Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Bears Ears: Correcting an off-base argument

by Charles Wilkinson

 Nathan Nielson’s opinion piece, “A National Monument is a Heavy-handed Solution for Bears Ears” (HCN 10/31/16) is made from whole cloth. The yarns Neilson spins are of “federal absorption,” of vandalism run amok; of neglect and economic crisis; of future limitations placed on the gathering of wood, herbs and piñon nuts; of a lack of support for a Bears Ears National Monument; and of a coming massive restriction of livestock grazing as at the nearby Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument...The author laments a 31 percent reduction in grazing at Grand Staircase – a non-existent “fact.” The Bureau of Land Management says that permitted Animal Unit Months (AUMs – a cow and a calf pair) were 77,200 when the Staircase was designated. Today, 76,900 are available, even after thousands of AUMs were willingly sold by ranchers. This means livestock grazing has actually increased in other parts of the monument, despite a decade of crippling drought...more

The truth is neither Nielson or Wilkinson know what will happen to livestock grazing if a Bears Ears National Monument is created. Why? Because it all depends on what language Obama puts in the proclamation. Livestock grazing language has run the gamut in Presidential proclamations, from livestock grazing being totally banned, to banned in certain areas, to being allowed but subservient to the objects in the monument, to language saying the monument would have no affect on livestock grazing. That is what is so scary about the Presidential power granted in the Antiquities Act. Nobody knows until the proclamation is issued.

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