Friday, February 12, 2016

With Bundys in jail, a wave of conservation frenzy is already coming

In previous posts I reasoned that proposed conservation areas are the next most likely flashpoint, if the rural unrest keeps spreading. This is because locals seem to be generally ambivalent about the Bundy tactic of challenging the status quo thru armed occupation of federal lands. They seem, however, to be quite ready to fight back when it comes to attempts to change the status quo initiated from the other side. This makes prospective conservation areas look like the best way to provoke a post-Bundy rural backlash.

Now here comes this article and it appears that we have truckloads of this stuff coming. With Obama's presidency drawing to an end, a major hunt after legacy opportunities is under way. And it seems to be very much focused on conservation monuments. I would like to highlight a few of things here.

First of all, it's done by decree bypassing usual democratic procedures.

Two, interviews in the article suggest a rather surprising degree of commitment to the conservation cause on the part of the president and his aids/advisers. Their determination to continue doesn't seem to be very affected by the standoff in Oregon. If anything, the standoff seems to have only stiffened the resolve to press forward with the plans

Three, with Bundys in jail, some people may be tempted for a show of force. This is like to show the militias and others who is the boss. Senate Minority Leader, no less, is pressing to declare the cradle of the Bundy rebellion a national monument.

By Juliet Eilperin (Washington Post) {

Date = February 12, 2016

Source = Obama to designate new national monuments in the California desert

Obama has unilaterally protected more than 260 million acres of America’s lands and waters under the Antiquities Act of 1906, which gives the president wide latitude to safeguard at-risk federal lands that have cultural, historic or scientific value.

The act is among the most powerful tools at any president’s disposal. Franklin D. Roosevelt invoked the law more than any president in history; Harold L. Ickes, his interior secretary, kept a pile of potential national-monument declarations in a desk and pulled them out whenever Roosevelt was in a good mood.

Obama’s aides do not have a similar system, but they share those earlier aspirations.

“We have big, big ambitions this year, so let’s see what happens,” said Christy Goldfuss, managing director of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, adding that the administration is focused on “local requests for action. It’s really been driven by activities on the ground.”

On Friday, Obama will designate more than 1.8 million acres of California desert for protection with the creation of three national monuments: Castle Mountains, Mojave Trails and Sand to Snow. The new monuments will connect three existing sites — Death Valley and Joshua Tree national parks and the Mojave National Preserve — to create the second-largest desert preserve in the world.

The big question: What next?

Other possible future designations include Bears Ears, a sacred site for several Native American tribes in southeastern Utah; Stonewall, the site of a 1969 inn riot by members of New York City’s gay community; the New England Coral Canyons and Seamounts...

Senate Minority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.), who convinced Obama to declare a sizeable monument in Nevada’s Basin and Range Province last year, is still pressing for getting another one at Gold Butte, which is an hour’s drive from Las Vegas but has been degraded and largely unpoliced since Bundy and his armed followers confronted Bureau of Land Management officials there in 2014.

Officials are weighing these proposals amid protests out West, such as the armed occupation of Oregon’s Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, which aimed to wrest control of federal lands from officials in Washington. The standoff may have hurt the prospects for increased protections around the state’s Owyhee Canyonlands, though the idea is not off the table entirely.

But Jim Messina, a close Obama adviser who worked on conservation issues when he served as White House deputy chief of staff in his first term, said the president is personally committed to the issue and is convinced that most Americans back the idea.

“Protecting public access is a huge political winner across the West. A bunch of extremists in Oregon can’t change it,” he said. “There’s no thought, or no reason, to back off on our agenda.” }