• The Heritage Network
    • Resize:
    • A
    • A
    • A
  • Donate
  • War on the West II

    Grand Staircase National Monument

    In 1996, President Clinton created an outcry in western states with the words:

    NOW, THEREFORE, I WILLIAM J. CLINTON, President of the United States of America, by the authority vested in me by section 2 of the [Antiquities] Act of June 8, 1906 (34 Stat. 225, 16 U.S.C. 431), do proclaim that there are hereby set apart and reserved as the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, for the purpose of protecting the objects identified above, all lands and interests in lands owned or controlled by the United States within the boundaries of the area described on the document entitled “Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument” attached to and forming a part of this proclamation

    By presidential proclamation he set nearly 1,700 square miles of Bureau of Land Management lands in Utah off limits with his surprise designation of the Grand Staircase – Escalante National Monument and, with it, access to over 11 billion tons of recoverable, low sulfur, high btu (energy) coal. Several more such designations followed in what many felt was a War on the West.

    A recently revealed Department of Interior “internal working document” has set off similar fire alarms across the West. It identifies BLM lands as potential sites for designation as new national monuments, as possibly meriting “special conservation” status or as targets of “land rationalization”. Unlike a national park or national wildlife refuge, these actions are carried out by the Executive Branch without any need for Congressional approval.

    The Department of Interior document in question ­- reportedly drafted at the behest of Obama’s Interior Secretary Ken Salazar – identifies more than six times the land area locked up in the Grand Staircase designation and, like it, has the potential to thwart access to a wealth of natural resources including oil, gas, gold and timber. The document’s brief descriptions of the potential national monuments in AZ, CA, CO, MT, NM, OR, UT and WA does not include acreage figures for all of the14 BLM sites. The total for where figures are given is 13,535,000 acres, an area larger than Maryland and Delaware combined. In counties with land bases predominately held by the BLM, eliminating access to natural resources on these lands can be near mortal economic wounds.

    For one Nevada site, the document’s narrative justifying its inclusion states that it is “…a center of climate change research…” while for another site it states that the possible national monument location “…contains 30% of the lesser prairie chicken habitat in southeastern New Mexico.” Two of the possible monument sites cover another 1,474,000 acres of Utah. Harkening back to the Clinton era national monument designation, Utah Representative Rob Bishop, the head of the Congressional Western Caucus in the House of Representatives, told his state’s largest paper, “We’ve been burned before, and I want to make sure we’re not burned again.”

    While the document’s section addressing possible national monuments has garnered most of the attention, other sections address areas that may be suitable for “Conservation Designations” or fall under the heading “Cost Estimates: High Priority Land Rationalization.” Three areas are identified as possible targets for a conservation designation, one in Wyoming and two in Alaska. If a conservation designation is conferred upon one of the later, Bristol Bay, it could serve as a club for those seeking to stymie development of a mine in Alaska. The ore deposits there are estimated to contain 94 million ounces of gold and 72 billion pounds of copper. Opponents of developing the mine claim it is a threat to Bristol Bay.

    Like the monuments and conservation designations, the “land rationalization” efforts would focus on western lands – CA, CO, ID, MT, NV, OR, UT and WY – and include states through which National Historic and Scenic Trails traverse. The document anticipates lands that would augment the trails being targeted with an “aggressive willing seller program”.  For a land rationalization effort in the Upper Green River Valley of Wyoming, the document targets a “…stretch [that] features a small number of very large privately-owned ranches…” By the Interior Department’s own back of envelop calculations, the cost of Federal government absorbing just these Wyoming ranches would be around $2.4 billion.

    Why, when we are broke and the Federal government already owns more land than the total area of Mexico and Spain combined, do we need to acquire more? Why do we need more in a state like Wyoming where the Federal Government already owns about half of everything?  How is spending the equivalent of more than 50,000 times the median income of a Wyoming family to rid the state of a few “large private” ranches a good idea? In this economic climate what rationale can the Obama Administration offer to spend tax dollars on these ranches or to lock up land that “contains 30% of the lesser prairie chicken habitat in southeastern New Mexico”? (Not to be confused with land harboring greater prairie chickens or with lesser prairie chicken habitat elsewhere in New Mexico, Texas and Oklahoma.)

    In the case of the lesser prairie chicken the document opines that putting this area off limits is the best chance to avoid adding the prairie chicken to the endangered species list, implying that by doing so the burdens of the Endangered Species Act – like putting land off limits – could be avoided.  Elsewhere the document mentions promoting ecotourism and “unique” sailing and sea kayaking opportunities. Perhaps the millions of newly unemployed can spend their free time searching for lesser prairie chickens or sea-kayaking. Westerners are right to ring the alarm bells about War on the West II.

    Posted in Energy [slideshow_deploy]

    13 Responses to War on the West II

    1. Ted Pomeroy says:

      Mr. Gordon,

      What are your thoughts on this matter?

      There is a solution for the lingering fiscal consequences from our current recession and the resultant Federal Reserve actions.

      What does a private sector CEO do when his company has more debt than the company can service?

      Answer: Sell assets.

      What do the American people have to sell by auction?

      Over 440 million acres of surface land in the Bureau of Land Management and Forest Service

      700 million acres of subsurface mineral estate within the BLM

      58 power generating plants within the TVA (the TVA may be overleveraged, even more reason to sell)

      Who would buy it? In the case of the BLM land and mineral rights, if there is a lease there is already an interested party in the lessee. Also, the US environmental movement could dedicate all of their fundraising prowess to purchasing of what they want to preserve.

      Of course when these lands move into private hands they will be subject to their respective States taxing authorities.

      (this would go long way towards righting California fiscally)

      So when can Alan Simpson, James Watt, yourself and myself get together on the details?

      Please get back to me.

    2. Torrey Baird, Albuqu says:

      lesser prairie chicken tastes MMMM MMMM Good

    3. Craig Johnson says:

      Why do we Conservatives insist upon playing nice with these liberals, by always bringing a knife to a gunfight? Your analysis of the harm that these liberal policies do is spot on, as it always is when almost any liberal policy is held up to any standard.

      My issue is thier intentions. These mean spirited people care about as much for prarrie chickens as they do for "regular Americans", who have the temerity to expect thier gov't to respect the fact that God created us free.

      The Statists of the world (foriegn and domestic), know that freedom cannot be defeated in war; so they hide in various beauracracies to make "off limits", the resources they cannot out right take, in the manner that resourses were always taken from an enemy — war.

      Very few of the "poverty pimps, or eco pimps, are really "misguided do-gooders".

      They are mostly intentional evil-doers, who use a very few "useful idiots".

      You are right to call it a war. But lets be clear about the intentions of the enemy.

      Craig Johnson

      aka, Brother Craig: "The Hatchet Man"

      from blogtalkradio

    4. Don Harper, Lubbock, says:

      This is just another attempt by leftists to destroy the economy of the US by depriving us of our best chances of energy independence. The leaders of the environmental movements are anti-capitalists and progressives who think they are smart enough (or brutal enough?) to make a command and control economy work when the Soviet Union, Cuba , North Korea, et al, failed miserably. If it weren't for the slavish MSM promoting their every anti-human agenda, we'd be a much freer people now.

    5. Tim Az says:

      This is about the federal Govt. securing natural resources to use as collateral for huge loans that will be needed to set up their socialist utopia after the free market system has been collapsed and the dollar is no more. They have to have tangible resources to build their socialist govt. upon the ruins of the once greatest country known to man.

    6. Lloyd Scallan - New says:

      Obama lied through his teeth when is said (or read) he want America to be

      "energy independent". One of the first moves he made was to cancel oil and gas lease sales in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Louisiana and Texas. He is putting more and more of land and sea floors, that we know to have enough, easily accessible oil, gas, and coal, to supply this nation's energy needs for more than a hundred years, without ANY foreign support. If we cannot reconize that Obama wants the destruction of this country's independence and economy, there is no hope for us.

    7. Seth Arluck, New Ham says:

      Kimberly Strassel of the WSJ had it right years ago when she called this taking of the Western resource economy and its cultural consequences "Rural Cleansing".

    8. Spiritof76, NH says:

      This is not going to end well, I am afraid. If we still want to be a country and a first rate country at that, time for action is now. States must seize the lands and throw the federal government out. What are they going to do? Send in the military? Show me in the Constitution that the Federal government is allowed to own state lands.

      We have to deal with the enviro-socialists, communists and other ant-American groups. I call them anti- Americans because they are fundamentally opposed to our freedoms, Constitution and our way of life from 1776 on.

      Unfortunately, we will not be able to convince the thugs by being nice. It is like pleading with a criminal or terrorist. The criminal only understands power.

    9. Adam says:

      just the gold from that one mine would add over 100 billion dollars to our national wealth. why wont they let su prosper.

    10. Pingback: Hour of the Time » HOTT Newslinks Feb 24, 2010

    11. Pingback: Morning Bell: Don’t Fall For Obama’s Energy Shell Game | The Foundry: Conservative Policy News.

    12. Pingback: Don’t Fall For Obama’s Energy Shell Game! « A Nation ADrift-Why?

    13. Pingback: Sarah Palin Schools Obama On Sound Energy Policy, Promises Major Address To The Nation « Sarah Palin Information Blog

    Comments are subject to approval and moderation. We remind everyone that The Heritage Foundation promotes a civil society where ideas and debate flourish. Please be respectful of each other and the subjects of any criticism. While we may not always agree on policy, we should all agree that being appropriately informed is everyone's intention visiting this site. Profanity, lewdness, personal attacks, and other forms of incivility will not be tolerated. Please keep your thoughts brief and avoid ALL CAPS. While we respect your first amendment rights, we are obligated to our readers to maintain these standards. Thanks for joining the conversation.

    Big Government Is NOT the Answer

    Your tax dollars are being spent on programs that we really don't need.

    I Agree I Disagree ×

    Get Heritage In Your Inbox — FREE!

    Heritage Foundation e-mails keep you updated on the ongoing policy battles in Washington and around the country.