Change at the top is just a beginning

  Dear HCN,


Marc Reisner's recent story explained that some things have changed dramatically at the Bureau of Reclamation. Commissioner Dan Beard has little in common with his dam-building predecessors such as Floyd Dominy. Reisner portrayed Beard - accurately, I think - as someone firmly committed to making Reclamation more responsible to the environment and the American public.


On many issues, however, Beard's Reclamation has had a tough time making big changes. It has suspended efforts to write rules addressing "water spreading," the illegal use of federal project water (HCN, 10/31/94). It has revised its draft water conservation guidelines to be more friendly to irrigators. And it has delayed Glen Canyon Dam operational changes which could restore the eroding beaches of the Colorado River (HCN, 3/20/95).


It's hard to blame Beard for these retreats. The entire Interior Department has been immobilized by the recent changes in Congress and by the "War on the West" rhetoric spouted by resource user groups. Beard, like others at Interior who would change the way we manage public resources, has been handcuffed by politics. In fact, Beard may have the toughest reform job of all.


Water, the resource his agency manages, is mostly controlled by state laws. In every Western state and at the federal level, the politics of water are dominated by economic user groups. Irrigators, cities, ranchers and hydropower interests call the shots. Environmental groups and recreational river users haven't been a major force, except in a few cases. We're beginning to change that, but we've got a long way to go.


We now must change the political environment in which the Bureau operates. We need broader and stronger support for instream uses of water, so that the Bureau must serve environmental, tribal and recreational interests as well as irrigation and hydropower. Only then can we expect Reclamation to manage water for the benefit of the public and the rivers of the West.





Reed D. Benson


Portland, Oregon





The writer is reclamation issues director of WaterWatch.





High Country News Classifieds
  • ADOBE HOME
    Passive solar adobe home in high desert of central New Mexico. Located on a 10,000 acre cattle ranch.
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    Western Slope Conservation Center Paonia, CO WSCC seeks a dynamic leader who is mission-driven, hardworking and a creative problem-solver. Position Summary: The Executive Director leads...
  • ARIZONA STATE DIRECTOR
    A LITTLE ABOUT US Founded in 1951, the Nature Conservancy is a global conservation organization dedicated to conserving the lands and waters on which all...
  • CONSERVATION MANAGEMENT/HOSPITALITY SERVICES
    Seasoned ranch manager of award-winning conservation ranch seeking position as nature reserve/resort or ranch manager. Visit philipmoonwalker.com for resume and certifications. Contact: [email protected]
  • PART-TIME OREGON GRANT WRITER
    Help advance rights for people, communities, and nature - Part-time grant writer. The Oregon Community Rights Network (ORCRN) has been active over the last six...
  • UTAH PUBLIC LANDS PROGRAM DIRECTOR
    Job Title: Utah Public Lands Program Director Location: Southern Utah Position: Full Time (40 hours per week) Supervisor: Conservation Director About us: The Grand Canyon...
  • FSBO PROPERTY-SOUTHEAST ARIZONA
    Located in an area steeped in history, this gentleman's ranch sits at the entrance to the renowned Cave Creek Canyon. Enjoy picturesque views of the...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    Eastern Nevada Landscape Coalition, based in Ely, Nevada is looking for a new executive director to replace the long-time executive director who is retiring at...
  • LAND CONSERVATION PROJECT MANAGER
    JOIN OUR TEAM! The New Mexico Land Conservancy in Santa Fe is seeking a Land Conservation Project Manager who will work to protect land and...
  • HOME NEAR CAPITOL REEF NP
    Comfortable home at foot of Boulder Mountain, on one fenced acre. Amazing views!
  • STEVE HARRIS, EXPERIENCED PUBLIC LANDS/ENVIRONMENTAL ATTORNEY
    Comment Letters - Admin Appeals - Federal & State Litigation - FOIA -
  • LISA MACKEY PHOTOGRAPHY
    Fine Art Gicle Printing. Photo papers, fine art papers, canvas. Widths up to 44". Art printing by an artist.
  • LOG HOME IN THE GILA WILDERNESS
    Beautiful hand built log home in the heart of the Gila Wilderness on five acres. Please email for PDF of pictures and a full description.
  • NEW MEXICO PROPERTY - SILVER CITY
    20 acres, $80,000. Owner financing, well, driveway, fencing possible, very private, sensible covenants, broker owned. Contact - 575-534-7955 or [email protected]
  • SECLUDED COLORADO HIDEAWAY
    This passive solar home sits on 2 lots and offers an abundance of privacy and views while being only 15 minutes to downtown Buena Vista....
  • CARETAKER
    2.0 acre homestead needing year-round caretaker in NE Oregon. Contact [email protected] for details.
  • SEEKING PROPERTY FOR BISON HERD
    Seeking additional properties for a herd of 1,000 AUM minimum. Interested in partnering with landowners looking to engage in commercial and/or conservation bison ranching. Location...
  • COPPER STAIN: ASARCO'S LEGACY IN EL PASO
    Tales from scores of ex-employees unearth the human costs of an economy that runs on copper.
  • EXPERT LAND STEWART
    Available for site conservator, property manager. View resume at http://skills.ojadigital.net.
  • CONSERVATIONIST? IRRIGABLE LAND?
    Stellar seed-saving NGO is available to serious partner. Package must include financial support. Details: http://seeds.ojaidigital.net.