning wilderness into industrial hell holes that can potentially contaminate the land beyond repair,” testified Las Vegas resident Shannon Salter.

Map of Noble Energy leased exploration area. (R-J graphic)

Asked about the potential to contaminate the land beyond repair, the Division of Minerals staff replied, “From our review of existing studies, we can’t find any substantiate contamination of groundwater from the actual hydraulic fracturing treatment.”

Speaking at hearings on behalf of Noble Energy, the primary company doing any major exploration in Nevada, Kevin Vorhaben, Rockies Business Unit Manager, said, “We firmly believe that with good regulation we can have the energy we need, the economy we want and the environment we deserve.”

In a follow-up interview, Vorhaben said his company is leasing 370,000 acres in Elko County and has already drilled two wells. One should be producing oil by the end of this month.

Though many seem to think hydraulic fracturing is some new, untested technology, it has been used extensively since the 1940s. Vorhaben estimates 90 percent of all wells drilled today are fracked. Fracturing methods date back to the mid-1800s when drillers would drop explosives down a well to break open rock formations.

Of the 370,000 acres leased, approximately 63 percent is on private land, while the remainder is largely on BLM land. On public lands a royalty of 12.5 percent is collected on the value of the oil produced, split evenly between the federal and state governments. Vorhaben said owners of private land typically receive a similar royalty.

If the company reaches its anticipated production of 50,000 barrels a day by 2021, and the price remains near $100 a barrel, royalties could amount to more than $600,000 a day.

With that kind of money, one can afford to spruce up the industrial hell hole.

Read the entire column at the Ely or Elko site.

Margin tax passage could cost thousands of Nevadans their jobs

Information on the deleterious affects of the proposed 2 percent margin tax on November’s ballot keep trickling out.

Atop a previous report on how the tax would make Nevada’s effective corporation tax rate nearly double California’s comes a study that says the tax could cost the state nearly 9,000 private sector jobs.

The analysis by economist Jeremy Aguero of Applied Analysis, a Las Vegas-based fiscal and policy research firm, for the Coalition to Defeat the Margin Tax Initiative, concluded that sucking $700 million in taxes from the private sector would translate into about 5,800 private jobs lost directly as a result and a total of nearly 9,000 private jobs when the indirect and induced factors are added in. This would cut the state’s private payroll by more than $400 million a year.

The Education Initiative would raise taxes, supposedly for education.

 

Of course, 9,000 jobs lost would be hardly a ripple, since Nevada already has 120,000 unemployed, not counting those who have given up looking for work. But if it is your job lost, it would be pretty significant to you.

The Education Initiative will be Question No. 3 on the November statewide ballot. It calls for a 2 percent margin tax on all Nevada businesses that gross more than $1 million a year. Its sponsor, the Nevada State Education Association, has claimed it would raise $800 million a year for K-12 education. Proceeds from the tax would be placed in the distributive school account, but there is no language in the ballot measure prohibiting lawmakers from extracting a like amount or more and spending it on other things.

Aguero did note in his study that the loss of private jobs could be offset by public jobs if the tax money is used to hire additional teachers and staff.

The reports says “there are plausible scenarios where margin tax funds are not used to hire more teachers, but rather, are used to increase wages and salaries for existing teachers, administrators and support staff; to extend retirement or health care benefits to state workers; or to pay down the state’s unfunded pension and post-retirement health care liabilities. Similarly, there is also the possibility that upon passage of the Initiative that the Nevada State Legislature will allow one or more of temporary state taxes to sunset, including without limitation, the 0.35 percent Local School Support Tax currently deposited into the distributive school account.”

Also, in addition to killing current jobs, Aguero said the tax would chill economic growth and prevent the creation of future jobs:

“While net job losses may be somewhat modest, new job formation would potentially be far more significantly affected. Economic development and diversification have clearly played a critical role in Nevada’s economic recovery and are considered essential to the state’s long-term economic viability. While evaluating the impact on new investment and business relocation in beyond the scope of this preliminary analysis, it should not be ignored. Neither should the reality that even under the best possible outcome — whereby the tax increase does actually lead to substantial improvements in educational attainment — there will be a transitional period in which Nevada has both a higher-than-average business tax rate and a low performing public school system. It is hard to imagine a climate less conducive to economic growth.”

Though the Las Vegas Review-Journal had a story today on the margin tax, it failed to mention the jobs study. The Las Vegas Sun has a brief story, but only online and not in print.

Federal agency reopens comment period for listing of bi-state sage grouse

Whoa, did not see that coming.

On Tuesday the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service posted on the Federal Register a proposal to reopen the comment period on its decision to list the bi-state sage grouse as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.

Back in October FWS reported there were only 5,000 bi-state or Mono Basin sage grouse, supposedly a distinct population, left along the northern California-Nevada border. The agency said it would set aside nearly 1.9 million acres in Carson City, Lyon, Douglas, Mineral and Esmeralda counties in Nevada, as well as land in Alpine, Mono and Inyo counties in California, as critical habitat. This could lead to restrictions on mining, grazing, farming, fences, oil and gas exploration, roads, power lines, wind turbines and solar panels, various forms of recreation and more — costing jobs and economic development.

This opened a 60-day comment period.

A Mono Basin sage grouse. (National Park Service photo)

In its Tuesday posting, FWS said it had found substantial disagreement regarding the interpretation of the best available data on the birds. “Some commenters stated that our science was flawed and that there are more sage-grouse in the Bi-State area today as opposed to the past, whereas other commenters (including peer reviewers) believe there is a declining trend and continuing threats. It is evident in the comment letters received that analysis or interpretation of data vary between state, agency, public, and peer reviewers,” the FWS concedes.

With the extension of the comment deadline, FWS now plans to make a final determination on the bi-state sage grouse no later than April 28, 2015. The agency already has a deadline of September 2015 to decide whether to list the greater sage grouse, which are found in 11 Western states.

Among those questioning the science behind the greater sage grouse proposed listing is the Center for Environmental Science, Accuracy and Reliability (CESAR), headquartered in Colorado.  CESAR claims the service relied almost exclusively on studies written by employees of federal agencies who basically peer reviewed each other’s work.

Those studies listed “threats” to the grouse as including converting sagebrush to crop land, livestock grazing, oil and gas wells, wind and solar farms, roads and the general “human footprint,” but made no mention whatsoever of predators or hunting, even though 207,000 sage grouse were killed by hunters between 2001 and 2007.

According to CESAR, it was unable to replicate the analyses used by federal researchers because none of the data or algorithms was publicly available.

“Thus, since the results are neither reproducible nor verifiable,” CESAR said, “the study fails the fundamental litmus test of sound science.”

Before listing either the bi-state or the greater sage grouse, someone needs to do some sound scientific studies and realistically look at what truly is a threat to these birds —including the lack of wildfire prevention efforts on federally controlled land.

Congressman Mark Amodei applauded the reopening of comments, but said only time will tell. “The proof will be at the end of the comment when we’ll be able to see if anything has really changed,” his spokesman said.