A Conservative’s View of Federal Land Management

Grist for the (respectful, I hope) discussion mill in the form of a National Review article, “The Distant Conservative Heritage of the National Park Service.”

Subhead: “Protect our natural wonders, but don’t let the feds control too much other state land.”

The article is too long to post, but the full text is here, in case you can’t access the National Review site (or don’t want to be caught doing so <grin>). One interesting paragraph:

“For one thing, America has a federal system, and the use of state lands should be left up to the states. Frustrated with the federal government’s overreach, Congress placed two limitations on the Antiquities Act — the law allowing the president to set aside state-owned land as a National Monument. In 1943, after Franklin Roosevelt declared Jackson Hole National Monument federally protected, Wyoming congressmen persuaded their colleagues to limit the act to require congressional ratification for future enlargement or creation of national monuments in Wyoming. In 1978, after Jimmy Carter declared 56 million acres of Alaska federally protected, Congress expanded the Wyoming rule to include Alaska, with the ratification requirement covering areas of 5,000 acres and above.”

I hadn’t known about the Wyoming and Alaska exceptions to the Antiquities Act. I think the same ought to apply in all states: Congressional approval should be required for creating National Monuments.

FWIW, I’m conservative, generally, depending on the issue, but am not a member of a political party. In Oregon, I’ve been registered as Nonaffiliated for years. And Nonaffiliated is the state’s second largest “party” after the Democrat party.

 

7 Comments

  1. It sounds like the WY and AK exceptions were probably included as riders on other bills so didn’t get the national attention that a nationwide change would. I also don’t understand the reference to “state lands.” The Antiquities Act only applies to federal lands. (If this was intentionally disingenuous, the author is not contributing to “respectful” discussion.)

  2. I recently read a book by Jim L. Bowyer, The IRRESPONSIBLE PURSUIT of Paradise. Bowyer is Professor Emeritus from the Univ. of Minnesota.

    He raises all sort of questions we ought to be asking regarding the use/non-use of natural resources. These questions are oftentimes a matter of ethics and how Americans tend to stick their heads in the sand. I’ve raised the question of ethics on this blog a number of times but the question does not seem to elicit much interest.

    In his last chapter, he talks about the Antiquities Act.

    Virtually every land use decision the federal government makes regarding federal lands seems to require lengthy, extensive, and expensive analysis (e.g., NEPA). The resulting decision from the analysis is oftentimes extremely contentious and brings long and expensive (and sometimes frivolous) lawsuits. But, why is it that a president can, with the stroke of a pen, designate national monuments without similar analysis?

    Questions Bowyer asks (page 247), are:
    1. “Is the proposal for a change in management based on thorough scientific evaluation?
    2. “How will adoption of the proposal impact net imports for fuel and non-fuel minerals, wood and wood products, and other materials.
    3. “Will adoption of the proposal be likely to shift raw materials extraction and environmental impacts elsewhere?
    4. “Are shifts in extraction activity likely to be to other regions within the U.S. or to another country?
    5. “Are regions to which extraction activity is likely to shift characterized by scenic beauty, sensitive watersheds and ecosystems, or populations of rare and endangered species?
    6. “If a proposal will result in reduced production of extraction of a particular raw material, is there an accompanying initiative to reduce consumption of that material through greater efficiency in use, recovery and recycling, or substation?”

    • In no. 1, is there any scientific evaluation at all with the designation of these monuments? Too often, it seems this is mostly a means of ensuring a president’s legacy! (I’d like to think there is a lot more to a president’s legacy than a national monument!)
    • In no. 2, the U.S. is a net importer of our softwood consumption (about a third).
    • During the latter portions of the 20th Century, the South was growing wood faster than was being harvested. Bowyer points out elsewhere in his book that an unintended consequence of the NW Forest Plan was to shift our wood source so that the South is now harvesting faster that what they are growing (no. 3&4).
    • In no. 6, will we, instead of using wood, just use alternative materials (concrete, steel, aluminum, plastics, etc.) that all require far more energy, produce far more CO2, and leave large, gaping holes in the ground (and, perhaps toxic, habitat)?

    In my opinion, the president uses the Antiquities Act and, with the stroke of a pen, put themselves above all other federal land use laws!

  3. State management of federal lands is always held up as an ideal. I am as critical as any of poor federal land stewardship–and believe there are many reasons for it beyond scope of this discussion. But I have lived in 7 western states and even covered state government /legislature as a reporter in several of them. I have not found state management that exemplary; it is usually underfunded, natural resources agencies are highly politicized and led by political appointees who often have no natural resources background. State governments often sell off lands for revenue. And state bureaucracies have most of the problems that federal ones do–institutional culture established over many years & rarely in tune with the times, long employee tenure & sense of entitlement. Not a critique of state public servants; many individuals, just as in federal sector, really try hard to do the job, while often being thwarted by their institution. But I do not see state govt as this efficient, close to the ground/ people entity as its proponents are always claiming. Perhaps development interests push for state management because they feel more able to influence it.

    • I don’t think anyone’s saying that state management is “ideal.” All it has to be is better than the current situation with the Feds. And as we’ve seen with projects, that varies by state, for whatever reason.

      My experience working on Colorado Roadless was that the state folks were often better at building consensus by various forms of horse-trading (I guess) while feds tend to be more as Governor Mead said about Salazar’s office (something along the lines of “the seats in front of the office formerly full of oil and gas folks are now filled by environmental groups”). And as I said when Salazar and Sherman were in office, in the state they had to listen to both sides, and were rewarded for doing deals. As feds, they were castigated for doing deals that were not to certain groups’ liking.

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