Senator Jim DeMint took to the pages of the Washington Post this morning to raise the alarm about a planned, 10 million acre Western land grab by the Obama administration.
A secret administration memo has surfaced revealing plans for the federal government to seize more than 10 million acres from Montana to New Mexico, halting job- creating activities like ranching, forestry, mining and energy development. Worse, this land grab would dry up tax revenue that’s essential for funding schools, firehouses and community centers.
President Obama could enact the plans in this memo with just the stroke of a pen, without any input from the communities affected by it.
The leaked document lists 17 sites in 11 states that could be designated as national monuments through the federal Antiquities Act. Over 380,000 acres in Colorado are designated in the memo under the heading “Prospective Conservation Designation.”
The memo was leaked by a Department of Interior official to Utah Congressman Bob Bishop.
According to the memo, around 380,000 acres of BLM and private land in Colorado would be subject to a “conservation designation” under the National Monument designation of the 1906 Antiquities Act. The Vermillion Basin, northwest of Craig, and the Alpine Triangle near Ouray are listed in the memo. This designation would close the areas off to multi-use activities including, mining, hunting, grazing, oil and gas development and other recreational activities.
“President Obama spoke last month at his State of the Union address about the need to use America’s natural resources. It does not make much sense to recognize the need to put America’s vast stores of energy resources to use, and then work to limit access to them. Especially in this economy,” said Alan Foutz, President of Colorado Farm Bureau.
The memo shows that the goal of the designations is to limit multiple use activities and the potential development from oil and gas companies. It says all kinds of animals would be better off under the designation, like the coyotes, badgers, prairie dogs, elk, deer and pronghorn.
“”Deer and elk populations are thriving and we in Colorado don’t need help from the federal government in order to manage them effectively,” added Foutz.
Citing the “unique landscape” and “scenic qualities” the memo notes that the vermillion basin is “currently under threat of oil and gas development, which will forever alter the region.”
In Nevada, the Obama administration might make another monument in the Heart of the Great Basin because it, supposedly, is a “center of climate change scientific research.”
Interior staffers also note in the report that the Alpine Triangle carries about 25,000 acres of patented mining claims that could be used to support backcountry cabins and second home development, which would “threaten the landscape.”
A Potential Fix
Colorado Congressman Doug Lamborn (CO-05) is introducing legislation, H.R. 4716 , with Congressman Mike Coffman (CO-06) that would safeguard Colorado from arbitrary presidential monument designations and ensure that all future national monument designations only occur through an open and transparent process that includes input from local officials, residents, and stakeholders.
“Colorado has a rich supply of natural energy that if used responsibly can provide high paying jobs and reduce energy costs. But this Administration just doesn’t get it. It seems President Obama and Secretary Salazar would rather lock up our valuable Western resources than help lower energy costs and create jobs. At the very least, they owe it to the people of Colorado to discuss their agenda in an open manner,” said Congressman Lamborn.
“This legislation will help ensure that any decision to further restrict access to valuable natural resources is done so with the full input and knowledge of the people of Colorado. Congressman Lamborn and I call on the entire Colorado delegation to support this bill. It will ensure that the people of Colorado have a voice in what happens in our state,” explained Mr. Coffman.
In 1950, Congress passed a law that prohibited the future establishment of national monuments in Wyoming except as authorized by Congress. H.R.4716 is modeled after this legislation but inserts Colorado in the place of Wyoming.
Over the last forty years, the federal government has spent nearly $13 billion adding hundreds of thousands of acres to the federal estate. In fact, an area larger than the size of Florida has been added to federal lands since John F. Kennedy was president.
Congressman Bishop says that he released the document because he does not want to see another land grab like what happened under previous administration.
Several past presidents have made gratuitous use of the National Monuments designation to give back-room favors to their environmentalist supporters. The law allowed Former President Clinton to single-handedly create 19 new national monuments, expand three others and prohibit recreational use over 5.9 million acres without ever consulting anyone.
He unilaterally closed the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in Utah to oil and gas development, without ever consulting the public or state, local and federal officials. Prior to the designation, the 135,000 acre region was responsible for producing 65,000 barrels of oil a year. The designation even sparked a Supreme Court case.
President Jimmy Carter used the executive to lock up more land than any other president; all in the name of “conservation.” He took more than 50 million acres in Alaska despite heavy opposition from the state.