President Donald Trump did what he said he was going to do. He announced last week that he would reduce the size of the Bears Ears National Monument made by former President Barack Obama and reduce the size of the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument made by former President Bill Clinton. These monuments account for over three million acres. It’s funny we haven’t heard anything from Obama about the reduction, but Clinton piped in and said it’s an environmental and cultural mistake regarding indigenous people of the country. Imagine that. Are you ready for the Clintons to just go away?
Secretary of Interior Ryan Zinke has more to come and we understand that he will reduce several marine monuments and several more monuments that are over 100,000 acres, including the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument and Gold Butte in Nevada. Zinke was charged with evaluating 27 monuments and has come up with recommendations for 10.
As you can imagine, the environmental community is going crazy, along with the resistance campaign. I got a kick out of the press release from the Center of Biological Diversity (CBD): “Trump’s unprecedented, illegal action is a brutal blow to our public lands, an affront to Native Americans and a disgrace to the presidency,” said Randi Spivak, public lands program director. “He wants to hand over these lands to private industry to mine, frack, bulldoze and clear-cut until there’s nothing left for our children and grandchildren.”
It doesn’t seem that they read the part that the federal government is going to give the remaining portion of the monuments greater local control and tribal control; not just an advisory role like they had before. Hopefully this will end the centralized decision-making done in Washington. There is also an effort being made to modify the Antiquities Act of 1906 to give states a role in designating national monuments.
Free speech is a great thing, but using scare tactics is another thing entirely and that’s what the CBD and other groups enjoy doing. Reducing the size of these monuments to a manageable level will ensure their preservation. These groups seem to forget that the land that Trump is removing from those monuments is still public land. It is still protected under the Endangered Species Act and federally managed. It’s still illegal to remove ancient artifacts from all public lands, logging is heavily controlled along with energy and mineral production, and they must post mitigation bonds when they are done to return the land to its native landscape, and grazing will continue as usual.
Grazing has always been allowed in national monuments. However, cattlemen have always been led to believe that they will be fine until they cross the line and the bureaucrats take over. Then all of a sudden AUMs are reduced, roads get closed, access is reduced and it’s harder to maintain water resources and fences or do any range improvements. It’s certainly not business as usual.
Now the legal battles will start; the environmentalists and tribes have already filed suits. The Antiquities Act says that monuments should be limited to the smallest area compatible with the site or object being protected. When you look at the two monuments in question, 1.8 million acres and 1.3 million acres may not represent the smallest area possible. It kind of sounds like a shotgun approach to conservation. Let’s make it big enough so we’re sure we get it all whether we need it or not; heck, it’s just desert. After reading several press releases from environmental groups you have to wonder if these folks really know what they are talking about and if they have ever seen the areas they are talking about. I have. It’s big wide-open space. There isn’t much out there for good reason. It’s desert country with little water and few jack rabbits, a hard place to make a living which is why it’s public land.
Even the recreation industry got in on the act. Patagonia, the sports gear company, had some harsh comments, displaying a message on its homepage saying, “The President Stole Your Land,” and calling Trump’s action illegal and the largest elimination of protected land in American history. Zinke replied, saying, “I think it’s shameful and appalling that they would blatantly lie in order to gain money in their coffers.”
It’s becoming difficult to understand just how the environmental community views public lands. They certainly have unrealistic expectations about monuments, especially the overreaching aspects of the most recent ones. It doesn’t take 3.2 million acres to protect Indian artifacts or ancient fossils and it’s OK to return the land to productive commercial use. Remember, it’s managed for multiple uses. — PETE CROW