Thursday, June 19, 2014

Walsh says Montanans 'worried' about monument designations (and I explain why they ought to be)

Sen. John Walsh (D-Mont.) said Montanans have serious misgivings about President Obama designating national monuments in the Treasure State, according to a letter he sent to Interior Secretary Sally Jewell.
The letter, obtained by E&E Daily under the Freedom of Information Act, says Montanans are "worried" about Obama's use of the Antiquities Act without the consultation and consent of local citizens. "I have heard from many Montanans who have raised serious concerns regarding land protections that may be recommended by the Department of Interior," Walsh said in his March 13 letter. "I strongly urge you not to consider the designation of any new monuments in Montana unless there is significant discussion, collaboration, and support of local citizens." The letter, which was not publicized, suggests the 1906 Antiquities Act remains a volatile political issue in Montana, where Walsh, who was appointed in February by Gov. Steve Bullock (D) to replace former Sen. Max Baucus (D), is locked in what is expected to be a tight election race with Rep. Steve Daines (R-Mont.). Walsh has said little about the Antiquities Act during his short time in office, and it's unclear whether the issue will figure prominently in the race. Controversy over national monuments flared up in Montana in 2010 with the release of a confidential Interior Department memo suggesting that the administration was contemplating a potential 2.5-million-acre monument along the Canadian border to protect prairies and potentially establish a new bison range. The memo put Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), an Obama ally, in an uncomfortable position in a state where many distrust federal regulatory intrusions. Bob Abbey, who was director of the Bureau of Land Management at the time, traveled to Malta, Mont., to tamp down local concerns, and then-Interior Secretary Ken Salazar wrote a letter to Tester to assuage his concerns. Walsh is cognizant of that memo too. "A leaked memorandum referenced a potential designation and our communities were rightfully outraged by the lack of outreach or consent," Walsh wrote. Jewell responded May 1, saying the department has "no plans to recommend federal lands in Montana be designated as a national monument, and I will not recommend a proposal without the support of local citizens." "I recognize and respect the importance of public and congressional input when considering appropriate protections for our natural, historical and cultural treasures," she said. While conservation groups are nudging Obama to declare landscape-scale national monuments in red states including Arizona, Utah and Idaho, there do not appear to be any concerted campaigns in Montana. The state has historically leaned red, but its senators, governor and at least three of its major statewide elected officials are Democrats...more

Jewell, "I will not recommend a proposal without the support of local citizens."  

Look out Montana.  

She wrote that on May 1 and then 20 days later did exactly the opposite.  On May 21 Obama designated the 500,000 acre Organ Mtns.-Desert Peaks National Monument in spite of it being opposed by the Las Cruces Chamber of Commerce, the Hispano Chamber of Commerce, the County Sheriff, the local soil & water conservation district and many others. Jewell needs to change her quote to "local politicians" instead of citizens.  

Besides, it probably doesn't matter what Jewell recommends, as its clear to me that John Podesta in the White House is calling the shots on monuments.  Senator Walsh wrote to the wrong person in the Obama administration.

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