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 E&E 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 E&E; "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
Department of the Interior's Treasured Landscapes Brochure
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.
We have a few news clips below, but we want to point your attention to an interview BRC's Brian Hawthorne did with Michael Swenson, the Executive Director of the Utah Shared Access Alliance. (Be sure to catch Hawthorne's opinion as well.)
DON'T MISS: Interview with USA-ALL BRC Utah Land Use Update
Logging would avert fire, Otter says State control of timber urged at U.S. Capitol
Utah demands federal government return public lands to state
Arizona House votes to demand return of federally owned lands
Most Utah residents back public lands challenge
A few of the typically tone-deaf public land managers seem to be paying attention. The immediate result may be more active management of our nation's timber, recreation and range lands. In Idaho, even the radical greenies are actually supporting commercial timber projects (gasp!).
Recreational Trail Program UPDATE:
After months of haggling, the house passed what is essentially a three month extension of the current transportation bill, kicking the ultimate resolution out to end of fiscal year 2012. It is important to note that the senate has not voted on this extension.
Greg Mumm, BRC's Executive Director has been working on this issue. He reports that the differences between the House and Senate will be resolved in conference. Currently, the conferees are being selected and there is a general hope the process will go fairly quickly.
Mumm speculated on potential scenarios that could come out of the conference as it relates to RTP. "As I understand it, the general feel is that if there is going to be a bill out of this conference, the language of MAP-21 (Senate version) is likely to prevail, which will protect the RTP program, but with some caveats."
"The saga continues..." Greg said, "and slowly becomes more and more complicated, especially with the approach of the coming elections. The threat to the RTP program is real, and will increase as future Congress' find it necessary to deal with the current level of federal spending. Whatever the outcome of this years wrangling, we need to ensure the funds OHV and snowmobilers pay in gas taxes get spent on the trails."
So as we so often say... stay tuned!
Wilderness "Wish List" marches on... slowly
The "Wish List" of legislation to designate hundreds of millions of acres of more Wilderness continues to be pushed by the Washington D.C. Wilderness lobby, but few bills show signs of moving. Here is the "box score" of legislation from Resources Publishing, DC's most credible natural resource news source.
Boxscore of Legislation - March 2, 2012
Resources Publishing Co.
We expect that only a few of the bills will move before the election (BRC will have updates). We need to note that this is despite the valiant efforts of the Wilderness Society's most underpaid lobbyist, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar. Salazar has been hard at work for the Society, pushing what he believes is the "low hanging Wilderness fruit," and has spent many hours in lobbying efforts pushing as much legislation as possible.
Unfortunately for Salazar, his efforts seem to be falling flat. But it's not for lack of trying. Salazar spent a bunch of taxpayer dollars preparing a glossy four-color brochure touting 222 Wilderness areas covering nearly 8.7 million acres, all on Bureau of Land Management lands he is supposed to be managing. His efforts have been most impressive, worthy of any foundation-funded lobbyist in DC. BRC is taking the liberty of posting the brochure on our website for your review.
New BRC Legal Webpage
We'll have the official announcement soon, but I wanted to steal a bit of thunder from my boss, Greg Mumm, who has been working hard with our Legal Team to update our Legal Action Webpage.
It is a huge effort, and we expect to build on this effort and add a lot of updated info in the coming weeks. Check it out www.sharetrails.org/legal.
The BlueRibbon Coalition is a national recreation group that champions responsible recreation, and encourages individual environmental stewardship. With members in all 50 states, BRC is focused on building enthusiast involvement with organizational efforts through membership, outreach, education, and collaboration among recreationists. 1-800-BlueRib - www.sharetrails.org