Republican infighting; Bundy trial delayed; Western climate report

HCN.org news in brief.

 

THE BIG BUNDY TRIAL GETS UNDERWAY 
In mid-November, the federal trial of Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, his sons Ammon and Ryan, and Ryan Payne of Montana got off to a tumultuous start. The men face decades in prison for charges including threats against federal officers and obstructing justice for their parts in the 2014 armed standoff with federal land managers over Bundy’s illegally grazing cattle. The trial was delayed twice — first in response to the Oct. 1 mass shooting in Las Vegas that left 58 people dead and could have prejudiced jurors against Second Amendment court arguments. The judge delayed trial again when information surfaced that the government had used camera surveillance of the Bundy property, days before the standoff. In opening statements, defense attorneys portrayed the events as a peaceful protest. “The escalation has always been by the government,” said Cliven Bundy’s lawyer, Bret Whipple. Prosecutors depicted a starkly different scenario, in which the Bundys forced federal officers to leave under threat of violence. -Tay Wiles

Buttons with images of Cliven Bundy’s son Ammon Bundy and Arizona rancher LaVoy Finicum, who was killed during the Malheur Wildlife Refuge standoff in Oregon in 2016, are shown outside the federal courthouse in Las Vegas in November.
Reuters/Las Vegas Sun/Steve Marcus


$375 MILLION: Amount of Westlands Water District debt that would have been forgiven, had a rider to a defense bill succeeded.

25: Percent by which Westlands’ water contract deliveries from the Central Valley Project would be reduced under that agreement, which requires congressional approval. 

Lawmakers finalized an annual, must-pass military policy bill in early November. They considered — but ultimately dropped — a rider, the San Luis Unit Drainage Resolution Act, that would have confirmed a 2015 settlement transferring federal responsibility for dealing with contaminated water in Southern California’s Westlands Water District to the district.

In exchange, the government agreed to forgive millions in debt. The settlement, which critics see as a bid for control by Westlands, would make the district’s federal water supply contract permanent in addition to cutting it. But the future of the agreement is now in limbo — another example of the often-convoluted nature of Western water policy. -Emily Benson


A ‘WAR ON THE REPUBLICAN ESTABLISHMENT’
President Donald Trump promised to drain the swamp, but to one of his most controversial political allies, that morass has only deepened — to now encompass the Republican Party. Appearing on Fox News’ Hannity show in October, former White House strategist Steve Bannon called the GOP a “globalist clique.” Bannon, who is executive chair of the far-right Breitbart News Network, promised to use his media platform and funding connections to challenge Republican incumbents with his own “coalition” of candidates for the 2018 midterm elections. 

“We are declaring war on the Republican establishment that does not back the agenda that Donald Trump ran on,” Bannon said, adding that it would be a long-term effort to first replace Republican incumbents, and then Democrats. That has put some Western Republicans who have been either tepid in their support, or outright critical of Trump, in Bannon’s crosshairs. Here’s a list of potential targets.

Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake, who has clashed with Trump since his campaign, is not seeking re-election. “Mr. President, I will not be complicit or silent,” Flake said in a Senate speech. “We were not made great as a country by indulging in or even exalting our worst impulses.”

Nevada Sen. Dean Heller is one of the most vulnerable Republican senators up for election, and is behind in the polls against his primary challenger, Danny Tarkanian, whom Bannon supports.

Wyoming Sen. John Barrasso is considered a safe incumbent, though Bannon has reportedly encouraged Erik Prince, founder of the controversial security contractor Blackwater and the brother of Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, to run against Barrasso.

Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch is also on Bannon’s list, though he has been an ally of Trump, supporting his Supreme Court pick and his administration’s review of Utah’s national monuments. Hatch has also been critical at times and has not announced whether he’s running for re-election. -Anna V. Smith


WHAT A NEW CLIMATE REPORT PORTENDS
In November, the government released the Climate Science Special Report, the first part of the 2018 National Climate Assessment. Here are some highlights from the report, released every four years, which looked at current and future climate change impacts of our current trajectory: The West has warmed by 1.5 degrees and lost two weeks of cool nights in the past century. The Northwest’s warmest day of the year will be 6 degrees warmer by midcentury than it was a decade ago. Alaska will be 12 degrees warmer by the end of the century. By 2100, snowpack in the West’s southernmost mountains will have virtually disappeared. The report also shows the lessened effects of climate change if we reduce our emissions to meet the standards set by the 2015 U.N. Paris Climate Agreement, something that West Coast states are eager to support.  -Maya L. Kapoor 


THE PARK SERVICE NEEDS TO CONNECT
August Franzen, an intern at Klondike Gold Rush National Historic Park in Seattle, Washington, reflects on the National Park Service he knows and loves. After growing up camping and hiking in places like Yosemite and Yellowstone, Franzen finds it hard to explain why parks matter when talking with people who haven’t experienced them. His own difficulty in effective outreach, Franzen says, is pervasive in an agency that has gotten complacent. “The parks have worked so hard to appeal to people who look like me — white, male and comfortable in hiking boots — that they have trouble going any further,” Franzen writes. His internship is meant to address that gap in outreach, and help spark a wider interest in national parks.

You say

Kathy Dimont: “In my personal experience, the NPS has been attempting various ways to reach wider audiences since 1970.”

Robert Stewart: “No, the Park Service should focus on preserving the quality of the parks. Marketing and ‘connecting’ are not valid functions of the Park Service.”

Brooke McDonald:I think a class lens explains the lack of diversity better than a race lens. ... I’d like to see the parks rent out tents, sleeping bags, and so forth so that working-class people don’t feel like they have to shell out hundreds of dollars for an activity they may not enjoy.”