Residents vs. special interests

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Cindy Whitehair’s LTE is a great example of how special interests have shown the difference in perspectives between how locals see the environment and how special interests see things.

This point is especially driven home when Ms. Whitehair said “There are indeed uses that are allowed in a national forest (for example) that are not allowed in a national monument. One such use is the local tribes’ ability to practice their religion freely. Many of the lands that were swallowed up by President Obama’s Bears Ears designation are sacred tribal lands that are used by local Navajo tribes for religious ceremonies and their access to those sacred lands was cut off when the lands went from a national forest designation to a national monument designation.”

I’m confident that DC special interest organizations know this but haven’t said anything about that the average person who isn’t a local isn’t aware of. It’s a big difference. There’s a policy difference that comes from this, too. Because locals know about these nuances, they’re best equipped to influence how the land is used. There’s no question that the Sierra Club and other national special interest groups were thrilled with President Obama’s unilateral declaration. Ryan Zinke, President Trump’s Interior Secretary, though, took time to travel to Utah to actually talk with residents.

The Trump administration’s decision was made by the federal government but it was made based on the input of locals. The Obama administration’s decision wasn’t made with input of locals. The quality of the decisions is enormously different. Secretary Zinke’s op-ed explains why they did what they did:

Bears Ears National Monument will be modified to create two units: the Indian Creek Unit and the Shash Jáa units. Between these two units, which will now span over 200,000 acres of federal land, the proclamation continues to protect important objects, from the Bears Ears buttes and headwaters, Moon House Ruin, and Doll House Ruin, to unique paleontological resources and areas sacred to Native Americans. The Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument will be modified to consist of three smaller units known as the Grand Staircase, Kaiparowits, and Escalante Canyons units.

Why wouldn’t we want locals having input into the use of lands as beautiful as this?

Ms. Whitehair answers that question in this paragraph:

While that is not all bad, these special interest groups were not acting from a stewardship standpoint (as the local Navajo actually are).These special interest groups did not want to listen to the local tribes who were opposed to the designation or to the residents who were concerned about the impact to an already fragile local economy.(Utah’s main economic generator is tourism and if you can’t get into these wild areas, why go to those counties?)

Congress should modify the Antiquities Act by requiring greater local public input into these decisions and by requiring an individual act of Congress to create a national monument over a certain size. That way, individuals have a greater input and special interests from 1,000 miles away have little input.