Friday, May 12, 2017

On the ground with Zinke: Grand Staircase trip brings ‘optimism’

...Zinke’s visit Wednesday began in Kanab with an 8:30 a.m. breakfast at the water conservancy district building where he participated in a round table discussion with several state and local leaders, most all of them sporting cowboy hats and boots – icons of a vanishing culture many locals blame in part on the designation of the monument...more

The reporter really bungles the next paragraph. In the second sentence substitute 'animal units" for allotments.

“Before the monument my same allotment was allowed 260 head of cattle. But think of this, think of selling 260 calves in the fall versus 64 calves in the fall,” local rancher and Garfield County Commissioner Leland Pollock said, about his own grazing rights on the monument. “Those other 200 allotments are suspended and they aren’t any good to me. So they show up on paper in the BLM office as allotments so it looks like we still have the same amount of allotments but they’re suspended and I can’t use them. That’s how the federal government is getting rid of the rancher on the monument.”

And then, the optimism 

Following the morning briefing, the group headed to Big Water where they met up at the Bureau of Land Management office to start their all-day trek to the top of Smokey Mountain. About halfway to the destination, Zinke’s entourage stopped to take a short hike to the once-proposed Smokey Hollow Mine on the Kaiparowits Plateau. Utah Rep. Mike Noel, R-Kanab, took this chance to share with Zinke that as a former employee of the BLM he had overseen a “bulletproof” environmental impact assessment on a project that would have generated 9 billion tons of clean high-quality coal, hundreds of jobs and millions of dollars in revenue. Instead, Noel said, Clinton and then-Vice President Al Gore stood on the southern rim of the Grand Canyon in Arizona and announced the designation of the monument – locking up the coal for at least the next two decades. All for political gain, he added. But with the current U.S. president motivated to keep his campaign promises to renew the coal industry, political leaders are hopeful Trump will reduce the size of the monument which could allow access to the coal reserves. “I’m very excited. I think there’s hope, hope for the people who want change on the monument and who want the boundaries reduced dramatically,” Pollock said. “If we can’t rescind this thing then we need to reduce it to the minimum amount possible. I’m excited. This is a good day.”...“It’s beautiful country and I still remain an optimist,” Zinke said. “I’ve talked to both sides while I’ve been here. I talked to the tribes. I talked to the cowboys who live on the land and folks who have a strong heritage and feelings. Universally it’s people who love the land and they just want to see the right things get done and they want to see that what needs to be protected is protected. I’m an optimist and I think there’s enough common ground to move forward. So we’ll gather our thoughts, break out the maps and make a good recommendation to the president.”

Zinke also said something I found interesting...

“Monuments should never be put in a position to prevent rather than protect and the president is pro-energy across the board,” Zinke said.

Monuments should never be put in a position to prevent rather than protect

I believe this perfectly describes what happened here in going beyond the Organ Mountains. The objective was to prevent certain activities such as land exchanges, rights-of-way for utilities and pipelines, geothermal development, Border Patrol devices, etc., rather than to protect objects. Boundaries were drawn and then the hunt was on for objects to justify those boundaries. Let's hope Zinke visits here and makes this observation himself.

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