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  • December 19th, 2017


I posted this as a blog back in January which makes it almost a year old. And, just as I predicted it would, it has come to pass. Our pretend president, the maniac of the White House, and his evil surrogate, Secretary of Interior Ryan Zinke, have done just when I said they would— destroyed the integrity and probably the sanctity of the Bears Ears national monument, shrinking it by 80%. Native Americans are rightly incensed because they consider this area sacred land, which it was long before the Trumpites came along intending to desecrate it. They hope to force Zinke and Trump’s action into court and public view, and rouse the populace to righteous fury.
What the two of them have done is analogous to spitting on the flag and they will continue to do such scurrilous things as long as their scrofulous regime exists. It’s up to voters, especially in coming elections, to throw the scoundrels out of office and start to make things right again. We are in perilous times, led by an almost demonstrably insane person who seems intent on ripping asunder the very fabric of the United States of America.
By Joel M. Vance
‘tis said the wheels of progress grind slowly. For conservation it seems like sometimes they simply grind to a halt. That’s the danger facing the country now if the Trump administration turns the nation’s public lands legacy into history.
As citizens and taxpayers we all have a stake in and own a piece of public lands: national parks, national wildlife refuges, national forests, national grasslands— and that great unknown the Bureau of land management.
BLM controls 264 million acres. All those acres are open to hikers hunters and others who want to enjoy the nation’s outdoor legacy. Then there are those who would use those same acres for exploitation. Congress has the power to sequester that land for everyone or to turn it into a giant shopping center for special interests. Think mineral, oil and gas exploitation.
The threat to sell off public lands is real and imminent, but the Obama administration used a little-known piece of legislation to set aside a number of BLM lands, supposedly forever. It’s called the Antiquities Act, signed into law in June, 1906, by Pres. Theodore Roosevelt. Its aim was to protect cultural and natural resources in the United States.
We have not had a president since Teddy so dedicated to the preservation of the outdoors. A hunter and fisherman, the blunt spoken Mr. Roosevelt was the outdoorsman’s best friend one hundred and eleven years ago and he still is. There has not been a president like him since, although a couple have come close.
Pres. Obama used the Antiquities Act to set aside and protect a number of areas that fall into the category of cultural and natural resources. To name a few, Rio Grande del Norte, Berryessa Snow Mountain, a bunch of others and, most recently and notably, Gold Butte and Bears Ears, in Utah). Unfortunately, what one president giveth by executive action, another can just as easily taketh away. Likewise Congress can pass laws that hamstring protection for outdoor resources.
Critics of Pres. Obama have objected to his use of executive action. For the record many presidents have used executive order or action more frequently than Pres. Obama. You have to go back as far as Grover Cleveland to find a president who use the congressional circumventing executive order fewer times than Pres. Obama. It’s worth remembering that Theodore Roosevelt created the first of the world renowned national wildlife refuge system by executive action in 1903 because Congress wouldn’t. Other president similarly has set aside natural resources by executive action, both Republican and Democrat.
As one of his final acts in office Pres. Obama designated Utah’s Bears Ears area as a national monument. The area has been sacred to Native Americans for thousands of years and still is an important source of native medicinal plants and wild game for the estimated 20,000 Indians who live within the boundaries of the monument.
Bears Ears is a huge area, some 1.2 million acres, roughly equivalent to the size of the state of Delaware. According to critics of Obama’s designation, the area could be a source of mineral and energy extraction. Thus, the almost inevitable collision between those who would plunder a national resource and those who would protect it. No president in the 111 year history of the Antiquities Act has reversed the decision of a predecessor, but Pres. Trump could do it with the slash of a pen.
Peter Metcalf founder of one of the outdoor industries largest manufacturers, Black Diamond, has called for the outdoor retailers to pull their winter expo out of Utah because of political opposition to the Bears Ears designation. Thus twice yearly show attracts about 22,000 people and brings in an estimated $45 million to Utah. The Associated Press quotes Metcalf, “if they don’t want to change their policies, we should respond with our dollars, with our conventioneers, with our money, and take the show to a state that is much more aligned with our values.”
The Antiquities Act has been a blessing to those who would protect natural resources and a curse to those who would plunder them. Pres. Jimmy Carter designated 56 million acres in Alaska over the protests of local politicians and others who opposed protection for those lands. Predictably, Congress was deadlocked over the idea of setting aside such a large chunk of the nation. Another president, Bill Clinton, designated more national monuments than any other president.
The first big battle under the Antiquities Act was when Pres. Franklin Delano Roosevelt set aside Jackson Hole, Wyoming, as a national monument, after Congress had refused to give the area protection. Congress passed a bill to abolish the national monument but Roosevelt vetoed it. Finally, in 1950 Congress created the grand Teton National Monument.
If there is a single situation which summarizes the possible course of the nation in regard to conservation Bears Ears is it. The United States has much to answer for over the course of its history, especially over its treatment of Native American rights. Even before there was slavery as a blot on the white man’s resume, white European pilgrims were busily slaughtering Native Americans and stealing their heritage and resources.
Native Americans proved that they do have a voice in what happens to their natural resources when many banded together in North Dakota to block a proposed pipeline that had the potential to damage the area’s drinking water supply. The standing rock Sioux tribe at the confluence of the Cannonball and Missouri rivers vowed to stop the proposed pipeline, which would have stretched 1,100 miles and would have been built under a permit from the US Corps of Engineers, and which was to have been financed by a consortium of banks, oil and gas companies.
The Sioux quickly gathered supporters from conservationists across the land, of all races creeds and colors. Despite determined efforts to break up a large sit-in camp, which included the use of water cannons, arrests, mace and guard dogs, and the removal of water and sanitation resources from the tribe’s reservation, the conservationists prevailed— in December, 2016, the Army said it would explore alternate routes for the pipeline, but the fight is not over (it never is) because president Trump, who owns stock in the company building the pipeline, could reinstate the original route.
A similar fight could be brewing over Bears Ears, but like the pipeline brouhaha, Bears Ears could bring together a diverse team of conservationists to fight any attempt to undo protection for the Utah national treasure. It’s worth mentioning that attempts to protect the Bears Ears area as a national monument date to 1968. It will be jointly managed by BLM and the U.S. Forest Service.
Predictably, the national monument designation of Bears Ears has been greeted by a mixed reaction. Present plans are to allow all activities that now exist including hunting, fishing , grazing, and timber management, but to prohibit new development of oil gas and mineral resources. While many sportsmen endorse the Bears Ears monument designation, others are equally opposed to it, apparently fearing that somehow they will lose access to the area.
The Conservation Lands Foundation is one organization dedicated to, in the words of one of its workers, “turn the Bureau of Land Management into a better conservation agency.” The nonprofit group donates collected funds toward protection of otherwise vulnerable natural resources. “BLM is a system just as big and worthy and great as our national parks or national wildlife refuges. And they’re better, because people can hunt and fish in them. It’s just that nobody knows what they are.”
That some sportsmen should oppose legislation that protects their right to hunt on public land, and which was signed into law by the greatest sportsman/hunter president we’ve ever had, is hard to believe. As another great American forefather, Benjamin Franklin, who proposed the wild turkey as the national bird , said at the signing of the Declaration of Independence, “we must indeed all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately.”

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