It’s interesting to see how folks outside the Interior West see things, as per this New York Times story. I think there are some gaps which we can try to fill in as this unfolds.
Mr. Trump, signing the order at the Interior Department, described the designations as a “massive federal land grab” and ordered the agency to review and reverse some of them.
“It’s time to end these abuses and return control to the people, the people of Utah, the people of all of the states, the people of the United States,” the president said…
Notice that this quote specifically states “Utah”. We can see that the President’s interest could be more about the larger. more controversial and recent (December 28, 2016) ones. You can see that in this Denver Post story also, in which Zinke met with Colorado, Wyoming and Nevada governors. Also you can read about a Governor asking President Obama not to designate in this story, and asking President Trump to rescind in this story.
It was in the news at the end of the Obama administration after President Barack Obama created several national monuments, setting aside millions of acres on land and sea. At the time, some Republicans in Congress said they wanted to reform the act, which they said encouraged federal government overreach, a claim that has dogged the law since it was adopted.
It’s interesting that the writer said simply “Republicans”.. I bet they were from the area. An R from, say, Florida is unlikely to care much. The write could have said “local and state elected officials, mostly Republican, from Utah and other western states, have questioned these large designations.” Otherwise it sounds like a partisan issue, which it is not, or not entirely, at the local scale.
The president can make national monuments only from land already controlled by the federal government, and the act generally does not change how the land is used, said Lisa Dale, the associate director of the Yale Center for Environmental Law and Policy. If leases for mining, ranching, drilling or logging already exist on land to be made into a national monument, they can continue, but new leases probably won’t be allowed, she said.
It’s interesting that the Times asks Lisa Dale, from a university in Connecticut (yes, I graduated from there but a long time ago), instead of someone from the Interior West. Both of the experts chosen by the Times are on the coasts, including our sometime contributor Char Miller.
Who could be hurt by possible changes?
Most Americans support protection of public lands. According to a 2016 study from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, more than 93 percent of respondents said that historical sites, public lands and national parks should be protected for current and future generations.
Char Miller, an environmental historian at Pomona College, said that if national monuments were diminished by the review process, it would actually hurt the people opponents of the law are claiming to protect.
Some designations are controversial, as was Mr. Obama’s designation of the Bears Ears National Monument in Utah in December. Republicans argued that it would hurt the local economy, but Mr. Miller said wilderness areas can bring in tourists who support local businesses.
But public lands are already “protected” from many things.. not sure how that KSG study is relevant, except to paint a picture. Miller makes an interesting claim here that local people would be hurt by removing the designation. If the land is managed the same way as before, then how will they be hurt? By the lack of monument status on lands they already work and recreate on? Or the lack of money to their communities in the future by the designation? And it’s only been in place since December for Bears Ears, so how far down the path are they?
I don’t think that these quotes are fair to the complexity of the issue that is easy to unearth just by reading Stiles’ piece.
At three of the national monuments Mr. Obama created or expanded — Bears Ears, Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument in Maine, and Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument in Hawaii — special effort was made to include Indian tribes in the designation process and continuing management of these areas.
Ms. Dale said that reducing these monuments or changing them “would have a chilling effect on tribal federal relations when it comes to protecting landscapes.”
People already involve Tribes in BLM and FS planning (on those same acres). Conceivably, they could be involved to the same extent without Monument status. If there is some problem with the standard way of working with Tribes, it seems to me that it should be fixed for all FS and BLM plans, and not require a designation status. It’s also possible that different Tribes feel differently about the details and the process.. and if so, some might feel “chilled” and others, not so much.
Who would it help?
If existing national monuments are reduced in size, it could benefit extractive industries like oil and gas, mining, logging, as well as ranching, Mr. Miller said, because the government could grant more leases on federal land. Given the Trump administration’s recent actions — including lifting the moratorium on drilling on federal lands and the obligation to limit methane emissions on public lands — officials might be eyeing new fossil fuel leases on previously protected land, though Mr. Zinke said he was not predisposed to make any such recommendation about the monument land.
Mr. Zinke said that he has heard claims that some monument designations have ended in “lost wages, lost jobs and reduced public access.” But he added that he believed “some jobs probably have been created by recreational opportunities.”
Some of the opposition to the national monuments may be ideological. Western ranchers and sportsmen have long complained about what they see as federal land grabs that limit their access to millions of acres of public territory. However, a majority of Americans in Western states, home to vast tracts of federal land, support maintaining public land.
This last bit was a bit of a stretch IMHO. Ideological? Ranchers and sportsman have “limited access”?
What was missing from this story- the gaps? The views of people like Stiles. Questions about designation and the outdoor industry. Questions about the process of designation and how that compares to other land use planning exercises on federal land, in terms of public comment and environmental review. Designation’s potential impacts on motorized and mechanized recreation. Questions about the costs to the feds, and where the bucks for more planning and visitors’ centers and so on is going to come from- and what they won’t be doing instead. But we can take these up in later posts.
I’m glad they interviewed Zinke.
“No one loves their public lands more than I,” Mr. Zinke said. “You can love them as much, but not more than I do.”