Some days I wonder how long it will be before the government decision making process will grind to a halt.

Before any major, or in most cases minor, decisions can be made the federal government must comply with the National Environmental Policy Act or NEPA which was supposed to provide major decision makers with information on how their decisions will affect the environment.  This process now consists of thousands of pages of analysis which is then provided to the public for review.  In many cases the process is then subjected to legal challenges where entities allege there were deficiencies in the EIS process which makes the decision flawed.  If the courts find that the agencies prepared a deficient document they have to start over.  The time frame for this process is fast approaching a decade.  As anyone who has run a business knows, taking years to make a decision is a recipe for disaster.

This problem was created by Congress and so far there isn't any appetite to change it, so decisions will continue to atrophy while resources are harmed.  There is also the opportunity for Presidential Executive Orders to add to the quicksand of the actions or inactions of Congress. 

Recently, while reviewing the daily list of governmental actions, I saw a notice from the Council on Environmental Quality notifying us they had published implementing instructions for Executive Order 13693 which deals with planning for sustainability in the next decade.  The order wants federal agencies to become more sustainable.  That goal in itself would be difficult to accomplish because measuring sustainability kind of depends on what you want to look at.  Many entities have jumped on the sustainability bandwagon and recently McDonald's fast foods have joined in the effort. 

When one looks at the number of ranches in Wyoming which have been around for over 100 years, one might argue that somewhere along the line these operations figured out a way to be sustainable.  Of course, being in business for that long means that someone figured out how to make more money than they spent.  This might be a simple term for a capitalist, but nobody wants to brag that their operation is a capitalist operation and has been for 100 years.  Government doesn't have the same measurements since as long as the taxpayers keep sending in their taxes they can keep sustaining themselves.

However, Executive Order 13693 wants government agencies to make sure they are sustainable.  In order to do so they must acquaint themselves with the 70 plus pages sent out by the Council on Environmental Quality so they can make sure they are doing this correctly.  Undoubtedly, there will need to be someone within each agency appointed to oversee this effort and in the bigger agencies there will be a number of someones who will be charged with this duty.  New people may need to be hired, or more likely someone who is currently doing something else will be tasked as the sustainability officer.

I can only imagine how this will work.  The local area manager for the BLM wants to buy some fence posts to do a range management project.  First he or she will have to get bids from some local or regional post supplier, but then there will be a multi-part form which the vendor will need to fill out.  Do your posts come from a sustainable forest or were they cut from a national forest?    If so were they cut from green trees or were they salvaged from bug killed timber?  Please explain.  Were they trucked to the store and if so how many miles did they travel?  Will they be used to do anything with cows?  If so, are the cows sustainable?

You can see where all this goes.  Finally the area manager will look at the rancher and ask him if he could supply the posts and to save time and paper can he supply the wire and staples too.

By Ken Hamilton, Wyoming Farm Bureau Federation Executive Vice President