Saturday, February 13, 2016

The train of historic legacy has left the station. And there is no going back

Two reports. They pretty much cap everything we know until now plus some new stuff. Highlights:

1. The scene of the presidential plane overflying the conservation legacy the president is leaving to posterity speaks for itself. I think this particular aspect of the situation is obvious now.

2. Interesting detail about the expectation that the next republican president will try to change the Antiquities Act. This may be another reason why Obama feels the sense of urgency to press forward with the conservation areas.

3. Since the fallout of 1996 in Utah no president tried to ram conservation areas thru despite local opposition. This president is being given ample warnings not to do it. The congressional team from Utah warned Obama that the resistance in the state will be fierce. It's also very indicative that the two democratic senators are not on board with the Canyonlands proposal in Oregon. They sure know that the measure is going to provoke fierce local response.

4. We now know Skinner's sources. Two democratic senators and a republican congressman from the state told him that the Canyonlands is coming.
By MARK LANDLER & JULIE TURKEWITZ (NY Times) {

Date = FEB. 12, 2016

Source = With 3 California Sites, Obama Nearly Doubles Public Land He’s Protected


Speaking to reporters on Air Force One, Eric Schultz, the White House deputy press secretary, said the designations built on “the administration’s commitment to protect our land and water for future generations.”

As Mr. Schultz spoke, the presidential plane was flying over some of the land, near Joshua Tree National Park, that Mr. Obama had designated. The pilots had deviated slightly from the normal route between Los Angeles and Palm Springs to give Mr. Obama and his passengers a view of the sun-baked terrain.

Last summer, Mr. Obama designated more than a million acres of land in California, Nevada and Texas to the national monuments list, invoking the legacy of Theodore Roosevelt, who championed the national parks system.

[...]

In 1996, President Bill Clinton caused an uproar when he created the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in Utah despite the opposition of local officials. Since then, presidents have been more careful in using the designation, generally choosing places where the idea has regional support, according to Mark Squillace, a law professor at the University of Colorado who worked on the Grand Staircase project during the Clinton administration.

The California desert designation is considered less contentious than previous ones because it has the support of the state’s senators.

Environmentalists are pushing for national monument designations in other places, including a region of southeastern Utah known as Bears Ears, and a region of eastern Oregon known as the Owyhee Canyonlands. The canyonlands are not far from the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, the recently occupied federal bird sanctuary.

In both places, regional officials have spoken out against the efforts.

[...]

Republicans have made frequent efforts to alter the Antiquities Act, and Professor Squillace said that Mr. Obama may be pushing for new designations because the act’s future is uncertain.

“If a Republican is elected president, it would not be surprising if we were to see changes to the Antiquities Act,” Professor Squillace said.

“That would dramatically change things. I doubt we’d see many more monuments.”


By Jeff Mapes (OPB) {

Date = Feb 2, 2016
Source = Owyhee Wilderness Proposal In Spotlight After Refuge Occupation

The White House website boasts that Obama has already protected more square miles under the Antiquities Act than any other president, although the vast majority has been in marine sanctuaries. Consideration of national monuments has stepped up as Obama enters the last year of his term, which is when presidents often take actions that don’t require congressional action and are aimed at cementing their legacy.

[...]

“All the arrows are pointing to a designation,” said Bob Skinner, a Jordan Valley rancher who leads Citizens in Opposition to the Owyhee Canyonlands Monument. He said he heard from Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, both D-Ore., as well as from his congressional representative, Republican Greg Walden, that the administration was considering the designation.

Merkley said in an interview that he resisted introducing legislation on the Owyhee, saying he preferred to focus on wilderness proposals that have local support. The senator said he hasn’t taken a stand on the Owyhee proposal.

Merkley said he wants to make sure the White House understands “all the concerns the community expresses. … If the administration chooses to do a monument, I want to make sure they address those issues.”

Wyden has also stayed neutral, said Wyden’s spokesman Keith Chu, adding that “he’s definitely asked for feedback from everyone who has an interest.” }