This West Is OUR West

Is Zinke 'Migration Corridors' order the Endangered Species Act on Steroids?

 

February 20, 2018

By Editor

Some in the West who share an insight born of their having lived for years with abuses sanctioned by the federal government’s enforcement of the Endangered Species Act may doubt it. For them, the unanswered question is whether Zinke’s Order will eventually afford “game animals” a protected legal status similar to that of “endangered species”?

Commentary by Clifford C. Nichols, Esq.

Will Zinke’s Order 3362 Bring a Sad Song to the West?

Home, home on the range,
Where the deer and the antelope play,
Where seldom is heard an encouraging word,
And the skies will be cloudy all day… 

Those might be the new lyrics to the classic Western folk song if a new order goes unchecked.

Recently, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke signed into law Secretarial Order 3362. Its stated purpose is to improve the quality of the habitats of big game animals and their corridors of migration connecting those habitats throughout the West.

As was the case at the inception of the Endangered Species Act decades before, the goals of this new “law” seem worthy, if not noble. At the signing ceremony in Salt Lake City, Utah on February 9, 2018, environmentalists linked arms with sportsmen to cheer Zinke’s bold initiative.  

Understated in his remarks, however, was his Order’s possible future impact upon those whose lives and livelihoods are dependent on the lands his Order will affect. For example, consider the following:

 "​We all know that animals go where animals want to go, ... whether land is owned by the BLM, state, or private landowners…. [T]his order will he​​lp establish better migration corridors for … big game species like elk, mule deer and antelope." And to accomplish this, “… the Department will leverage its land management and scientific expertise to both study the migration habits of wildlife as well as identify ways to improve the habitat. For example, this can be done by working with ranchers to modify their fences, working with states to collaborate on sage brush restoration, or working with scientists to better understand migration routes." (emphasis added)

One could, and perhaps should, remain skeptical. Will the actual implementation of his Order only require a few ranch fences to be “modified”?

Some in the West who share an insight born of their having lived for years with abuses sanctioned by the federal government’s enforcement of the Endangered Species Act may doubt it. For them, the unanswered question is whether Zinke’s Order will eventually afford “game animals” a protected legal status similar to that of “endangered species”?

If it does, these people know the adverse effects of this Order will likely far exceed just the “modification” of a few fences. It will adversely effect [sic] some entire industries that operate in the West, i.e. ranching, oil and gas, mining and logging.

To appreciate how this possible outcome is foreseeable, one need only reflect upon some of the provisions found in the Order itself, such as the following:

Purpose. This Order directs appropriate bureaus within the Department of the Interior (Department) to work in close partnership with the states of Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming to enhance and improve the quality of big-game winter range and migration corridor habitat …

I (Zinke) hereby direct the BLM (Bureau of Land Management), FWS (Fish and Wildlife Service), and NPS (National Park Service) to:

•Work closely with appropriate States (identified above), Federal agencies (that will include governmental entities like the U.S. Forest Service), nongovernmental organizations (that could include groups like The Sierra Club, The WildEarth Guardians and The Center for Biological Diversity), and/or associations (that could include the likes of local and national camping and backpacking clubs) to identify active programs focused on big game winter range and/or migration corridors

•…. Including prioritizing active habitat management projects … to achieve wildlife population objectives, particularly for wildlife that is hunted or fished, …

•To enhance or restore habitat for species such as sage grouse and/or mule deer; and

•…Review and use the best available science to inform development of specific guidelinesto avoid or minimize potential negative impacts on wildlife.

      (Emphasis and italicized words added.)

Given these provisos, first consider the enormous areas of land in the West that Zinke intends to make subject to his Order’s mandates.

His Department alone controls over 245 million acres in the West. However, when one adds to that the millions of acres controlled by all the other federal and state agencies he calls upon to cooperate with his Department’s effort to protect game animals, the following map may provide a somewhat accurate idea of the Order’s possible geographic scope within the eleven designated Western states:  

http://freerangereport.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/governmentlands.png

Next, it is important to note that buried in the above language is an indication that the Order may be intended to protect more than only “Big Game” like elk, deer and antelope. In fact, is it not even limited to protecting only mammals. Tucked in the language are references to birds (e.g. grouse), and evidently also “game” that may be “fished.” Thus, it might be fair to conclude that the habitats and migratory corridors of all game animals are to be protected by Zinke’s Order – whether they are mammals, fish or fowl – both large and small.

If so, this would bring both the skies above, and all lakes, ponds and waterways found within or running through any public lands in the West within the scope of the Order’s mandates.

Then, one must also not overlook the fact that the Order is also expressly intended to protect the migratory corridors of all such game animals. For that, the map has yet to be drawn, but when it is, it will not be difficult to imagine what it might look like. One need only consider the map below that some environmentalists championed at the United Nations to achieve a noble-sounding goal that was strikingly similar to that of Zinke’s Order, i.e. protection of our nation’s biodiversity.