Issues of concern to people who live in the west: property rights, water rights, endangered species, livestock grazing, energy production, wilderness and western agriculture. Plus a few items on western history, western literature and the sport of rodeo... Frank DuBois served as the NM Secretary of Agriculture from 1988 to 2003. DuBois is a former legislative assistant to a U.S. Senator, a Deputy Assistant Secretary of Interior, and is the founder of the DuBois Rodeo Scholarship.
Thursday, December 08, 2016
Public lands issues face uncertain future as presidential transition nears
As President Barack Obama prepares to leave office and President-elect Donald Trump puts together his own administration, the future of public lands issues remains unclear to elected officials, environmentalists and industry supporters alike. The outgoing 114th Congress is running out of time to act on a sweeping eastern Utah public lands bill from the state's congressional delegation. Meanwhile, the Obama administration is keeping mum on the possibility of whether or not it will declare a 1.9-million-acre Bears Ears National Monument on public lands in San Juan County.
Both issues are connected to each other: Reps. Rob Bishop and Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, introduced their Public Lands Initiative (PLI) partly because they hope to avert the designation of another national monument in Utah. After more than three years of work on the initiative, the House Natural Resources Committee chair finally unveiled the bill last summer, just as U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell toured sites that an inter-tribal coalition wants to include in a Bears Ears monument.
But the PLI hasn't gained much traction in the current Congress, and critics like Moab resident and Sierra Club representative Wayne Hoskisson have questioned whether Bishop is committed to passing the bill.
Groene said he views the PLI as a “total failure,” and he believes the bill's lame-duck status in the 114th congressional session gives Obama an open invitation to declare a Bears Ears National Monument.
“So we can thank Congressman Bishop for what is likely a monument designation,” Groene said.
At this point, Bishop Communications Director Lee Lonsberry said he can't say whether Jewell has come up with a recommendation for or against the Bears Ears proposal.
“I can't speak to any of that,” Lonsberry said. “I don't know, essentially.”
With no clear indication of where the current administration is going, Utah's delegation is moving forward with the PLI, based on the assumption that the U.S. House and Senate can still approve the bill during the waning days of this congressional session.
“Right now, we're just operating as though we can get it through this Congress,” Lonsberry said. Lonsberry said that Bishop met with members of the president-elect's
transition team to discuss some of those priorities, such as potential
land-use policies that the next administration might pursue. Bishop called the talks “positive and
encouraging,” and he raised the possibility that he will work with
Trump's administration to undo past national monument designations, such
as former President Bill Clinton's creation of Grand
Staircase-Escalante National Monument in 1996. Republican and Democratic presidents alike since
Teddy Roosevelt have used their powers under the 1906 Antiquities Act to
set aside monuments that later became national parks, including four of
Utah's “Mighty Five.” Bishop signaled that he may try to reverse those
decisions in cases where the monuments are, by his standards,
“excessive” in size, and don't necessarily protect landmarks or historic
sites from imminent danger. “Any monument designation that lacks local
support, is excessive, or violates the terms of the Antiquities Act will
be scrutinized and is easier to abolish,” he said in a statement. While such a move is unprecedented, Lonsberry
said that nothing in the 1906 law would prevent a future president from
reversing a predecessor's proclamations. “It has not been done in the past, but it's not prohibited,” Lonsberry said...more