There’s a fight happening in the Mountain West that people in the Midwest aren’t that aware of. Midwesterners heard about it from time-to-time when President Obama or President Clinton put federal land off-limits to mining with the stroke of a pen and the Antiquities Act of 1906. According to this report, the Antiquities Act of 1906 passed to “protect prehistoric Native American antiquities.”
As time passed, progressive presidents like Clinton and Obama started using the Antiquities Act to limit the use of federal lands. When President Obama created Bears Ears National Monument in 2017, he took “1.35 million acres” off-limits for mining. That’s half the size of Yellowstone National Park. When President Clinton created Grand Staircase-Escalante in 1996, he put 1.9 million acres off-limits. Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument is bigger than Glacier National Park.
Wilderness-hungry environmental activists (like Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, aka BHA) are already running ads to essentially threaten lawsuits if the Interior Department follows through with reducing the size of these national monuments:
From the reaction of many environmental groups to Secretary Zinke’s review, you would think antiquities will go unprotected. For example, a $1.4 million advertising campaign says “Mr. Secretary, don’t turn your back on Roosevelt now.” According to Land Tawney, president of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers (BHA), the organization sponsoring the ad campaign, “Our national monuments have stood the test of time, and the present review could trigger a game of political football, leaving some of our most cherished landscapes in limbo.”
In Western states like Utah, Montana, Wyoming, Nevada and Idaho, $1.4 million is a monstrous ad campaign. Make no mistake about this. BHA’s goal isn’t to limit land usage. BHA’s goal is to prohibit land usage it doesn’t agree with.
Bears Ears could be reduced to 160,000 acres.
That’s still a ton of land. The beauty of the land would still be maintained:
It would still be breathtaking:
BHA’s vision is to “create de facto wilderness areas where backpackers displace loggers, ranchers, and miners. They do this in the name of protecting public lands, suggesting that throngs of Patagonia-clad hikers, who demand new trails, climb rock walls with holes drilled in the rock for protection, and leave dozens of fire rings around popular lakes, do no damage.”
Secretary Zinke isn’t focusing on the lawsuits that will inevitably get filed:
At issue in Zinke’s review is the phrase in the act limiting designations to “the smallest area compatible” with “the protection of objects of historic and scientific interest.”
I don’t doubt that these land-hungry environmental activists will find judges sympathetic to their causes. I’m equally certain those sympathetic judges will get slapped down in the appellate courts.