Is Bush Administration Moving to Shuck Some Congressional Oversight on Public Lands Management?

U.S. Rep. Raul Grijalva claims the Bush administration is working to erode congressional oversight over public lands oversight.

In a move that could be interpreted as a thumb in the eye of congressional oversight, the Bush administration is moving to revoke Congress's authority to direct the Interior secretary to withdraw public lands from mining under certain situations, according to U.S. Representative Raul Grijalva.

At stake is the current ability of the House Natural Resources Committee and the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee to direct the Interior secretary to withdraw certain lands in emergencies so Congress can determine whether permanent protection for the lands in question is necessary.

Earlier this summer, you might recall, Congressman Grijalva announced that he believed sufficient threat existed to Grand Canyon National Park to withdraw more than 1 million acres of surrounding federal acreage from the possibility of being mined for uranium.

The issue of uranium mining and the Grand Canyon surfaced late last year after the U.S. Forest Service decided, without holding any public hearings, to allow for exploration of the radioactive fuel within a few miles of the park. Earlier this year three groups filed a lawsuit to halt the exploration, saying the Forest Service failed to follow National Environmental Policy Act guidelines when it authorized Vane Minerals to drill test holes at up to 39 sites near the Grand Canyon.

According to Congressman Grijalva, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management now intends to rescind the rule that allows the House Natural Resources Committee, which the Arizona Democrat chairs, and the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee to direct the Interior secretary to withdraw certain lands in emergencies. And he says the BLM will give the public only 15 days to comment, and has provided no environmental analysis of the impacts of the proposed action.

"It is clear that this last-minute move by the Bush administration, put out right before a three-day weekend when Congress is not in session, is designed to undermine our effort to protect the Grand Canyon from uranium mining and contamination," contends Congressman Grijalva. "For the last eight years, the Bush administration has done everything in its power to reward its friends in industry who seek to exploit our public lands for mineral wealth, timber, etc. but this goes beyond the pale.

"Instead of giving Congress time to consider how to protect the crown jewel of our National Park System, the Grand Canyon, from the impacts of dangerous and potentially life-threatening uranium mining, the department is choosing instead to rush this regulation through, giving the public almost no time to comment."

According to the congressman, the emergency withdrawal authority has only rarely been used. It was previously used three times by Congressman Mo Udall to protect important lands that were under threat, and most recently when Mr. Grijalva notified the secretary to withdraw lands around Grand Canyon National Park from uranium mining.

Regarding Mr. Grijalva's own request to withdraw the 1 million acres from mining, his office says the Interior Department has so far refused to comply with the emergency withdrawal notification, allowing uranium mining to continue on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.

"The Interior Department is being sued by environmental groups for failing to comply with its own regulations that require it to withdraw lands when notified to do so by the Committee on Natural Resources. Instead of following the law and their own regulations, they are attempting to throw out the rule, subverting the will of Congress and the people of the United States who want to see the Grand Canyon protected," says the Democrat.

Comments

I hope everyone sees the pattern that is developing in the waning days of this Administration. The Interior Department proposes: changing gun regs in the parks; establishing new mountain biking regs for the parks; fast tracking 6 new management plans for BLM lands in Utah that will increase off road vehicle use and resources development in these areas; eliminating the requirement for USF&WS consultation on proposals that may impact endangered species; and ignoring Congressional action on mining around Grand Canyon. The Administration also ordered wildlife agencies to ignore global warming as a potential impact on endangered species, saying that no single cause could be isolated as causing direct or indirect impacts. These agencies were also told to ignore the cumulative effects of climate change because they are of no relevance in determing whether the proposed action has an effect on a listed species or critical habitat.

They are trying to accomplish through regulatory change that which they could not accomplish legislatively. It's not a pretty picture.

Rick Smith

Rick, just like the bailout of corporate criminals on Wall Street and the clowns from Homeland Security who grope me every time I try to fly to Pittsburgh, you've gotta realize by now that centrally controlled government is the worst way to run anything.

I mean ANYTHING!

As far as federal lands go anything that is a energy or mineral resource is all being fast tracked (stolen) by administrative directives. The Bush Texas model, now the Colorado resource raid, and now what is left is now being handed away on a silver platter. Heck even the rents where recently reduce by 20%. Given that the housing market has no more liquidity Bush and his Spoiled System cronies are going for what is left.,.. OUR natural resources! That is why the Endangered Species Act was eviscerated over the summer by administrative directive. There has been very little time or no time for public given at all for public comments. I call it Corporate Feudalism.

I'm not surprised by Bush's political chicanery to remove public lands (within national parks boundaries) for more rape, greed and pillage. What precious resources we have left must not be exploited by this careless and reckless administration. This last ditch efforts by the Bush administration is another example and tactic to continue with it's ruination policies without a care or concern for it's destructive practices to the environment. Watch this administration burn bridges to cover it's tracks of dirty misdeeds before leaving office. Bush is probably laughing in his beer knowing and marveling at his destructive empire...which is soon to crumple.

As a reformed alcoholic, George W. Bush no longer consumes alcoholic beverages. Thus, while gazing out over the smoking ruins of his failed presidency may make him melancholy or vindictive or whatever, he doesn't laugh over, cry over, or do anything else with beer -- at least nothing stronger than the O'Douls (<0.5% ABV) depicted in some scenes of "W."

Bob, very cleverly put! But, my strong discontent for the man (too put it mildly) and his unconscionable disregard for the protection of our natural resources and heritage runs high. Maybe he isn't sipping but smoking foreign tobacco of some sort...it sure shows with his bizarre behavior over the past eight years.

Osama Binladan couldnt have done a better job of raping our natuural resourceses our economy and bringing this country to its knees. I hope the Bush administration is proud.