Editorial: BLM publishes new plans to protect sage grouse

A greater sage grouse male struts for a female. (Pix by Jeannie Stafford for U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)

The Bureau of Land Management under the Trump administration has followed through on its promise to give states greater flexibility on protecting greater sage grouse. On Friday a 204-page draft management plan for Nevada and northeastern California was published in the Federal Register.

The plan specifically states that its purpose is to enhance cooperation with the states by modifying sage grouse management to better align with the plans created by Nevada and California, covering more than 45 million acres under the jurisdiction of the BLM.

Though it was determined that sage grouse did not qualify for protection under the Endangered Species Act, in 2015 the Obama administration violated the law and ignored scientific evidence when it concocted a 341-page pronouncement that 10 million acres of public land in 16 Western states — nearly a third of that in Nevada — would be taken out of consideration for future mining claims, as well as oil and gas drilling near breeding grounds and that there would be additional reviews on grazing permits. The plan envisioned restrictions on grazing, resource development, solar and wind energy, and public access to public land in Nevada.

According to a press release put out by the BLM announcing the new plans, Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval welcomed the more cooperative stance by the agency. “I look forward to reviewing the draft Environmental Impact Statement and I trust that the Department of the Interior will continue to engage with and value the opinions of the impacted western governors,” Sandoval was quoted as saying. “I am confident we can find success by working together.”

Nevada’s senior U.S. Sen. Dean Heller was quoted as saying, “The Department of the Interior’s proposed changes represent an important step toward returning power back to our local communities, and lifting the Obama Administration’s heavy-handed regulations that have put major restrictions on millions of acres of land in Nevada and stifled economic opportunities.”

Congressman Mark Amodei, who represents northern Nevada, commented, “I would like to thank the secretary for doing a much-needed revisit of the previous administration’s policies regarding sage hen habitat. I look forward to hearing back from our stakeholders in Nevada regarding the proposed changes and plan to familiarize myself with this draft and provide further input.”

The publication of the draft plan opens a public comment period. The BLM will accept comments through Aug. 2. Comments may be submitted by mail:  BLM – Greater Sage-Grouse EIS, Nevada State Office, 1340 Financial Blvd., Reno, NV 89502; or online at https://goo.gl/uz89cT.

The Nevada-California plan is posted online at: https://eplanning.blm.gov/epl-front-office/projects/lup/103343/143703/176904/NVCA_GRSG_DEIS_201805_508.pdf

The BLM also will conduct public meetings during the public comment period, which will be announced later.

The agency expects to publish a final Environmental Impact Statement and plan amendments by October.

Nevada’s BLM Associate State Director Marci Todd stated, “Two important developments have occurred since the 2015 plans were adopted. First, we’ve had two to three years to invest time and effort into improving sage grouse habitat. Second, we have received a great deal of feedback from our state partners about how the plans are working on the ground and needed changes.”

We welcome the fact that someone in the federal land bureaucracy is finally listening and recognizing the fact that people need to earn a livelihood in rural Nevada and can do so without endangering the sage grouse population.

A version of this editorial appeared this week in some of the Battle Born Media newspapers — The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News, the Mineral County Independent-News, the Eureka Sentinel,  Sparks Tribune and the Lincoln County Record.




Newspaper column: Why education spending should be cut

Teachers are walking out of classrooms in Colorado and Arizona, demanding higher salaries and more education funding. Lawmakers are rushing to meet their demands.

Here in Nevada all the candidates for governor are kowtowing to the demand for more education funding.

Republican Attorney General Adam Laxalt has declared, “We must continue to move forward, not backward, in the areas where we’ve made great strides. In particular, Nevada policymakers have implemented a series of programs designed to address a critical area — improving early literacy. I’ll continue to champion these promising new programs. I pledge that under my leadership, these programs and our entire public education system will be properly funded — we will never go backwards from our current levels of education spending. I repeat: I will not scale back public education funding.”

His Republican opponent Treasurer Dan Schwartz has said he wants to find a way to wrest the $750 million in tax money earmarked for a Raiders football stadium and redirect it to fund education.

Democratic candidates and currently Clark County Commissioners Steve Sisolak and Chris Giunchigliani have both called for more education spending.

“Every child in Nevada deserves the opportunity to succeed and that starts with strong public schools,” Sisolak states on his campaign website. “Steve supports investing in Nevada schools so they have the resources to provide a safe and effective learning environment for all of our kids. He believes that in order to strengthen our schools we need to raise teacher salaries and lower classroom sizes.”

On her website Giunchigliani declares, “Every Nevada child deserves an opportunity to get a quality public education, regardless of their zip code, parents’ salary or ethnicity. As a public school special education teacher for 30 years, I know the difference a quality public education can make in a child’s life. But too many of our kids are in underperforming schools and we’ve failed to bring urgency to this issue. One of my top priorities as governor will be to fix the school funding formula. We need to increase educators’ salaries and reduce class sizes.”

Recently Clark County School Board members held a press conference calling on the governor to call a special session of the Legislature in order to raise taxes to increase education spending. Board member Carolyn Edwards was quoted by the press as saying, “We need to be able to pay our teachers and our employees the raises they deserve.”

Juxtapose that quote against the fact that in January Education Week magazine’s annual “Quality Counts” survey of state-by-state K-12 education ranked Nevada 51st among the 50 states and the District of Columbia. Only 31 percent of Nevada fourth graders are proficient in math and reading. The raises they deserve?

Pardon us for allowing a heretic to sound a sour note in the choir, but George Mason University economics professor Bryan Caplan has just published a book that — gasp! — says education funding should be cut, because the vast majority of it is wasted. The book is called “The Case Against Education: Why the Education System Is a Waste of Time and Money.”

Caplan estimates that our government agencies alone spend $1.1 trillion in tax money a year on education. That is $3,600 for every person in the country, not every student, every person. He estimates that half of the money doesn’t buy our students any enhanced skills, but merely something he calls “signaling.”

Caplan contends that a high school or college diploma does not mean someone has learned much of anything worthwhile — other than rudimentary literacy and numeracy — but instead signals to potential employers that one is capable of spending long hours doing stultifying menial tasks and conforming to expectations.

To buoy his claims about the inadequacy of the American education system, Caplan cites the General Social Survey of adults that asked 12 elementary true-false science questions. Only 60 percent could answer correctly, when 50 percent should be possible by merely guessing.

“Accounting for guessing, the public’s scientific illiteracy is astonishing,” Caplan writes. “Barely half of American adults known the Earth goes around the sun. Only 32% know atoms are bigger than electrons. Just 14% know that antibiotics don’t kill viruses. Knowledge of evolution barely exceeds zero; respondents would have done better flipping a coin.”

Perhaps there are better things on which we could spend a half a trillion dollars a year.

A version of this column appeared this week in many of the Battle Born Media newspapers — The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News, the Mineral County Independent-News, the Eureka Sentinel and the Lincoln County Record — and the Elko Daily Free Press.


Whither future power bills if voters approve Energy Choice Initiative?

Will power bills go up or down, if voters approve the Energy Choice Initiative on the November ballot? Depends on whose assumptions you believe.

The Nevada Public Utilities Commission, in a 109-page report recently released, claimed passage would cause electricity rates to rise $24.91 a month in Southern Nevada and $6.52 Northern Nevada residential customers, because NV Energy  has threatened to sell off its power generation plants at a loss — even though there is nothing in the initiative requiring such a move.

But a report by the Garrett Group presented to the Governor’s Committee on Energy Choice on Wednesday said such a sell off should be profitable, and, when coupled with the recent tax law changes, should cause power bills to drop by $11.16 a month.

The Garrett report noted that one can’t use current market power plant sales to make projections, because current sales reflect the fact that all retail customers are captive customers of NV Energy. Market sales, if the initiative passes, would change to reflect the fact that customers no longer would be captive customers.

We suspect NV Energy has threatened to sell off generating plants because under the competitive market the initiative would create the company would no longer be guaranteed a 10 percent rate of return on investments and might have to settle for a smaller profit margin unsatisfactory to billionaire company owner Warren Buffett.

Under the initiative the company or some other entity probably would still maintain a monopoly over transmission and distribution along with a guaranteed return on investment.

In 2016 voters approved the Energy Choice Initiative by an overwhelming 72.4 percent to 27.6 percent. Because the measure would amend the state Constitution it is back on the ballot this fall for final voter approval, but this time around a coalition headed by the state’s largest power monopoly, NV Energy, has vowed to spend $30 million to defeat it.

Voters will have decide who they believe and what is in their best interests. Capitalism or monopoly?

Story about court hearing apparently falls through a crack

The New York Times proudly displays its motto in its masthead: “All the News That’s Fit to Print.”

Apparently Sheldon Adelson’s Las Vegas newspaper is opting for: “All the News That Fits.”

While the paper posted a story online just after 6 p.m. Tuesday about that day’s hearing at the state Supreme Court over whether to allow an initiative that prevent the creation of sanctuary cities in Nevada to appear on the November ballot, the story did not make it into print. That’s something the Sun does.

Actually the Sun posted an abbreviated version of an Associated Press story on the topic before 2:30 p.m. Tuesday.

The Nevada Independent, which has no print version, posted a lengthy story before 2 p.m.

At least those versions were rather balanced in their accounts. The Reno newspaper posted a story after 4 p.m. under the editorializing headline: “Opponents rip into divisive proposed sanctuary cities ban at Nevada Supreme Court hearing.” The account also called the measure polarizing in a subheadline. The story itself was pretty straight forward.




Stances on Iran deal give Nevada voters a clear choice

President Trump’s decision to cancel Obama’s unilateral nuclear deal with Iran just became Nevada’s latest campaign issue in the race for the Senate.

Republican Sen. Dean Heller and his Democratic opponent, Rep. Jacky Rosen, came down on opposite sides of the matter, though Rosen did seem to hedge her argument as to the strength of Obama’s deal in the first place.

“The Iran deal was never good for America or our friends in the Middle East. This agreement has done nothing to stop Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon or promote peace – in fact, it has done just the opposite,” Heller said in a prepared statement. “Iran has been emboldened since President Barack Obama signed the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action three years ago. In the face of this agreement, Iran has conducted ballistic missile tests, harassed U.S. naval ships in the Middle East, and helped prop up the murderous Assad regime in Syria. Members of Iran’s parliament have shouted ‘death to America’ and its Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has said ‘Israel will not exist in 25 years.’”

Rosen put a statement saying, “As a Member of the House Armed Services Committee, I’ve heard from military and intelligence experts about the dangers of withdrawing from the JCPOA without evidence of a material breach. After the JCPOA was agreed to, it should have been robustly enforced — not used as a political football. We need to hold Iran accountable in every way we can, and we cannot allow Iran to restart its nuclear program. Unfortunately, backing out of this agreement means undermining our international alliances, jeopardizing our national security, and re-opening Iran’s path to developing a nuclear weapon.”

Reopening Iran’s path to developing a nuclear weapon? Like they ever stopped?

As The Wall Street Journal points out in an editorial today, the Iranian documents recently released by Israel show that Iran repeatedly lied to U.N. weapons inspectors about its nuclear activity.

Also, this was not America’s deal. It was Obama’s deal. “He refused to submit it for Senate approval as a treaty, which would have had the force of law,” the editorial notes. “Mr. Trump is walking away from Mr. Obama’s personal commitment to Iran, not an American commitment.”

Iran is currently in economic turmoil. Now may be the time to pressure the Ayatollahs to agree to real deal that would defang their nuclear program for good and end their funding of terrorism worldwide.

Heller went on to say, “Clearly, Iran is not a trusted partner in America’s foreign policy goals. The agreement, which handed Tehran billions of dollars to help bolster its military and spread terror around the world, represented a volcano waiting to erupt. Make no mistake, Iran has been preparing for when the agreement was set to expire in 2025, and that’s why leaving this agreement and pursuing additional sanctions is the right choice.”


Who likes the Iranian nuke deal? Anyone?

Former Secretary of State John Kerry reportedly has been meeting with an Iranian official in an effort to save the nuclear deal he helped put together.

President Trump has a May 12 deadline for renewing the deal or bailing out of it.

Kerry’s efforts come on the heels of Israel revealing it has a half ton of documents showing that Iran continues to work toward developing a nuclear arsenal.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said he is not accusing Iran of violating the deal, but is pointing out the deal is so weak Iran doesn’t need to break it, while it continues its nuke development. “I say that a deal that enables Iran to keep and hide all its nuclear weapons know-how, is a horrible deal,” he said.

The deal was supposed to be that Iran would curb its bid for nuclear weapons in exchange for lifting sanctions that were hurting the nation’s economy.

Surprise! Surprise! Today The Wall Street Journal is reporting there is labor strife all over Iran due to lousy economic conditions. Teachers, steelworkers, hospital staff and others have walked off the job.

The paper says the workers are angry at their employers and the government, because the nuclear deal has failed to deliver. There is high inflation and unemployment and the country’s currency is dropping in value.

“Where in the world is a worker whose wage is four times below the poverty line forced by the police to work?” WSJ quotes an Iranian activist as saying. “This is a crime. This is slavery.”

Remember those pallets of cash delivered by the Obama administration? Apparently a lot of that was spent on supporting fighting in Syria and supporting Hezbollah.

Kerry appears to be fighting for a deal nobody likes, even the Iranians.

Imagine what will happen if Trump backs out of the deal.

An Iranian protester in December. (Getty Images)

Editorial: Beware of California censorship law

Maybe it is time to update that old hippie paean that goes, “If you’re going to San Francisco, be sure to wear some flowers in your hair,” to: “If you’re going to California, be sure to leave your Bible at home.”

Like Nevada, California has a law on the books making it illegal for any therapist to provide so-called conversion therapy to anyone under the age of 18. In Nevada that is defined as “any practice or treatment that seeks to change the sexual orientation or gender identity of a person.” It is illegal no matter whether the child or his or her parents are willing participants.

Recently the California Assembly passed Assembly Bill 2943 on a vote of 50-14, making it unlawful to advertise, offer to engage in or engage in any effort whatsoever to change anyone’s sexual orientation by anyone at all.

The bill specifically states: “Courts, including in California, have recognized the practice of sexual orientation change efforts as a commercial service. Therefore, claims that sexual orientation change efforts are effective in changing an individual’s sexual orientation, may constitute unlawful, unfair, or fraudulent business practices under state consumer protection laws. This bill intends to make clear that sexual orientation change efforts are an unlawful practice under California’s Consumer Legal Remedies Act.”

Now, there are a number of passages in the Christian Bible and, or so we’re told, in Islam’s Koran that are highly critical of behavior other than heterosexuality. It would seem on the surface that if the California Senate passes and the governor signs this bill that selling Bibles and Korans, or even having them in libraries, would be against the law in California.

The current law in Nevada has a ham-fisted attempt to protect religious practices.

Just before it was passed in the 2017 Legislature, the bill was amended to say “there is nothing in this bill that regulates or prohibits licensed health care professionals from engaging in expressive speech or religious counseling with such children if the licensed health care professionals: (1) are acting in their pastoral or religious capacity as members of the clergy or as religious counselors; and (2) do not hold themselves out as operating pursuant to their professional licenses when so acting in their pastoral or religious capacity.”

So, which hat is the professional licensee wearing when talking to a child about gender? The pastor hat or the doctor hat?

The Alliance Defending Freedom says bluntly that AB2943 outlaws speech by targeting a specific message — advice to anyone about changing sexual orientation.

The organization argues that a “religious ministry could not hold a conference on maintaining sexual purity if the conference encourages attendees to avoid homosexual behavior,” and a “pastor paid to speak at an event addressing current social topics could not encourage attendees that they can prevail over same-sex desires or feelings that they were born the wrong sex.”

Additionally ADF says a “bookstore (including online bookstores like Amazon) could not sell many recently published books challenging gender identity ideology and advocating that these beliefs should be rejected by society …”

Presumably, under such a law it would be illegal to write that 80 to 95 percent of all children who express feelings of gender dysphoria abandon those feelings upon maturity and that more than 80 percent of youth claiming to experience same-sex attractions in late childhood and adolescence identified themselves as exclusively heterosexual upon becoming adults.

What happens in California too often has a way to seeping across the border. So be forewarned.

A version of this editorial appeared this week in some of the Battle Born Media newspapers — The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News, the Mineral County Independent-News, the Eureka Sentinel,  Sparks Tribune and the Lincoln County Record.

Banned in California?