Kenneth Brown of the Western Counties Alliance told the Commission he wished his “update was a little better news” as with the new Congressional year he wonders which “things will stay in tact.”  Brown noted that PILT (Payment in Lieu of Taxes) has been extended for 2014 with the level still somewhat unknown. Brown said many Congressional representatives and the Interior Department budget office whom Brown said don’t understand PILT and the WCA is “trying to get information out” to “give them the history of it” and highlight the value.  Brown noted mineral royalties on public lands “went up to about $14 billion in 2013” with “plenty of room in mineral royalties to fund PILT.” Brown said, “PILT can still be funded out of mineral royalties and not be impacted.” He also observed that PILT could be taken “out of foreign aid” and the government would “not miss any revenue.” Brown said Eureka County’s PILT distribution is down about $32,000 due primarily to Sequestration. Brown noted Eureka County’s population according to the last Census went up which “helped a little bit.” Brown and WCA are “following things close” and keeping “track of issues.” Brown doesn’t think the federal government will implement sequestration in 2014 but said, “Who knows; there’s tomorrow coming.”

Turning to geothermal revenues, Brown noted a new chart shows Eureka County’s geothermal revenues went down about 8 percent over 2012.

Brown turned to the topic of public lands transfer and the work of the American Lands Council working to transfer public land to states. Brown said, “There’s land setting out there waiting to be developed,” and said there are “plenty of resources in America to be self-sustaining; you just have to go after it” with states and counties prepared to “do it in a practical…well-managed, multiple use” manner. Brown observed the “deficit would reduce; things would be in line; and we wouldn’t have to chase issues every year.”

Turning to the topic of wild horses and burros, Brown noted the Humane Society has been kicking “up a lot of dust in that area.” He noted the 10th Circuit court lifted a ban that would allow Roswell, New Mexico to begin horse slaughter with another hearing coming on January 13th. The New Mexico Attorney General is going to sue a meat company to stop the slaughter process. Brown and Goicoechea wondered if some in society want to quit slaughtering cows as well and make everyone eat veggie burgers. Brown has been in contact with the slaughter house in New Mexico and communicated WCA is in full support and will do “anything we can do.” With NACO suing the BLM to maintain appropriate management levels of wild horses in Nevada, Chairman Goicoechea noted, “We’ve got to get those numbers at the levels the land can sustain.” Brown said he goes to board meetings and expresses his thoughts and said, “I get booed every time I go because we talk about numbers. They don’t think horses and burros out on the land are doing a lot of damage,” but Brown said, “They do a lot of damage.” Brown observed the “holding facilities are full, bulging at the seams” and noted that in Montana persons who put in bids to house the animals are experiencing horses getting out, resulting in lawsuits from neighbors.

Related to the sage grouse issue, Brown said if he had the power he’d “take away the U.S. Fish and Wildlife’s authority” as “they’re setting out there and they don’t have to report to anybody” which “creates problems for local and states.” Brown said, “If the bird happens to get listed” it’s hard to “know what’s going to happen.”

Chairman Goicoechea mused, “Maybe the listing isn’t so bad” compared to “what we’re giving up to avert the listing,” which is “shooting rural counties in the foot.” Goicoechea noted the EIS’s could be a problem as well with comments due on Jan. 29. Brown concurred that the WCA has to get comments in as well.

Brown noted that at every sage grouse meeting he attends concerns are expresxsed about the lack of sage grouse numbers and looking through all the studies never gets an answer regarding the implementation of a good predator control program. Brown said the WCA has called a special meeting in Washington, D.C. on Feb. 28 in the Cannon Building.

Turning to the Secure Rural Schools entitlement program, Brown observed that the program is “not viewed very well” on a federal basis. He noted Congressman Hastings who chairs the Natural Resource Public Lands Committed designed HR1526 that passed through the House with a one-year extension for the SRS in it. SRS has been reauthorized for a year with at least a 10 percent reduction. Eureka County’s SRS funding is down about $12,000 from 2011.

Brown added that 5 counties in Arizona took formal action to join the WCA including the Eastern Arizona Association of Counties. “That’s good news; gives us more counties, but another state.”

SENIOR CENTERS

Adell Panning, Crescent Valley Senior Center Director, reported 723 meals, 34 a day, were served in December. Oram said, “Everything’s been going great” with a “nice Christmas party for the seniors” enjoyed by all. Panning, reported that the Activities program put on a community Christmas dinner and Parade of Lights with quite a few entrants. Panning reported that Barrick Gold purchased a Christmas Tree at the dinner auction for $700. Panning said the “night was a success” and “everything’s going great.” Commissioner Mike Sharkozy told Panning, “I appreciate what all you’ve done for us and I do thank you.”

The Eureka Center served 1005 meals in December, 48 a day and together the two centers deposited $8,907.54 for the month.

ROAD DEPARTMENT

Raymond Hodson, Road Superintendent, reported the Road Crew bladed Monitor Valley and three bars in preparation for a gravel haul; and spent time on snow removal with the North End crew’s help in Pine Valley with most of the equipment used from the North End. Hodson said the crew continued to work through the extreme cold and said the generator light plant was a big help since the Crew could plug-in equipment and run all night. Hodson said they had a blade in Grass Valley and bladed when they could. He said the Road Crew has been staying “pretty busy in the Crescent Valley shop” keeping all the vehicles at the Senior Center, ambulances, sheriff’s vehicles, and road department equipment running.