Each day brings a new attack on our public lands from those elected to office. Seem’s to be their number one priority: Scrapping our lands. In one day, yesterday (Tuesday), Utah Rep. Chaffetz met with tRump requesting the White House to actively oppose and work to reverse the Bears Ears Monument designation; Congress successfully voted to limit public input on the public land management process, and Patagonia announced they were pulling out of the twice-held trade show, Outdoor Retailer, because of last Thursdays push to sell 3.3 million acres of our public land. In just one day, a lot has happened.
First off, Rep. Chaffetz, the guy who recently pulled his anti-public lands bill from consideration and tweeting, “I hear you,” after the bill received a huge backlash, met with trump to encourage un-designating Bears Ears as a protected monument. As their “subject number one,” the two discussed the 1.35 million-acre national monument designated by President Obama in December.
“Just last week Representative Chaffetz withdrew a piece of anti-public lands legislation after a strong backlash, saying ‘I hear you,’” Jesse Prentice-Dunn, advocacy director at the Center for Western Priorities, said in a statement. “In asking President Trump to abolish the Bears Ears National Monument, it’s clear he didn’t get the message.” We will see very shortly what exactly was built during that meeting. We can guess what direction things will take, as nominee for Interior Secretary, Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-MT), promised in is confirmation hearing that, once confirmed, his first trip would be to Utah to address the “pending problem” of Bears Ears and make a recommendation to the president.
Tuesday also saw the House’s Congressional Review Act (CRA) resolution, which passed 234–186, and will force BLM to revert to its 1983 planning process. Efforts over the past couple of years reformed the process as to allow for public debate and input earlier in the process.
“BLM took meaningful steps … to accommodate requests from local governments and the public in reworking land-use planning,” Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, said in a press release. “Now, Congress is taking steps to reduce agency transparency and limit the public’s ability to have a say in how their public lands are managed. While a few concerns might remain, Congress is going about this the wrong way.”
With this action, the next president in 2020 won’t be able to change this rule without Congressional approval.
A lot has been lost. Finalized in December 2016, the Final Land Use Planning Rule, or “Planning 2.0,” was the product of over two years of public input and more than 3,000 public comments. The rule made BLM’s land use planning process faster and more inclusive, giving all users —including hunters, anglers, ranchers, scientists, hikers, local governments, and energy industries — more opportunities to weigh in early on in planning.
“Nothing in that rule can be re-instated in the next administration unless a new law by Congress is passed,” Shaleas Harrison of the Wyoming Wilderness Association said in a press statement. “So many of the good provisions of the planning rule, such as having more comment time and having the public comment more often, [are] not going to happen. And it really sets the BLM back decades.”
The new rule transfers power to D.C. and away from local communities directly impacted by public land management decisions.
And finally, yesterday, a major player in the outdoors recreational industry announced that they were pulling out of Utah in search of a more friendly state for their trade show, Outdoor Retailer. After Rep. Chaffetz introduced H.R. 621, Patagonia had announced, along with several leading brands in the industry, their disapproval, and shock. More recently, a resolution passed by the state legislature and signed by the governor urging the new president to rescind the Bears Ears National Monument designation.
“Because of the hostile environment they have created and their blatant disregard for Bears Ears National Monument and other public lands, the backbone of our business, Patagonia will no longer attend the Outdoor Retailer show in Utah,” said Patagonia president Rose Marcario in a news release. “… We are confident other outdoor manufacturers and retailers will join us in moving our investment to a state that values our industry and promotes public lands conservation.”
On Monday, organizers for Outdoor Retailer began to search for new state hosts for their trade show. Outdoor Retailer has been held in Utah for the past 20 years and is held twice a year. A relocation by the organizers would most certainly hurt Utah’s standing in the outdoor recreation community. However, it seems as though Utah’s office holders are already doing that.
These new and relentless attacks on our public lands are hard to ignore. Looks like I will be adding meetings with Congress to my national road trip to advocate for a renewed commitment to our public lands. Sometimes it is necessary for the public to walk the steps of Congress and lobby for our wild.