Notes on Current Public Issues

Title: Notes on Current Public Issues

Author: Larry Anna

Publication: The Outcrop, February 2001, p. 12

The RMAG has long had a Public Issues Committee to inform members about geology-related debates in the public domain. The new RMAG President has asked for more reportage of these issues (see President’s Column). Accordingly, here are briefs of some of the hotter current topics.

Federal Lands: The U.S. Forest Service (USFS) has released the final EIS for its regulations to protect certain roadless areas within the National Forest System, a proposal known as the “roadless initiative.” The EIS outlines four alternative plans. Inventoried roadless areas comprise about 58.5 million acres, nearly a third of the National Forest System lands ( ess. html).

President Clinton established Vermilion Cliffs National Monument in northern Arizona and expanded the Craters of the Moon National Monument in Idaho by 661,000 acres, including extensive lava formations ( He also signed S. 2547, the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preservation Act, into law on November 22nd. The bill, introduced by Sen. Wayne Allard (R-CO), established the site as a national park. The bill also established the Baca National Wildlife Refuge to help preserve the Colorado section of the Baca Ranch.

Geologists in New Mexico are working to establish a national monument at Tent Rocks, a geologically unique area located to south of the Valles Caldera. With bipartisan support the designation may take place by presidential decree ar through legislation in the upcoming session of Congress.

Congress passed and President Clinton signed the Energy Policy and Conservation Act. The law reaffirms the president’s authority to draw from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. A pending amendment would authorize the Secretary of Energy to purchase oil from independent drillers and producers with marginal wells (under 15 barrels a day) at $15 per barrel if the annual domestic average is below this level. Oil purchased through this program would go into the Strategic Petroleum Reserve.

Bush Administration: The American Geologic Institute (AGI) web site on governmental affairs ( offers numerous tidbits about public affairs, including a list of key geoscience-related presidential appointments and links to additional sources of information on the transition.

Evolution/Creation: The December 2000 issue of Geotimes had several feature articles on the evolution debate. One of the articles (p. 16) by M. Lee Alison, Kansas State Geologist, states that the fight over evolution is not about science but about political control. Alison also states that “too often scientists refuse to use the most effective avenue for getting a message out to the public: the press. We turn up our noses because a reporter shortened our oh-so precise, polysyllabic discourse. But the opposition is setting the agenda, pounding home their message in sound bites on every channel and newspaper and talking on a level the viewers and readers understand.” Allison’s message on how to approach public issues is worth thinking about.