Sunday, September 11, 2016

DuBois column

It’s all monuments this month

President Obama has either expanded or designated 24 national monuments – including two in New Mexico - more than any of his predecessors. This has led to much speculation on when and where he will act next.  A spokesman for the Natural Resources Defense Council says what he has done so far is good, but “what he does next is how we measure whether his legacy is great or not.” And as recently as last month Interior Secretary Jewell noted there "are a number of places" around the country where support for preservation is building. "Congress has an opportunity to act," Jewell said. "The President is watching and has an opportunity to act if Congress does not. And that's all I'm going to say."

Several new things have happened in Utah since my last report on the proposed 1.9 million acre Bears Ears national monument.  The Utah Wildlife Board has written Interior Secretary Jewell in opposition to the monument. The letter says the designation would impact hunting, fishing and trapping and put at risk thriving populations of wildlife including elk, deer and bighorn sheep. "It is imperative that the state of Utah manage its wildlife resources if we are to continue seeing the robust wildlife populations and high-quality wildlife recreation the area is known for," the letter says. In the letter, board members contend the abundance of wildlife and recreational opportunities in the area is due to the collaboration of state officials and sportsmen organizations. Board chairman John Bair writes in the letter that a change in management practices would "threaten the progress we as a state have made in restoring and enhancing wildlife populations found there, and impair wildlife related recreational use and enjoyment” of the area.

Utah Congressman Chris Stewart thinks the decision is already made. He says Utahns are largely in opposition to the monument, but their opinions won’t matter. Stewart believes the President has already made up his mind. “I think they’ve made the decision already,” Stewart said, “and they’re just going through the motions of coming out here to Utah and listening to folks.” That “going through the motions” will certainly ring true to the citizens of Dona Ana County in New Mexico. That is where the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks Monument was opposed by the Dona Ana County Sheriff, the village of Hatch, the Las Cruces Chamber of Commerce, the Dona Ana Soil & Water District, the Mesilla Valley Sportsmen Alliance and many more local entities. But Secretary Jewell held her listening session, the enviros bussed in people from Santa Fe, Albuquerque, and El Paso, and presto! We had a new monument.

Finally, Robert Redford has weighed in with an Op-Ed in support of the Bears Ears. Redford argues in favor of the monument because of his “strong sense of connection” to the land and the opportunity to celebrate “human relationships to the land.”

It appears the Sundance Kid is trying to pull the wool over our eyes while robbing folks of their access to these lands.  The whole purpose of a national monument and similar designations is to limit access by humans. The public will have less access than what they currently enjoy. As far as human relationships to the land, the proper word here would be separate, not celebrate.

Let’s now turn to Nevada, where Senator Harry Reid and assorted enviros are promoting the Gold Butte national monument.  The proposal would take up 350,000 acres in southern Nevada, and just happens to include Cliven Bundy’s allotment.  That’s the same Bundy who is currently in jail over the Malheur Wildlife Refuge takeover and his 2014 standoff with the Nevada BLM.

At a recent press conference Senator Reid was confident the monument would be designated, saying “it is going to happen before the first of the year.”  How can that be? Secretary Jewell hasn’t held a listening session there.  All of which demonstrates what a farce those sessions are.

 In 2015, President Obama designated the Basin and Range national monument in Nevada.  Nevada has also hosted the “Best In The Desert Race” for the last twenty years.  This is a 648- mile race from Las Vegas to Reno which includes cars, trucks, utility vehicles and motorcycles. Now, however, 38 miles of that race is within the boundary of the Basin and Range national monument. And sure enough, the eviros have challenged the permit for the race. One of their concerns is “fugitive dust” caused by the racers. “As fugitive dust settles and is deposited, sometimes far away from its origin, it coats plants and soils that can change plant communities and have ecosystem effects.”  Imagine that.  All this time I thought we just had dust in the West.  Now I find out some of those particles are also fugitives.

BLM has issued the permit, so the race can go on.  However, there are some restrictions.  Racers may not go over 35 miles per hour and they may not pass another racer during the 38 miles within the monument.  I guess at 36 mph too many of those nasty fugitives would be unleashed upon an unsuspecting plant community.

Only on federal land and in government policy would you ever find a “race” with a speed limit and where you couldn’t pass other participants.

This settles one question though:  we’ll never host the Olympic games in a national monument.

Till next time, be a nuisance to the devil and don’t forget to check that cinch.

Frank DuBois was the NM Secretary of Agriculture from 1988 to 2003, is the author of a blog: The Westerner ( and is the founder of The DuBois Rodeo Scholarship and The DuBois Western Heritage Foundation

This column originally appeared in the September editions of the New Mexico Stockman and the Livestock Market Digest

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