A while back on this blog here, I wondered about Ark Initiative’s ongoing interest in Burnt Mountain (800 trees 6.5 acres, and mass extinctions).
Fortunately, a reporter for the Aspen Times had the time and the skills to investigate more.
Here’s a link and below is an excerpt.
“What exactly is the Ark Initiative, and why is it interested in Burnt Mountain? It’s largely a one-person operation run by environmental consultant Donald “D.J.” Duerr, who helped found the organization and serves as its president and director. Duerr is a veteran of the conservation movement who has a reputation of being very capable but also very difficult to work with. One source, who asked not to be quoted by name, said Duerr isn’t a team player and often thinks his approach is the only approach to an issue.
Duerr created the Ark Initiative in the late 1990s. The organization’s website, http://ark.savelifenow.org, says it is “dedicated to protecting life, including human life. Our highest priority is halting the global mass extinction.”
The website says the Ark Initiative works on a “wide variety of life preservation issues,” but none are cited. The organization’s finances are also closely guarded — more so than many other environmental nonprofits. Nonprofits are required by the Internal Revenue Service to fill out a Form 990 on their finances. The website Guide Star posts the forms, with the cooperation of the nonprofits, so it provides reporters, prospective donors and interested members of the public with a glimpse at an organization’s operations. The Ark Initiative’s financial forms aren’t available through Guide Star. Duerr didn’t respond to a request by The Aspen Times on Monday to provide Ark Initiative’s latest annual report, nor did he respond to repeated requests for an interview.
So far, it’s been impossible to tell from public records where the Ark Initiative’s money is coming from for the Burnt Mountain fight.
A limited amount of information is available about Ark Initiative at the Wyoming secretary of state’s website. In addition to listing Duerr as president and director, Leila Bruno, of Laramie, Wyo., is the treasurer and director. Sylvia Callaway, whose mailing address is in care of an Austin, Texas, residence, is listed as vice president and director.
The extent of the Ark Initiative’s environmental activism is difficult to gauge. Public records indicate Duerr submitted comments to the Forest Service to oppose two timber sales: one in Wyoming in 2009 and the other in South Dakota in 2010.”
Interesting. I had heard through the rumor mill that it was a neighbor who didn’t want more people skiing around.. it’s possible that “keeping out the riff-raff” will be hard to distinguish from legitimate environmental concerns. Again, thanks to the Aspen Times for investigating.
So my understanding is that it’s hard to figure how much market value really is for some of these properties; however, I wonder about the rationale for reducing fees because owners “can’t afford” them. I’m sure National Park access fees are high for some people, .. how about means testing them? If the problem is that different forest units interpret the regulations differently, well, that’s another problem.
It seems like this group might be considered to have “undue political clout” even though they are not a corporation, which would feed into our previous discussion of what is “appropriate” political clout. But to them, it’s just an organized grassroots strategy, which you can check out at their website here.
Given the people on this blog’s different experiences with recreation residences, what do you think the problems are, as well as solutions? (if you are currently working, you can use an alias). Some have suggested that just selling these parcels would be better for the public, due to the costs of administration and the fees never being able to keep up.
I’m also curious as to whether Environmental Groups who Use Litigation as a Frequent Tactic or EGULFTs have ever turned their attention to these folks and the Recreation Residence program. Seems like the continuing presence of these folks in the forest might have environmental impacts as significant as, say 500 acres of thinning…
Here’s the Examiner.com story.
Here’s a link to the bill.
Last week I asked if anyone knew of any NGO’s focused on access… Here’s an access bill in the House. I don’t know if there are folks against public access to public lands.. or whether this is one of the elusive THINGS EVERYONE AGREES ON?
Here’s a link to the story and below is an excerpt:
A New Mexico Democrat this week introduced a bill to improve access to public lands for hunters, anglers and other recreation seekers.
Rep. Martin Heinrich’s H.R. 6086 would require federal agencies to identify lands currently lacking public access routes for recreation and to craft plans to improve access to lands valuable to sportsmen.
The legislation, which was assigned to the Natural Resources Committee, targets lands available to the public that are essentially inaccessible, since there is no trail or road leading to them.
In New Mexico, such areas include the Sabinoso Wilderness in San Miguel County and the Alamo Hueco Mountains wilderness study area, said Heinrich spokesman John Blair.
The bill also would require federal land managers to provide a public database of access routes to their lands, a provision designed to inform the state and local governments that manage those roads.
Lastly, the bill includes language that would require that 1.5 percent of the money from the Land and Water Conservation Fund be used to acquire easements and rights of way from willing sellers to improve access to public lands. That would equal nearly $5 million at current funding levels.
Ben Lamb, a hunter from Montana, said the bill is a win for sportsmen.
“It directs the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management to do what many outdoorsmen have been asking those agencies to do for years: Inventory public lands, figure out which areas are inaccessible, and decide what resources are needed to change that,” Lamb said in an op-ed this week in Outdoor Life.
The bill is among a handful of measures floated in Congress recently to strengthen sportsmen’s access and curb federal agencies’ ability to restrict hunting and angling activities.
Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) has at least twice proposed language similar to Heinrich’s to devote LWCF funding to promote access, most recently in an amendment to the Senate farm bill that did not receive a vote. Congress has so far struggled to pass any significant sportsmen’s bills.
“Easements, small land acquisitions and inventorying public land shouldn’t be controversial issues, but it is an election year,” Lamb wrote. “Who knows how this will shake out.”
I wonder if the partisan pitfall could be avoided somehow? And useful work could be done?
I was asked if I knew of an NGO or coalition that focuses on maintaining public access to federal lands or FS land (without getting into the OHV, hiker, bike issues). For example, funding or encouraging legal work to open roads that private landowners close to the public, to deal with trespass violations, and to review administrative or congressional land exchanges that may have impacts on public access. You also might call this topic “maintaining the federal estate.” Or something catchier.
I didn’t know of any, but thought I would ask this knowledgeable group.