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U.S. Committee on Natural Resources February 28, 2007

Idaho Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter's Statement From Today's Hearing
On The "Evolving West"
FOLLOWED BY
Reps. Bishop, Heller & Sali's Statements
 

"Most of the challenges facing such resource industries as agriculture, timber and mining in Idaho and throughout the West are the result of federal government policies that unreasonably restrict access, over-regulate activity and discourage sustainable growth."

            Washington, D.C. - The following is Idaho Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter's submitted statement from today's hearing by the U.S. House Natural Resources Committee on the "Evolving West". 

Gov. Otter was a senior Member of the Resources Committee prior to being elected Governor of Idaho in November 2006.

"On behalf of the State of Idaho, and the people who value our lifestyle and their traditional resource-based livelihoods, thank you for the opportunity to enter a statement into the record for this hearing on the 'Evolving West'.

"It's important to put 'evolving' in context.  The usual connotation evokes gradual change resulting from natural influences of environment and circumstance.  However, there is nothing gradual or natural about change in the West.

"Most of the challenges facing such resource industries as agriculture, timber and mining in Idaho and throughout the West are the result of federal government policies that unreasonably restrict access, over-regulate activity and discourage sustainable growth.

"From neglectful absentee land management that supplants local stewardship to on-the-ground environmental myopia, federal programs routinely provide disincentives to progressive collaboration.  In a single generation they have changed much of the West from America's gilded hope for independence and self-sufficiency to a gelded collection of servile sycophants hopeful only for another round of government largesse.

 

Some Propose A "New West" That Regulates Resource Industries

To The Status Of Historical Relics

"Now some promote a 'New West' that relegates resource industries to the status of historical relics.  It is a self-fulfilling prophecy from those who urge even more federal control over our region's resources in the name of environmental urgency or modern realities.  They blithely, yet earnestly, disregard the real people and real communities that were established and nurtured by previous pendulum swings in national priorities.

"Make no mistake: Tourism, technology and even service are important and growing segments of our economy.  They are adding to the diversity and vitality of Idaho and the West.  However, they are no panacea for a region inhabited by people who have a special connection with the land, who understand their responsibility to it, and who still value self-reliance and individualism.

"About 10 percent of Idaho's 1.4 million residents work in the forests, fields and on the land.  The combined industries generate nearly $10 billion a year in receipts.  The residual impact generates thousands more jobs and additional billions of dollars.

"As a member of Congress representing Idaho's lst District, and now as Idaho's Governor, I see, hear and experience the resilience of people struggling to maintain their livelihood in resource-based industries every day.  These citizens work through burdensome policies and regulations to provide for their families, support their communities and provide valuable products for U.S. citizens and the world.

"Eighty-eight percent of Idaho is rural.  About 63 percent of our landmass is controlled by the federal government.  As a result, and to far too great a degree, we are not the architects of our own destiny.  Yet the rugged geography and great size of Idaho - the ironically complementary qualities of remoteness and community - still draw people here.

"Those people have used their ingenuity and resourcefulness to supply timber, food and a host of value-added products to the world.  And our potential is far greater.  If given the opportunity by our federal landlords, the people of Idaho could contribute mightily toward meeting America's future energy needs with home-grown, clean-burning renewable fuels found here in the 'Evolving West'.

 

Natural Resource Workers Are Conscientious Stewards

& Wisely Manage The Resources For All To Enjoy

"Natural resource industries still provide some of the highest-paying jobs in our state.  Counties with healthy timber, mining and agriculture operations have the highest per-capita income.  The people working in these industries are conscientious stewards of the resources - relying on sound science and state-of-the-art technology to protect and wisely manage the natural resources for all to enjoy.

"Viewing natural resource industries as 'extractive' or 'consumptive' gives unjustified short shrift to what made - and still makes - the West a dreamscape of opportunity and hope for people around the world.

"The entrepreneurs, workers and families who devote their lives to agriculture, timber and mining have 'evolved' with the landscape and the marketplace for generations.  Such challenges as energy and transportation costs and reliability are changing their world at this moment.

"But those are market-driven changes - issues of supply, demand and geography.  Our people, and our way of life, deserve better than to have our government further 'evolve' them out of existence.

"Once again, thank you for this opportunity to address the topic of this hearing.  Please accept my warmest personal regards and best wishes for a successful 110th Congress."

For more information, access the Committee on Natural Resources' Minority website at:

http://republicans.resourcescommittee.house.gov/index.shtml

 ==========================================================

Reps. Bishop, Heller & Sali's Statements From Today's Hearing
On The "Evolving West"

            Washington, D.C. - The following are statements from U.S. Reps. Rob Bishop (R-UT), Dean Heller (R-NV) and Bill Sali (R-ID) from today's hearing by the House Natural Resources Committee on the "Evolving West".

            Rep. Bishop is the Ranking Member on the Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands, and Reps. Heller and Sali are Members of the Natural Resources Committee.

Rep. Bishop's Opening Statement

            "Mr. Chairman (Rep. Nick Rahall II, D-WV), I thank you for holding today's hearing and look forward to hearing from all our witnesses.   I particularly note that three former Members of this Committee (Congressmen Walden, Rehberg, Nunes) as well as Mr. Herger have joined us today to speak about how their resource-dependent communities are affected by federal land management policies.

           "It appears the premise for this hearing is as the West becomes more urbanized, our domestic natural resource industries are less important and can be replaced by tourism and high technology industries.  I believe this premise is somewhere between a gross over-simplification and just dead wrong analysis.

            "The U.S. Geological Survey finds that 67 percent of Utah and 57 percent of my district are owned by the federal government.  At the same time, my district is commonly defined as being almost 90 percent 'urban'.

Public Education Funding Has Reached Crisis Level In Some Western States

            "I approach the issue of the 'Evolving West' based on my professional experience for 28 years as a public school teacher.  I support public policies that are good for kids and their parents.

            "Most states are greatly challenged in funding public education.  This has reached a crisis level in some states. 

            "Draw an imaginary line from Montana to New Mexico.  The 12 states west of the line are the public land states that have 52 percent of all the land controlled by the federal government, as opposed to four percent for the rest of you.  If one does not live between the Rockies and the Cascades and attempt to create public policy for this area, it is impossible to fully understand this impact.  Of the 15 states with the slowest growth rate in funding education, 11 of these are public land states.  Of the 15 states with the largest class size, nine of these are public land states.  The western public land states collect more in state, federal and local taxes than the rest of the nation, and spend a greater portion of their budgets on education than the rest of the nation, but can't make it work.  The only common denominator in this situation is the amount of land owned by the federal government in each struggling western state," Bishop said. 

Western States Suffer From "Inequity" Of Tax Base On Federal Lands

           "If the federal land were taxed at the lowest possible rate (green space), it would generate over $4 billion dollars in revenue nationwide.  In my state of Utah, if the federal government paid that low average rate for this land it would generate $214 million dollars a year of which, under our state formula, $116 million a year would go to education.  If my state had that type of money we could pay decent salaries to teachers, reduce western class size and have enough left over to fully fund all the federal programs and tell the federal government to take No Child Left Behind and shove it.

            "This funding inequity was not supposed to happen.  If one reads the enabling acts of every western state except Hawaii, this was not supposed to be the way western land was treated.  Congress changed its philosophy almost 60 years ago.  Starting in the 50s we changed our approach to western lands, until today we accept this as this situation as the norm.  We should not.  To accept this situation is to condemn my fellow teachers to a life of poverty and my grandkids to a second rate education.  Our land policy hurts kids, and those who wish to acquiesce to the status quo and build in a new paradigm exacerbate the situation.

            "The future of our kids and their education depends on creating more profitable businesses that pay taxes and employ their parents.

            "We may indeed need a new paradigm shift, but one that accepts the status quo is unacceptable," Bishop said.

Lisbon Valley Copper Mine Has Dramatically Improved Economy

Of San Juan County

            "Let me cite one new such business in San Juan County, Utah - a county that was recently ranked as one of the poorest in the entire nation.

            "The Lisbon Valley copper mine, owned and operated by Constellation Copper Company, began production last year.  The mine is expected to produce the following tax revenues in 2007 assuming a constant copper price of $2.75/lb. for the year.  (Today's price):

Property Taxes:                         $780,000

Severance Taxes:                      $1,227,000

Utah Sales Tax:                         $2,800,000

Income Tax (fed and state)       $8 million

                        Total 2007 Taxes:                              $13.122 million

 

            "With an estimated 10-year mine life, and assuming constant pricing and production levels, the life of mine totals would be approximately $131 million in taxes.

            "Tourism and high tech alone cannot equate to this level of potential funding, and to ignore this reality hurts the education of western kids and is unacceptable

            "The Mine's payroll for 2007 is estimated at $10,252,114 including benefits.

            "For the projected 10-year mine life that works out to approximately $102 million in wages and benefits.  That equates to an average annual wage (including benefits) of $73,229.  If we assume benefits amount to about 35 percent of wages, the average base wage is $54,244 per employee.  The actual hourly wages for labor range from $12.00 to $21.00 per hour (not including benefits), depending upon position and skill level.  I understand this is approximately twice the going range in the tourism industry, not including the benefits package which the mine offers its employees (health, dental, life, 401K contribution, etc.), and which the tourism industry can't match.  Mine employees will pay income taxes on their wages, and sales taxes on their personal purchase.  If we assume an average tax bracket of 25 percent for the employees, they will pay roughly $2 million annually in income taxes, or $20 million over the 10-year mine life.

            "This year alone the mine anticipates purchase of approximately $45 million in goods and services locally, directly for the mine.  Over a 10-year life this would translate to $450 million in purchases of goods and services locally.  This demand for goods and services creates secondary jobs (contractors, fuel and acid truck drivers, salesmen, supplier representatives, manufacturing jobs, etc.), not including the demand for local goods and services created by the disposable income our employees have to spend on food, clothing, housing, transportation, etc. in the local communities.

            "A paradigm shift that does not recognize the need of this type of industry in the western balance hurts kids and is unacceptable.

            "Besides these powerful economic arguments, the mine has brought a new set of educated professionals to the rural western communities of Moab and Monticello Utah.  These include degreed Metallurgists, Mining engineers, process engineers, Geologists, an environmental engineer, accountants, many of them with kids and most of them involved in the community.  This brings awareness (and indeed perspective) to the communities that did not exist previously, which enhances the educational experience available to local children and adults alike.  The mine has established local scholarships for high school graduates pursuing a college education and encourage job training for graduates who wish to seek employment either at the mine or with one of its suppliers.  For those graduates who wish to remain in or near their rural western communities and roots, diverse opportunities are provided.

            "A paradigm shift that does not provide real jobs for kids of the West hurts those kids and is unacceptable.

            "Mr. Chairman, the future of our kids and their education in the West depends on new industries like the Lisbon Valley copper mine.  I challenge the presenters today to tell me how they will help education in the 12 public land states - really help and not with idealistic numbers.  I challenge the presenters today to recognize the West is more than the recreational playground of the East and my friends and family deserve the chance to live the American dream of ownership, good jobs and control of their destiny without the harassment of the heavy hand of government and idealists.  I look forward to working with you on policies that promote this goal," Bishop said.

Balance Is Needed For Urban & Rural Needs As West Evolves

- Rep. Dean Heller (R-NV)

"Just like the rest of the western states, Nevada's economy is robust and diverse.  We face overcrowded schools and traffic congestion in our larger cities.  In our rural communities we have concerns with public lands management for wildfires.

"With the current production and vast potential Nevada has for alternative energy development coupled with our mineral production, responsible use of our natural resources are important to both Nevada and our nation's economy.  As we discuss how the west continues to evolve, it is vital that we balance both urban and rural needs and recognize their diverse economic opportunities," said Heller.      

America Needs The West's Resources For Our Economic Viability & We Must Not Sacrifice Them To Left-Wing Special Interests - Rep. Bill Sali (R-ID)

"Forest products, mining, ranching and hydro-electric resources are essential to Idaho's economy and our identity as a State.  When well-funded environmental activists of the liberal Eastern establishment threaten the livelihoods of Idahoans and the vital services we provide to our nation, I will work with my Western congressional colleagues and Idaho's key political and business leaders to defend our way of life.

"Eco-tourism cannot replace the family-wage jobs created by these sectors of Idaho's economy.  Additionally, America needs these resources for our economic viability, and we must not sacrifice them to left-wing special interests," said Sali.

For more information, access the Committee on Natural Resources' Minority website at:

http://republicans.resourcescommittee.house.gov/index.shtml

Steve Hansen
Director of Communications
Republican Staff
U.S. House Committee on Natural Resources
1329 Longworth HOB
Washington
, D.C. 20515


202) 225-7749

 

 

 
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