Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

June 1, 2010


Host: Ted Simons

Abandoned Mines, Habitat Restoration


  • Arizona Bureau of Land Management Director Jim Kenna discusses issues regarding BLM land in our state, including efforts to mitigate danger from abandoned mines and restore natural grasslands.
Guests:
  • Jim Kenna - Director, Arizona Bureau of Land Management
Category: Business/Economy   |   Keywords: land, mines, natural grasslands,

View Transcript
Ted Simons:
The bureau of land management oversees millions of acres in Arizona. Some of that land is a focus of a variety of restoration projects. Here to talk about issues regarding public land is Arizona BLM director Jim Kenna.

Jim Kenna:
Great to be here.

Ted Simons:
Let's talk about renewable energy and the concept of renewable power on public lands. I keep hearing a lot of folks are interested. Are they lookie-lous or seriously interested.

Jim Kenna:
I would say a combination of the two. We have in Arizona alone over 400,000 acres in 33 applications. But out of that 33, we have one fast track application, that's the SONORAN application, down in the buckeye area , and there are three or four looking to perfect an application. When they come in with the initial application, usually it's a large acreage. They don't know where the footprint is going to be, where the panels will go, where the gas line comes in or the roads go or what's the intertie. There are a lot of details we need to know before we can analyze a project. One of the indicators you can see of a project that's active. They're working on that and getting to the point where we can do what we call a notice of intent which says, ok. We're ready. We have an application that's been perfected. We're going to look at issues and alternatives and that's a very public process.

Ted Simons:
Leasing this land for this kind of activity, what kind of revenue are we talking about?

Jim Kenna:
For BLM land it goes out on a right-of-way schedule. And so it might be a little different between state lands and federal lands or Indian lands, those questions might be answered differently in different places. But basically there are two components to it and usually based on a schedule that's derived from a appraisal. We have an appraiser come in and they look at the situation and a certain amount is on the land area that's affected and another portion is based on the power generation. So it's kind of a two-step process based on an appraisal.


Ted Simons:
A little bit of a moving target as far as revenue is concerned?

Jim Kenna:
And some of those issues are being clarified at the national level. I think the number is going to move around a little bit.

Ted Simons:
The concept of putting the renewable energy on landfills or abandoned mine sites that need to be restored. How serious is that?

Jim Kenna:
I think very serious and I’ll give you a couple of indicators. When we had our design meeting which is one of objectives of the BLM efforts we initiated here. We had a public meeting in Tucson and Tucson electric stood up and said from our perspective, there's no need to look past disturbed land because there are plenty of citing opportunities. What do disturbed lands give you? Something has happened on that parcel of land already so perhaps there's clearance work done or at a minimum, there's less public concern about what might be affected by clearing off a piece of land that's undisturbed.

Ted Simons:
Something as simple as roads to the location, those would more than likely exist.

Jim Kenna:
They would in general exist, yeah.

Ted Simons:
Abandoned mines, I know Arizona has a concern regarding them and this is has been around for a while. What are we seeing making these sites safe?

Jim Kenna:
We put in for a sizeable chunk of project money under the stimulus act. American recovery and reinvestment act and over $400,000 we're going to put into projects and that will basically buy in Arizona is about 20 sites where we'll put a bat gate over the top. They can go in and out but it's safe -- a person couldn't fall in. But also we will back-fill a number of sites, an equal number. If you look toward our history in Arizona, we literally have, you know, hundreds if not thousands of the -- of these around Arizona. We've been concentrating in the Phoenix and Tucson areas in filling in some of those because of the public safety aspect.


Ted Simons:
I know restoring the area is a major concern but there are restoration projects, grassland. Desert grassland restoration projects. What does that mean?

Jim Kenna:
Most people don't see -- they look and see what's there today, but if you look at the long-term history of the vegetation systems in the west and it's true in Arizona and the desert and you start to see over hundreds of years an increase in the woodies component. Let me give you an example. Down in the La Cienega area we’ve see an increase in Mesquite. What happens is you increase that component, the tree and the brush, you start to lose the grass land and there are certain species dependant on that, like the antelope, they like the vistas so they can see predators coming so we'll try and restore some of that back -- not all, but some of it back to grass. That helps those species dependent on the grass in order for their survival mechanisms and helps water percolation in the system, in this case, the san Pedro watershed.

Ted Simons:
The san Pedro river, restoring the riparian areas is a major concern as well. A favorite place for those who like to bird watch and look at that beautiful area. How is that river holding up? And the Aqua Fria holding up?

Jim Kenna:
The one, san Pedro, we have a decline there is long-term water flow based on the gauges on the rivers. There's concerns we're working on with the upper san Pedro partnership. Those are going to have to be long-term solutions to address a long-term trend. The good news, there's a lot of effort where people are working together to address those issues. And we're trying to create a basis for the community to feel invested in the site. Trying to make it more visitor-friendly. And that could be anything from a RAMADA to the signing on the trails.

Ted Simons:
And the same situation as far as the aqua fria.

Jim Kenna:
We don’t have the level of information we have on the Aqua Fria as we do on the San Pedrio. So what we are doing there is really working with the Friends of the Aqua Fria -- this is a community group from the area sort of north Phoenix up into black city that does tremendous work. I've bragged on them on the national level. They will be there when we do wet-dry surveys and that's done in the hottest part of the year where they go out and map the river, and in a given year, how much is wet, how much dry and what you really need is multiple years worth of this survey data as well as other information to get an accurate idea on trend and we’re getting out there.

Ted Simons:
Last question, we've covered a lot of things. What's the biggest concern as far as the state and public lands and managing those land dollars concerned?

Jim Kenna:
I would say three pieces. These are the three pieces that we are really focusing on in Arizona. The first is a sustainability issue and that has water components to it. It has ecological functions components and big issues like climate change in the middle of it. The second is the heritage, those questions about what we're going to hand off to the next generation. And the third area is the community support pieces. Where the energy questions are, the recreation amenities that the communities need and so on.

Ted Simons:
Very good. Thank you for joining us. We appreciate it.

Jim Kenna:
Absolutely.

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