State of the Debate

Debate: President repeats phony argument in attacking national monuments

First Published      Last Updated Apr 26 2017 12:51 pm

The argument from many elected officials in Utah — distressingly echoed Wednesday by the new president of the United States — is that the two big national monuments in Utah, and the many monuments in other states, result in millions of acres of land being "locked up" in "a massive federal land grab."

That's a completely specious argument, intended to give the impression that the acres involved were in private hands until some mean old president came along and impounded them. Every square inch of every national monument was already the property of the United States government, held in trust for the people of the United States.

Whether the lands in question should be parks, forests, designated wilderness, national monuments, air force bases or tar sand mines is subject to debate. Whose interests should be placed above all others is not. And it's not the people who happen to live nearby.

The land is not theirs.

Review or no review, Utah's national monuments should stay — Salt Lake Tribune Editorial, posted Tuesday

"Our new president, like any new president, is not only within his rights, but arguably doing no more than his proper due diligence, to order a review of policies laid down by his predecessors.

"So, all by itself, the move that is reportedly coming from the White House to have another look at the designation of various national monuments over the past 21 years is not necessarily a bad thing.

"But those who opposed Barack Obama's recent designation of the Bears Ears National Monument and Bill Clinton's 1996 preservation of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument should not get their hopes up that the administration will have either the desire or the ability to turn back time. ...

" ... But undoing or significantly cutting back on the land included in Grand Staircase-Escalante or Bears Ears would be unwise, perhaps illegal and clearly not in the best economic, cultural or spiritual interest of either the immediate neighborhood or the nation as a whole.

"A review that comes to any other conclusion would be a mistake."

Trump signs order seeking review of national monuments, says Bears Ears 'should never have happened' — Thomas Burr | The Salt Lake Tribune, posted Wednesday

"... 'The Antiquities Act does not give the federal government unlimited power to lock up millions of acres of land and water and it's time we ended this abusive practice,' Trump said. 'I've spoken with many state and local leaders, a number of them here today, who care very much about preserving our land and who are gravely concerned about this massive federal land grab, and it's gotten worse and worse and worse, and now we're going to free it up, which is what should have happened in the first place.' ..."

It's time to undo the federal land grab of Bears Ears — Orrin G. Hatch | Special to The Washington Post, posted Tuesday

" ... When Obama declared the Bears Ears National Monument, he ignored the years of work that Utah's congressional delegation spent fighting to pass legislation to protect the region through a fair and open process. He ignored the state legislature and the governor. He ignored the stakeholders and local residents who were striving together to find a workable solution. He ignored the best interests of Utah and cast aside the will of the people - all in favor of a unilateral approach meant to satisfy the demands of far-left interest groups. ..."

The Utah proposal Hatch refers to was the Public Lands Intitative, cooked up by Reps. Rob Bishop and Jason Chaffetz. His defense of it rings hollow.

Public Lands Initiative is too little, too late — Salt Lake Tribune Editorial, July 17, 2016

" ... The reality is that the PLI has problems that go beyond the Bears Ears. In too many places it bent toward the energy industry, and it would allow the counties to claim roads where there aren't any and shouldn't be. The PLI's county-driven process never accepted that it was about America's land, and so it never gave adequate voice to the tribes or to national environmental groups. That cost the congressmen years that could have gone into real talks.

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