This is a developing story. Our esteemed leader and his environmental terrorists wackos are planning to turn approximately 130 million acres of land into "national monuments". These monuments will be all over the nation and every excuse the environmental wackos can think of will be used in the attempt to designate them as such. Over 2.5 million acres in Phillips County (my home county for you non-Montanan's) alone. This land grab will displace ranches and farms. It will cost people their livelihoods and millions of dollars in tax revenues. For you liberals who may be reading, that means that many of your precious government county jobs, like teaching are at risk. Roads won't be able to be maintained. Bridges won't be built. You get the picture.
In Saturday's Bozeman Chronicle, some limp wrist from The Wilderness Society wrote a guest editorial entitled "Busting some myths on national monuments." Here is my response to this condensending piece of sheep dung's article. My comments in blue.
From the Chronicle. (direct link to the article is here.)
The recent brouhaha over national monuments is certainly creating a lot of attention and a lot more confusion. So much so, that national BLM director, Bob Abbey, recently accepted an invitation to come to Malta next month to help explain the situation.
The flare-up centers on a brainstorming memo made public by the Department of Interior two weeks ago which, among other things, discussed possible new national monuments locations. On the list was one area in the northeastern prairie lands of Montana. Although some have been using the memo to fan the flames of fear, I think most Montanans can see above the spin.
Lets get something straight right here. This memo in question was made public only after it was leaked to Republicans in Congress. It discusses in great detail the proposals nationwide and how to implement them. Lets also note that there are over 2,000 associated e-mails, addendums and maps to the original memo so to dismiss this as "brainstorming" is almost insulting you little puke. (Link to memo is here)
To help, I've noticed a few myths popping up in the papers that need to be busted.
Myth 1: Imminent land grab:
The fact that the BLM went through a conservation assessment of its lands does not translate to likely action. Instead those who stand to benefit politically have ginned up a false and scary scenario where farmers, ranchers and others will be kicked off the prairie. To quote the Shakespeare play, this is "Much Ado about Nothing."
Who is standing to benefit here Pete? The people who are already there? The only benefit is they get to keep living their lives. This is not a "conservation assessment". This is a precise plan as to how to acquire the land in question. Farmers and ranchers have more sensibility in their little fingers than you possess in your entire being. If they are worried about losing their homes, there probably is a reason.
Myth 2: Monuments bypass the public:
In the memo itself and in numerous press stories, the BLM has clearly stated that any monument designation would come only after extensive public vetting. We should remember that this is the same administration that has embarked on an unprecedented listening tour this summer - the "America's Great Outdoors" Initiative - to engage Americans about conservation for the next century.
Finally, it is worth remembering that the 2001 designation of Montana's Upper Missouri Breaks National Monument followed an extensive public involvement process, from initial recommendations from Montanans, to a public hearing with the Secretary of Interior in Great Falls, to meetings with the delegation and even formation of a local group focused specifically on this landscape and its designation.
We all know which administration this is Pete, that's why we are afraid. We also all remember what happened in 2001 when the voice of the local people was totally ignored and some ranchers lost their government leases. Also the memo explicitly states that this land WILL be designated. From the memo "Should the legislative process not prove fruitful, or if a nationall significant or cultural land resource were to come under threat of imminent harm, BLM would recommend that the Administration consider using the Antiquities Act to designate new National Manuments by Presidential Proclamation". What do they mean when they say "come under threat?" It sounds as though a backup plan akin to the snail darter is already afoot.
Myth 3: Private property and livelihoods at risk:
Monuments are about public land only and do not involve seizing any private land. This has never happened and is not going to happen. Again, look at our Missouri Breaks Monument. While it includes 120,000 acres of private lands within its boundary, the BLM has not once forced any sale of inholdings, closed any access roads, or even significantly altered livestock grazing levels for local ranchers.
BLM has not force the sale, this is true. It's actually the only truthful thing you've said thus far. The ranchers who survived the MBM of 2001 are not as successful as they were before that. Let's also remember that the amount of land being considered is almost ten times as much. It will not be available for livestock grazing so pretend this will not alter ranching operations is to be ignorant, which seems to be your strong suit so far.
Myth 4: Monuments are undemocratic:
Presidents don't just wake up one day and decide to create a monument. Instead they are responding to a long history of vocal support for the area and a clear threat to the land. Congressional action is the preferred and most used path for land designation in this country, but, as we all know, "Congressional action" can seem almost glacial paced.
Furthermore, if our elected representatives are going to push for bottom-up, collaborative approaches that go through the halls of Congress, then they need to reward those that embark on this approach. That translates to full support for legislative proposals- whether it is Sen. Tester's Forest Jobs and Recreation Act or the Rocky Mountain Front Heritage Act proposal which is still awaiting sponsorship by any member of our delegation.
The only history of support is from organizations like yours, The World Wildlife Fund and a bunch of other well financed busy bodies who have never been to the area or talked to the local people. And never will. Also show me one "clear threat to the land". When your done trying to do that, lets go to Yellowstone National Park and examine the riparian damage done by the over population of buffalo. Who's in charge of the park again?
Myth 5: Only Democrats create monuments:
Republicans have a long and proud history of using the Antiquities Act, whether it be the very first monument designation by Theodore Roosevelt (Devil's Tower) or the most recent and largest ever monument by George W Bush (Pacific Islands Marine Monument). Republican presidents Coolidge, Roosevelt, Taft and Harding all designated monuments in places as diverse as the Grand Canyon, Muir Woods, Colorado National Monument, and Craters of the Moon.
Not once in all of my discussions with my friends in Phillips County or with the local advocacy group has anyone stated this. This is a paper tiger to distract us from what is really happening. Also, if you can show me any instance of any of these monuments meeting the fierce local opposition as the ones being proposed in Northern Montana, and then a Republican president giving those locals the middle finger, I'll take back the "limp wrist" comment.
In all the hype, we should not lose sight of two facts: 1) some of these sensitive Montana grasslands identified by the BLM memo do represent the "best of the last" for native prairie and may deserve some higher level of protection someday; 2) As we figure out how best to achieve this in Montana, informed, inclusive public discussions beats out fear-mongering any day of the week. I have hope Montanans can rise above the fear-based spin and engage in such a dialogue.
Let's be totally honest right now Pete. The BLM had NOTHING to do with this proposal. This is totally at the hands of the World Wildlife Fund, The Wilderness Society, The Nature Conservancy and other environmental groups. While there is support for this within the BLM, this was not there assessment. I will gladly engage you in dialoge. Let's make a road trip to Malta. I'll set up a meeting at the Stockman Bar. Let's see what you're really made of.
Peter Aengst is the acting Northern Rockies regional director for The Wilderness Society. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please contact Pete at the email above and let him know what you really think.