BRC National Land Use and Legislative Update
Well… we used to call it “the silly season.” As the 2012 election season approaches, we find ourselves searching for a term other than “silly” to use. Perhaps… Serious season? From the time Bill Clinton (then candidate for re-election) stood at the Grand Canyon in Arizona to announce the creation of a massive two-million acre National Monument in Utah, election seasons bring a sense of trepidation and fear to American citizens and local governments across the West. Clinton’s Utah monument, designated without even a phone call to Utah’s Governo
Well… we used to call it “the silly season.”
As the 2012 election season approaches, we find ourselves searching for a term other than “silly” to use. Perhaps… Serious season?
From the time Bill Clinton (then candidate for re-election) stood at the Grand Canyon in Arizona to announce the creation of a massive two-million acre National Monument in Utah, election seasons bring a sense of trepidation and fear to American citizens and local governments across the West.
Clinton’s Utah monument, designated without even a phone call to Utah’s Governor or its Congressional delegation, helped secure the votes from environmentally minded urban residents in key voting precincts, far away from the lands at issue. Ever since, large areas of western “public lands states” are seemingly viewed as nothing more than an election opportunity during the “silly season.”
And right on time for the election, we have politically powerful (and foundation funded) wilderness advocacy groups pushing several new monuments. One of more audacious proposal is a 1.7 million acre Grand Canyon Watershed National Monument.
Part of the millions in foundation funding went to a glossy brochure. The brochure pitches a National Monument to protect these lands from logging, roads, grazing and also to provide “landscape connectivity,” an utterly ridiculous notion to anyone familiar with the current travel and management plans. Indeed, road and trail miles have been cut by more than 50%, hundreds of campsites have been closed, and the only logging allowed is part of a initiative to address the very real threat of catastrophic wildfire that has devastated hundreds of thousands of acres of Arizona’s watersheds already. Sheesh…
Count BRC in the camp that believes the threat of massive federal land-grabs will be heightened should the current administration lose the election.
The Antiquities Act, the law that allows a U.S. President to designate National Monuments, was passed by Congress in 1906, and limits the designation to “… the protection of objects of historic and scientific interest,” and is supposed to limit the monument to the smallest area necessary for the protection of said objects.
President Clinton wasn’t the first president to violate those limits and grab large geographic areas, and to define such ephemeral things as scenery as “objects,” but he certainly brought the practice to an art form. Clinton Bill Clinton created nineteen new monuments and expanded three others.
A legal challenge to Clinton’s abuse of the Antiquities Act was brought to the Supreme Court, which concluded, rightly in my opinion, that the separation of powers doctrine limited its oversight. Since Congress – having “plenary” power over public lands – gave some of that power to the President, it was Congress, not the courts, who had the responsibility to reign in any abuses.
Congress has done so twice in the past. The first time was after Franklin Delano Roosevelt grabbed the Jackson Hole National Monument in Wyoming way back in 1943. Roosevelt had to veto a bill passed by Congress that disestablished his monument. The second time, Congress did add the lands to the Grand Teton National Park, but removed the presidential authority to establish a National Monuments in the state of Wyoming.
A third attempt is currently underway. The National Monument Designation Transparency and Accountability Act is moving in the House and the Senate. This legislation would bring needed reforms and end the abuse of the Antiquities Act. It will ensure public involvement and Congressional oversight over any future Presidential National Monument designation.
That legislation, along with an effort to protect sportsmen’s access to public lands, was attached to a bundle of bills passed by the U.S House of Representatives on a bipartisan 246-146 vote.
In a article by Phil Taylor, published by EE News, Montana Rep. Denny Rehberg praised the monument provision stating, “…his home state was ‘burned’ by the Clinton administration’s designation of the Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument during his lame-duck session.”
Rehberg was also quoted by EE; “If President Obama were to lose, there is nothing to stop him from making similar designations consistent with the plans we’ve already seen. Even if he wins, he’s already been caught boasting that after the election he’ll have ‘more flexibility’ to pursue his true agenda without the accountability of an election.”
Naturally, the foundations funding the environmental lobby are shifting efforts to the U.S. Senate, where they hope to kill both the sportsmen access and the monument provision.
BRC will continue to support the passage of the National Monument Designation Transparency and Accountability Act. Subscribe to our Action Alert list for regular updates and info on how you can help. www.sharetrails.org/subscribe
Response from the States to federal land mismanagement
Many BRC members and supporters are talking about the news that Utah’s legislature passed landmark legislation designed to assert state control over vast areas of federally managed lands. Similar efforts are underway in Arizona, New Mexico and Colorado.
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