Tom Flynn tracks policy related to conservation and recreation for the Outdoor Alliance. Most Fridays, he summarizes the week’s top outdoor policy related headlines. With questions, news tips and angry hate mail, email him at tom [at] outdooralliance [dot] net.
Ruminating on National Monuments
A combination of events, especially Interior Secretary Sally Jewell’s speech, lead to a lot of talk about National Monuments this week. When Sec. Jewell basically told Congress, “If you don’t protect places, the President will,” she was referring to National Monuments, the only land protection tool that the President can use without Congress. Most of the recent discussion boils down to this: though National Monuments may be a shorter road to permanent protection, they are still complicated. Considering the long list of places in line for this designation, this bears keeping in mind. Take for example the Bureau of Land Management’s announcement that they are restarting talks about grazing cows in Escalate National Monument – a full 17 years after it was designated. Presidential proclamations that make Monuments are short, both in length and on details. It can take a very, very long time to work out how things will look on the ground. Along with the long timelines, there are a few other considerations. Designating too many Monuments (and opponents would point to Escalante as the poster child for overreach) could lead to a backlash that weakens the Antiquities Act that makes all of this possible. Also, along with the well-known Presidential route, Congress can designate Monuments too. These sorts of proposals should be allowed their shot at passing Congress, because they are particularly attuned to the views of those that care about the place. For any Monument, Presidential or Congressional, work must be done to get consensus from everyone, near and far, that has a stake in the landscape. National Monuments remain an excellent and especially handy tool, but like any, there is a right way and a wrong way to use it and it can become dull with overuse.
Dogged Pursuit of Federal Land Takeover
This week in Wyoming, a legislative task force decided to continue considering state ownership of Federal lands. This despite that state’s own Attorney General saying that Utah’s Federal land takeover law, like any effort in Wyoming, is unlikely to succeed because it rests on “weak foundations.” Undeterred, the task force plans to draft a bill to make a whole new committee and study the issue for not one, not two, but four more years. How they imagine the legal underpinnings of the land grab will change during that time, or how they will justify spending more taxpayer money looking at it, is unclear. Speaking of Utah, County Commissioners there argued again that the recent government shutdown makes the case for state ownership. They said that the “only solution is transferring lands to the state.” Presumably they mean the only solution, except for, you know, just keeping the government funded like normal. One of the strongest arguments to counter those for state takeover? As stated in a recent op-ed, Federal public lands are owned by all Americans (never by the states) and held in trust for future generations. And that’s not about to change.