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Cooperative Conservation: my experiece at the "listening session" - home builders need help




Hi, all, sorry about the cross-posting:

Possible action consideration summary:  Based on the  turnout numbers and comments of the home-building industry representatives, I suggest that this business sector is in the biggest need (among attendees) for technical and compliance assistance from our peers.

Background:  
Cooperative conservation:
http://cooperativeconservation.gov/
Executive order facilitation of cooperative conservation (note EPA is involved, as is Council on Env. Quality):
http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2004/08/20040826-11.html
The Omaha session was 5th in 24 such sessions:
http://cooperativeconservation.gov/sessions/index.html

How the session operated:

The session began with a group recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance.
http://www.legion.org/?section=our_flag&subsection=flag_history&content=flag_history

Director Hall - http://www.fws.gov/offices/H.DaleHall.htm - opened the session with remarks that indicated an interest in how the feds could encourage conservation and respect property owner rights.  The goal, as reported by Omaha World Herald reporter  Nancy Gardner: "If we do this right, (regulations) should decrease," he said, because landowners would voluntarily be doing "good deeds."  He suggested the way to do this would be found by answers offered to the five suggested questions that were given to the attendees on a card they received upon entry.  These questions are:
·        How can the federal government enhance wildlife habitat, species protection, and other conservation outcomes through regulatory and voluntary conservation programs?
·        How can the federal government enhance cooperation among federal agencies and with states, tribes, and local communities in the application of environmental protection and conservation laws?
·        How can the federal government work with states, tribes, and other public- and private-sector partners to improve science used in environmental protection and conservation?
·        How can the federal government work cooperatively with businesses and landowners to protect the environment and promote conservation?
·        How can the federal government better respect the interests of people with ownership in land, water, and other natural resources?

Written responses can be offered by stating "Listening Session Comments" in the subject line and sending to Beth Duff, contact info here:
http://cooperativeconservation.gov/contact-us/index.html  These will supposedly receive equal weight to the recorded spoken testimony.

Everyone was given a card with a number, and the questions, as they entered. Testimony was given by cardholders in numbered order.  At 2 minutes, a signal was given the speaker, and another 30 seconds allowed.   The  moderator cut off eveyone promptly at the end of 2.5 minutes.
Time began after giving name, name spelling.  Group affiliation and town affiliation was also requested.

Tip:  A good use of time used by many was to thank the Director for his time prior to offering their name and name spelling.

 98 cards were issued in Omaha.  Session started promptly at 1.  There was a short break ~ 2:15 - great time to network.  We were done ~3:50.


My observations:

The most representation by any one interest group was the Home Builders Associations, developers, and their attorneys.  They seem most aggreived by the fines imposed on their industry by EPA (their words) for failing to meet new storm water regulations.  Their suggested action is to have EPA (I guess) build up its staff in order to do inspections during construction and "red tag" (stop) construction until the regulatory inadequacy is met.  Based on their  turnout numbers and comments, and my view of the low probability that any environmental agency will quickly restructure their enforcement program to offer this kind of help, I suggest that this business sector is in the biggest need (among attendees) for technical and compliance assistance from our peers.


Local agencies and organizations asked for more federal dollars to continue the good work that was being done so well under the existing system.  Specifically mentioned was LIP, the Landowner Incentive Program, about which I know nothing.  

NGOs emphasized the need for more funds for environmental education, the worth of the Endangered Species Act, and questioned the wisdom of drilling for oil at Teshekpuk Lake (that was me, actually, as a concerned citizen and former north slope resident).

Individuals spoke for and against the water level management plan in the MO River.  Others stated simply that their  land was their land, individual property rights supecede the need of the rest of society to work through government to ensure safe drinking water, clean air, or a world as rich in natural resources for our children as it has been for us.  (OK, they didn't use these words exactly, but you get the gist.)

Lincoln Journal Star story:
http://www.journalstar.com/articles/2006/08/25/local/doc44ee53027a918451976551.txt

Cheers -

Rick


Richard Yoder, PE
Director, P2ric.org
University of Nebraska at Omaha
6001 Dodge Street, RH308
Omaha, NE 68182
vox: 402-554-6257
fax: 402-554-6260

http://www.p2ric.org/
 

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