Welcome to "Ask the White House" -- an online interactive forum where you can submit questions to Administration officials and friends of the White House. Visit the "Ask the White House" archives to read other discussions with White House officials.
March 4, 2004
Earlier today, Interior's Office of Surface Mining awarded Pennsylvania more than $24 million to help reclaim dangerous abandoned mine lands. More than 1.6 million Pennsylvanians and 3.5 million Americans across the nation live less than a mile from dangerous abandoned mine sites.
President Bush wants to reauthorize the government's authority to collect an Abandoned Mine Land fee from coal companies to provide enough funding to eliminate all significant health and safety problems from abandoned coal mines within 25 years.
It would take 50 years if the current system continues. Additionally, the President's continuing commitment to cooperative conservation, including his recent proposal of an unprecedented $507.3 million in the FY '05 budget, has enabled the department to empower states, tribes, local communities, private landowners, and others to undertake innovative conservation projects to restore our land and recover its wildlife.
Interior manages one in five acres in the United States and is comprised of the following agencies: the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Geological Survey, the National Park Service, the Minerals Management Service, the Bureau of Reclamation and the Office of Surface Mining.
Thus our main responsibilities include land management, protection of wildlife including endangered species, providing services to Indian tribes and Alaska Natives and furthering conservation of our natural resources. I look forward to talking with you and responding to your comments and questions.
Stephen, from Melbourne Village, Florida
Thank you for this intriguing question, Stephen. The Department of the Interior is not selling land in Utah and certainly NOT for $20 an acre.
Its unfortunate that there is so much bad information out there. Protecting wilderness values is an important responsibility and we take it seriously.
In fact, in Utah alone, DOI manages approximately 3 million acres of land as Wilderness Study Areas and will continue to do so until Congress takes some final action regarding these areas.
Ben, from Philadelphia writes:
Since most of the decisions the Department makes involve public comments or other public processes, all citizens have the opportunity to participate in the decision-making process for the future of Americas public lands.
Micah-John, from Nacogdoches Texas SFASU
We also have increased funding because the President's fiscal year 2005 budget provides $760 million to fully fund the purposes of this Act. With both tools and funding, we are now moving forward to tackle the problem.
Neverthess, decades of forest mismanagement will take many years to correct. We are encouraged by the strong federal, state and local partnerships working to restore our forests.
We have a strong working relationship among firefighters on all levels to combat forest fires when they happen.
Kristen, from Brengel writes:
From my experience as a state Attorney General, I know it can take decades for such major litigation to resolve disputes.
So we are trying to work cooperatively with states to use our existing authority to resolve the lengthy disputes over road ownership while also protecting conservation areas.
Thats why our agreement with Utah makes
it certain that National Parks, Refuges, Wilderness Areas and other
sensitive areas are protected.
John, from Bangor, ME
In many ways, what you want to happen is already happening since I have adopted a policy of conservation through communication, consultation and cooperation. The law requires that most Bureau of Land Management lands be managed to accommodate a wide variety of uses. The lands and offshore areas managed by Interior produce a third of Americas domestic coal, oil and natural gas.
We are already seeing factory workers lose jobs to overseas relocations because of the high price of natural gas. We need to consider many different factors.
One in five acres of all the lands of this nation
are managed by the Department of the Interior, so it is vitally
important that all of our citizens have a voice in the management of these vast land holdings.
Jesse, from California writes:
Daniel, from Crockett , Tx
Theresa, from Sedro-Woolley, WA
Using a competitive review process, we are looking at a small number of activities to explore whether we should:
1) change how we deliver a service or function to improve effectiveness; or 2) consider partnering with the private sector, such as janitorial services, lawn care, or fleet repairs. We have 70,000 employees at Interior. We are using our competitive reviews to study about 2,700 positions. No full-time employee has involuntarily lost a job through our competitive review process. Our parks, refuges and other land managers retain any savings from these management improvements to help them serve the public.
I also note that park visitors are already served by a variety of
enthusiastic service-providers; Park Service rangers, volunteers,
concessionaires, and other contractors. Our goals are to protect park
resources and provide terrific experiences for our visitors.
Jamie, from California writes:
We operate a fleet of 2,334 alternative fuel vehicles, of which 81-percent use ethanol and 13-percent use compressed natural gas. We have established a renewable energy ombudsman to facilitate development of alternative fuels such as wind, geothermal, solar, hydropower and biomass energy.
We hosted a biomass conference in Denver in January. Working with the National Renewal Energy Lab, we released a report on opportunities for renewable energy on public lands.
Since 2001, rights-of-way permits for wind energy have increased from 1 in 2001 to 29 in 2003. Geothermal permits have increased from 2 in 2001 to 73 in 2003.
Woody, from Orange, TX
Happy Spring Break,
Woody HS Science Teacher
In fact, the previous administration estimated that, if fully developed, the small area potentially used in ANWR could produce more oil every day than your entire home state of Texas.
The environmental protection regulation would be the strictest ever imposed on energy production anywhere.
Jill, from Vermont writes:
There are some areas where uses like the ones you mention occur in parks because those uses existed long before the parks were created.
This Administration has never proposed opening new parks or wilderness areas to mining or energy development.
We have undertaken massive efforts to repair and maintain our parks. The Presidents budget proposes over $1 billion next year for park restoration.
1,300 projects are completed or underway since President Bush took office, with another 400 on track for next year.
In coming years as you visit national parks, the water should be cleaner,
cracks in historic buildings should be repaired, visitor centers should
be improved, and roads should be smoother.
Devlin, from Chicago, IL
In addition to caring for our public lands, cooperative conservation is a hallmark of our environmental commitment. To achieve this vision, over the past 3 years the Department has provided $1.3 billion in grants to states, nonprofits, Tribes, and private landowners to protect and restore habitat and wildlife. Our proposed $507 million of cooperative conservation grants in 2005 reflects an increase of 270-percent since 2000.
Through our Cooperative Conservation Challenge Cost-Share Program in 2003, we funded 256 projects with more than 740 partners in 40 states. From 2001 to 2003, one of our cooperative conservation programs, our Partners for Fish and Wildlife program, restored more than 700,000 acres of prairie and 150,000 acres of wetlands, working with nearly 9,000 partners.
We issued the first comprehensive federal guidelines to promote establishment of conservation banks to ensure perpetual protection of endangered species. Across that nation, we are working in partnership with all Americans to achieve on-the-ground conservation results. We are restoring tidal wildlife habitat in San Francisco Bay on more than 16,000 acres of salt ponds. We are working with Colorado to promote conservation of mountain plovers.
These efforts highlight just few of our conservation initiatives. Perhaps one of the most dramatic achievements is the President's Healthy Forests Initiative. To improve forest and rangeland health, we are investing with the Forest Service in reducing dense brush, diseased trees, and overly dense, unhealthy trees to reduce the threat of catastrophic fires that destroy whole ecosystems. The President's Healthy Forests Initiative ultimately culminated in passage of the bipartisan Healthy Forests Restoration Act, sighed into law by the President in December 2003.