National Monument Comments

 

July 5, 2017

 

National Monument Comments

By Jerry Smith

Director of Environmental Affairs – United Four Wheel Drive Associations

 

Re:  National Monument Reviews

https://www.regulations.gov/document?D=DOI-2017-0002-0001

Section 2 of the Antiquities Act reads as follows;

Sec. 2. That the President of the United States is hereby authorized, in his discretion, to declare by public proclamation historic landmarks, historic and prehistoric structures, and other objects of historic or scientific interest that are situated upon the lands owned or controlled by the Government of the United States to be national monuments, and may reserve as a part thereof parcels of land, the limits of which in all cases shall be confined to the smallest area compatible with proper care and management of the objects to be protected:

Nowhere in the Antiquities Act are things like scenic values, geologic or heritage sites, cultural sites, Wilderness, or Roadless Areas mentioned.  Protection of plant life or wildlife is not within the purview of the Act.

With the total lack of local public input into designations under the Antiquities Act, the economies of the surrounding area are seldom given any thought.  People who have never seen, nor are likely to ever see the area make decisions in places far from the areas in question.  They have no direct interest.  They have nothing to lose.

Only their selfish desire to “preserve” and “protect” something they have no real interest in drives these decisions.

People who have direct interest in these lands are few.  The areas are often remote with little human population and the economies are not always healthy.  Some of those inhabitants largely depend on that land for their subsistence and existence.

By naming vast areas as National Monuments, the management strategies of these areas change dramatically.

Removing motorized access to these lands will mean the local people can no longer utilize the areas in the manner they presently do.  When this happens, the exodus from the area results in impacts to local property values, the tax base, and entities like schools become crippled for money so their student’s educations suffer greatly.

In reading the Executive Orders that proclaimed these National Monuments, we do not see the need for taking vast areas out of Multiple Use management.  National Monuments are for protecting objects, not huge areas for their scenic values.

The Antiquities Act has been severely abused by the last few Presidents for the simple appeasement of a vocal “environmental” group.  It is past time to revise the act and put some serious limitations on it.  One limitation should be that public input is mandatory and another would be that local input should have more weight than that of others from long distances.

The Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA) defines “multiple use”, “public involvement”, and “sustained yield” as;

TITLE I

SHORT TITLE,

DECLARATION OF POLICY, AND

DEFINITIONS

(c)

The term “multiple use” means the manage­ment of the public lands and their various resource values so that they are utilized in the combination that will best meet the present and future needs of the American people; making the most judicious use of the land for some or all of these resources or related services over areas large enough to provide sufficient latitude for periodic adjustments in use to conform to changing needs and conditions; the use of some land for less than all of the resources; a combination of balanced and diverse resource uses that takes into account the long-term needs of future generations for renewable and non-renewable resources, including, but not limited to, recreation, range, timber, minerals, watershed, wildlife and fish, and natural scenic, scientific and historical values; and harmonious and coordinated management of the various resources without per­manent impairment of the productivity of the land and the quality of the environment with considera­tion being given to the relative values of the resources and not necessarily to the combination of uses that will give the greatest economic return or the greatest unit output.

(d)

The term “public involvement” means the opportunity for participation by affected citizens in rule making, decision making, and planning with respect to the public lands, including public meet­ings or hearings held at locations near the affected lands, or advisory mechanisms, or such other pro­cedures as may be necessary to provide public comment in a particular instance.

(h)

The term “sustained yield” means the achievement and maintenance in perpetuity of a high-level annual or regular periodic output of the various renewable resources of the public lands consistent with multiple use.

TITLE II

LAND USE PLANNING; LAND ACQUISITION AND DISPOSITION

LAND USE PLANNING

Sec. 202 (f)

The Secretary shall allow an opportunity for public involvement and by regulation shall estab­lish procedures, including public hearings where appropriate, to give Federal, State, and local gov­ernments and the public, adequate notice and opportunity to comment upon and participate in the formulation of plans and programs relating to

the management of the public lands.

While the Antiquities Act grants certain powers to the President, the President must rely on certain information from the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) or the US Forest Service (USFS) BEFORE writing a proclamation in determining the size, boundaries, and “historic landmarks, historic and prehistoric structures, and other objects of historic or scientific interest that are situated upon the lands owned or controlled by the Government of the United States”.

In determining these things, the BLM must abide by land use laws like NEPA and FLPMA.  This is “Land Use Planning” 101.  The questions of “when was the public involvement” in this process and when were public meetings held need answers.  This would seem a violation of the law or at the very least a violation of procedure.

Whenever portions of public lands are subject to a change in management status, the public MUST be involved.  That is not just a statement, it is LAW.

Much of the western public lands are vast tracts of wild, untamed country.  Even as large as these areas are, they each have many unique qualities.  The lands are rich in historical places and things.  Much of our heritage and culture as Americans thrive in having access to the history and cultural places of days gone by.

Some families have used the same hunting grounds for generations.  Those families have occupied the same campsites year after year while access has not been denied.

Other families have grown up going to the same areas to camp, fish, ride OHVs, and learn to be with nature.

To deprive these family traditions is in no way practicing “Sustained Yield” or “Multiple Use”.  Recreational uses can be “sustainable” if given the chance.  When issues arise, a call for volunteers to remedy the issue will nearly always bet met with great enthusiasm.  If government would just get out of the way, volunteers could do much of the necessary work.

The distinction between lands designated as national parks and national monuments are not widely known or understood.  One of the primary differences is in the management goals of each.

National Parks are protected primarily for their scenic, inspirational, educational, and recreational values.  National Parks are designated by congress.

National monuments have objects of historical, cultural, and/or scientific interest.  They are not so much about the land as they are about the objects.  One person, the US President, often designates National Monuments under the Antiquities Act of 1906.

Using the Grand Canyon National Park as an example, in 2016 they claim 5,969,811 visitors came to the park.

“The North Rim, it invokes a sense of solitude and serenity.” That’s what the National Park Service would have you believe.  With nearly 6,000,000 annual visitors, where and when are you going to feel “a sense of solitude and serenity”?

When you are standing shoulder to shoulder on the few platforms they have to view the Grand Canyon, just the clicks of all the cameras will nearly deafen you. Does that sound like “serenity”?

Can you imagine “solitude” with 3300 people per day average in the months that they are open on the north rim? This is the way the National Park Service describes the attributes of National Parks and National Monuments.

They manage vast areas for the views from small, controlled places someone decides are “THE” place to achieve solitude and serenity and “enjoy” the area. Solitude and serenity are not achieved near as well standing shoulder to shoulder with 50 other people at a viewpoint.

The BLM has managed these lands adequately since its inception.  The “historic landmarks, historic and prehistoric structures, and other objects of historic or scientific interest” have survived just fine under “multiple use” management.  Will public viewpoints allow for the continuation of “protecting and preserving” these objects or call attention to them increasing the probability that someone will deface or destroy them?  The more the object is advertised and seen, the more likely it will be vandalized.

One last argument against naming National Monuments in or near National Forests would be the increased danger of extreme wildfires.  The “protection” of National Forests has proven to be one of the major causes of extreme wildfires.  The excuses of “Climate Change” and “urban encroachment” are only small symptoms.

When the Endangered Species Act caused the curtailment of logging in the northwest, THAT was the initial cause of the present extreme wildfires.  Since that time, the forests have not been “managed”, they have been left to “nature”.  Other circumstances have changed, but the management hasn’t kept up with the changes.

Courts untrained in proper forest management and emotional attorney pleadings have been responsible for much of the forest “management”.  We must return to utilizing “renewable resources” so the expense and “extreme” of wildfires will return to a manageable state.  The current “system” isn’t working, so logically, management needs to change.  This will take time, but the outcomes will be worth the wait.

Insect infestations will become better controlled with proper “multiple use” management.  A healthier forest can better cope with drought conditions.  Watersheds will be better off.  Wildlife habitat will also improve.  Logging normally does not occur in National Monuments or other “protected” resources, so rethinking management of them must be done.

It is for these reasons that the United Four Wheel Drive Associations prefer that all of the National Monuments named in the last 20-years  be managed by the BLM or the USFS for their entire list of resources, NOT for a few qualities associated with National Monuments.  The designation of these National Monuments was unnecessary, unwise, and unlawful.

About the United Four Wheel Drive Associations (UFWDA).

UFWDA shall be a non-profit corporation organized for the purpose of promoting the continued growth and organization of recreational four-wheel drive motor vehicle activities and maintaining access for recreational opportunities through education partnerships, stewardship and political awareness.