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Environmental Liver Sausage

by Dan Steninger

ould it be unreasonable for the State of Nevada, before acting on "facts" presented by the minions of Bill Clinton and Bruce Babbitt (two men with recognized disabilities in the truth-telling department), to actually check out those "facts"?

At least one state official thinks that would be unreasonable: Allen Biaggi, director of the Nevada Division of Environmental Protection. He’s fighting a measure to give the Nevada a little more control over its destiny. Biaggi, speaking in opposition to a legislative proposal from Elko County, recently told members of the Assembly Natural Resources Committee that if the proposal to check out those federal "facts" goes through, legislators are going to have to give him a bunch more money and, still, there will be no way for his agency to protect the state’s environment.


The proposal, introduced by Assemblyman John Carpenter, is a simple one. It calls for the state to actually investigate claims of environmental destruction before blindly accepting those claims as facts and bringing the hammer down on Nevada residents or local governments.

How will this impede Biaggi and crew from protecting the state’s environment? It won’t, of course. What it will do is offer a measure of protection to Nevada residents that Biaggi has refused to provide. Now that he has been called to account for his dereliction, he has the nerve to say the state just couldn’t get along without the benevolent assistance of federal agents fingering Nevadans they want Biaggi to stomp.

I hope Gov. Kenny Guinn is paying attention to this matter. Nevada has an attorney general and two U.S. senators to fight for more federal control over Nevada. It doesn’t need appointed agency heads doing the same thing.

The proposal, AB41, stems from the attempts by the U.S. Forest Service to close down roads around the Jarbidge Wilderness Area, thereby creating more "roadless areas" that would allow for an expansion of the wilderness area.

In the spring of 1995, the county road leading south from Jarbidge, across land managed by the forest service, was washed out in a flood which diverted the river into the roadway. After saying the road would be repaired, the forest service later changed its mind and put up a roadblock to stop access.

Considering that the road in question belongs to Elko County, county commissioners listened to the forest service’s change of plans, then sent the county road department in to put the river back into its old channel and reopen the road.

U.S. Forest Service officials, bristling at this lack of respect, claim to have sent a biologist in to observe the work and further claim that the biologist observed the county stripping the stream banks with heavy equipment and carrying out other acts of environmental destruction. Asked for the biologist’s report, the forest service—in typical fashion—refused to release it; lending credence to the theory that it made the whole story up as a way of exacting revenge on Elko County for not properly bowing down before superiors from Washington.

A call from the forest service to Biaggi’s office led to a cease and desist order from the state and eventually a $1,000 fine for not getting the proper permit to fix the flood damage. At the hearing of the Nevada Environmental Commission where the fine was levied, the state commissioners expressed disgust at the ability of federal agencies to meddle in such matters, confirmed that the county had done little if any damage to the river, and told the county to go ahead with repair work on the road.

With that background, in steps Allen Biaggi to oppose AB41, claiming, among other things, that the system isn’t broken, and it shouldn’t be fixed. According to the reporters on the scene, Biaggi testified that: "the scientific information provided to [his] agency from ... federal offices is excellent and reliable."

I guess this is the kind of testimony we can expect from government employees, now that the perjury statutes have been repealed by the U.S. Senate. NJ

Dan Steninger ( is the editorial page editor of the Elko Daily Free Press.


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