Thursday, April 07, 2016

A Battle Is Brewing Over Obama’s ‘Land Grabs’ In The Western US

by Michael Bastasch

Republican lawmakers and ranchers relying on access to federal lands are gearing up to push back against the Obama administration’s use of a century-old law to lock up millions of acres of public lands from development.

The White House has used the Antiquities Act of 1906 designate more than 260 million acres of federally-controlled lands and waters as 17 national monuments, which makes it harder to drill or ranch on lands that may have traditionally been used for that purpose.

The president used the law to expand federal lands more than any of his predecessors, and Republicans and ranching groups have called the president’s actions “land grabs” aimed at locking up areas from any economic activity.

These unilateral designations may earn praise from environmentalists, but they worry pro-ranching advocates who see communities being destroyed and livelihoods being put at risk by making it harder to access federal lands.

“When these designation come in, it doesn’t just upset what is in play today, it affects those rural communities that have been in place for generations,” Brenda Richards, president of the Public Lands Council, told The Daily Caller News Foundation.

...Increasingly, ranchers, farmers and others who rely on access to federal lands for grazing feel their livelihoods are being threatened by Obama’s monument designations. That worry is especially acute for those in the western U.S. where nearly half the land is controlled by the federal government.

...“This is presidential bullying,” Republican Utah Rep. Rob Bishop said of Obama’s recent monument designations. “The intent of the Antiquities Act is not to act as the President’s magic wand to commandeer land.”

House Republicans recently wrote to the White House demanding information on how the administration goes about choosing which lands the president will unilaterally bring under stricter federal management.

Obama is considering designating millions of more acres of land as national monuments, including 2.5 million acres in southeastern Oregon. The Public Lands Council argues this will be another designation where local communities aren’t consulted, but saddled with negative economic impacts.

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