In May I wrote about the Fight for Federal Lands. After the President’s decision this week to dramatically shrink two national monuments, it seemed prudent to re-visit the conversation…
On Monday the President announced his intention of reducing the national monument designations for Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante by nearly 2 million acres. Several lawsuits have already been filed, the most prominent coming from outdoor apparel company Patagonia. While this writer is impressed with the conservation work done by Patagonia, they unnecessarily veered into hyperbole with their declarative statement that “The President Stole Your Land.” The truth is that the land was always federal land and will remain in federal hands. The President has made it clear in the past that he does not agree with transferring federal lands to the states so the (potential) change of designation simply means that it will be managed differently. The dispute here is about conservation verses preservation. President Trump believes we should open some lands up to revenue-generating activities like oil extraction or logging, rather than closing them to those activities along the lines of a pure preservation model.
Patagonia is challenging the legality of the President undoing a national monument designation. The truth is that this has been done in the past, just not on the scale we saw this week.
I would greatly encourage readers to listen to Steven Rinella’s brief statement on the issue. He wisely recommends a cautious but guarded approach. He also makes a worthwhile point that both parties have room to improve on wildlife issues. He states that while the Left is generally good at protecting habitat and animals, they are not so good at protecting the rights of hunters and anglers. On the flip side, while the Right does a good job of defending the rights of hunters and anglers, they are generally not very good at protecting habitat and animals. If I’m being honest I’m tempted to give the Left more of a pass here, simply because they don’t know any better. Many on that side of the aisle unfortunately see hunting and fishing as antiquated pastimes and they don’t understand the huge amount of science that goes into successful wildlife management and keeps our game animals plentiful. To the contrary, the Right should know better. Most educated conservatives know the Republican legacy of conservation and those that support monetizing federal lands are making a devil’s bargain with private interests and willfully ignoring the most likely outcomes.