It’s pretty much spring, and a fine time to get out and enjoy America’s National Monuments, especially any of them that were designated by Bill Clinton or Barack Obama, because they were terrible presidents, so Donald Trump signed an executive order today calling for a “review” of national monuments designated by the three previous presidents (G.W. Bush included, for “balance,” wink-wink). Best go visit them before they’re strip-mined to Make America Great Again. It’s OK, we have plenty of pictures already.
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke will undertake a “careful review” of a couple dozen national monuments designated after January 1, 1996, and which cover at least 100,000 acres. Zinke will take a serious look at whether to recommend Congress change their status as protected land. Now, if that sounds like those criteria just might have been carefully crafted to undo some very specific National Monuments that Republicans don’t like, then you are a very cynical person indeed, and right on the money. Because it is totally about the money. Or local input, you know, so an out-of-control federal government won’t ignore the wishes of ranchers, timber interests, and the extraction industries, who are every bit as important as a bunch of stupid “sensitive habitats” or “natural wonders” or “sacred Native American lands” and “irreplaceable archaeological sites.” If critters and Indians — Republicans give equal amounts of respect to both — think they have a claim to Western lands, they shouldn’t rely on Democrat handouts, they should get jobs and buy them.
Zinke explained all this Tuesday evening, saying President Trump simply wanted “to make sure the people have a voice” when it comes to lands that might be closed off to making the people — the ones who matter — filthy rich. Or in Zinkean English,
“It restores the trust between local communities and Washington,” Zinke told reporters, adding that the sweeping review of more than two dozen monuments aims “to give Americans a voice and make sure their voices are heard.”
Americans who vote Republican, that is.
Rs in the west have, since the Reagan years, wanted to get rid of or at least limit the Antiquities Act of 1906, passed by that notorious socialist Theodore Roosevelt, who claimed to be a Republican but is only acknowledged by the party when it’s convenient. The Antiquities Act gives presidents the power to declare national monuments without an act of Congress, so obviously any Democrat national monuments, like Grand Staircase-Escalante (Bill Clinton, 1996) or Bears Ears and Gold Butte (Barack Obama, 2016), need a new look, because there is all sorts of money to be made and now the stupid things are off-limits to the exploitation that God clearly demanded in the Bible.
Not that Zinke will act rashly or anything. He’ll take a whole 45 days to review the Bears Ears monument before making a specific recommendation to please Utah Republicans, who are very unhappy that all that land is just sitting there going to waste now. The Antiquities Act doesn’t empower presidents to undo a national monument designation, though Crom knows until now no president has even tried it. Zinke’s review will carefully weigh whether preserving the land as part of America’s natural and cultural heritage actually counts for anything, as compared to these important considerations:
Zinke said he will examine whether any designations had led to “loss of jobs, reduced wages and reduced public access” in areas where grazing, fishing and other extractive activities take place. “We’ll look at what sectors have been affected, plus or minus,” he said, acknowledging that with several designations, “some jobs probably have been created by recreational opportunities.”
Not that a bunch of damned campers voted for Trump, of course. Even so, folks in the tourism industry aren’t crazy about the monuments being opened up to logging, mining, and drilling, so their economic influence, plus a lot of angry outdoorsy people, may be enough to help build resistance to changes in Congress, we can hope.
Besides, the executive order and its nod to the folks who want to dismantle public lands have already been issued within Trump’s first 100 days, so after that, if we’re lucky, he may lose interest.
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