Republicans Pushing Interior Secretary To Release "All" Documents Related to Potential National Monuments

A group of Republicans is calling on Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to release all documents and maps related to an internal study of potential national monuments in the West.

Last week Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Washington, the ranking member on the House Natural Resources Committee, and Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, the ranking member on the committee's national parks subcommittee, released a handful of pages of that document that pointed to 17 landscapes from Colorado to Alaska that President Obama potentially could set aside as national monuments under the Antiquities Act.

At the time the two charged that the administration was not providing the transparency that the president had promised when he took office and that the internal review of such documents "deliberately prevents local citizens most affected by a designation from having an opportunity to be heard before lands where they live and work to support their families are closed to productive use. There is no legitimate reason that land use decisions cannot be made in an open matter that allows for public participation."

On Friday the two congressmen, along with a dozen colleagues, sent a letter to Secretary Salazar asking him to release additional documents related to the consideration of additional national monuments. Interior Department officials were reviewing the request.

“If this internal document had not been exposed, Americans would still be in the dark about the Obama Administration’s potential plans to lock up millions of acres of land across the West,” said Rep. Hastings. “While Secretary Salazar says that the discussions are just ‘preliminary,’ no assurances have been given that the President will not designate these monuments. When you catch someone in the kitchen in the dark of night with their hand in the cookie jar, it’s very hard to believe they’re just checking to see what’s inside and that no cookies were just about to get eaten. The communities and those workers whose jobs could be directly affected by the locking up of these lands deserve to see a full picture of what was happening inside their government. We’ve asked for copies of documents relating to the planning, which includes coordination with outside groups, and all of the missing pages from the document we uncovered last week.”

“Western communities and residents that stand to be affected by these proposed monument designations have the right to know what the Administration is planning with regards to the future of millions of acres of both public and private lands throughout the West,” added Rep. Bishop. “Despite the DOI’s statements that the initial documents are simply ‘drafts,’ the American people deserve to know the full extent of the planning as well as the involvement of all outside parties. If the DOI is confident that it is operating with the utmost transparency then they should have no problem providing these documents expeditiously. However, given the number of congressional document requests made to DOI this past year that remain unfulfilled, I am not holding my breath.”

The letter seeks the following information from Secretary Salazar:

1. All pages of the “Internal Draft” document of which Reps. Hastings and Bishop initially obtained only pages numbered 15 to 21.

2. With regard to the “brainstorming,” a copy of any documents distributed at or in preparation for the meetings, a list of all participants or invitees, any notes taken at the meeting (s), and any memoranda, work product or follow up documents from the meeting(s). All records, electronic or otherwise, of meetings or discussions with private groups, individuals or other persons or entities that are not employees of the Department of the Interior where potential National Monument designations were discussed. All notes, agendas, memoranda or documents from those meetings.

3. All documents related to the Secretary’s initiative to compile a list of potential National Monument designations since July 1, 2009, including, but not limited to, maps.

4. Any communication with any person or entity outside of the Department of the Interior related to the Secretary’s initiative since July 1, 2009.

The letter was signed by the following Members:

Congressman Doc Hastings (WA-04)

Congressman Rob Bishop (UT-01)

Congressman Tom McClintock (CA-04)

Congresswoman Cynthia Lummis (WY)

Congressman Doug Lamborn (CO-05)

Congressman Wally Herger (CA-02)

Congressman Don Young (AK)

Congressman Jason Chaffetz (UT-03)

Congressman Dean Heller (NV-02)

Congressman Pete Sessions (TX-32)

Congressman Greg Walden (OR-02)

Congressman Scott Garrett (NJ-05)

Congressman Jeff Flake (AZ-06)

Congressman John Campbell (CA-48)

Congressman Denny Rehberg (MT)

Congressman Mike Simpson (ID-02)

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Comments

And this is a headline because...?

What is going on here? When I call up this article, it gives me a one-line sentence. After posting my sarcastic "reply", it shows an article about half a mile long. Now my sarcasm means nothing! Traveler: you are not playing fair.

Dottie,

In reply to your sarcasm (and being from Jersey, I know sarcasm...;-)), we try to be apolitical in covering news stories.

In reply to your second comment, not sure what you mean. We have been witnessing some fluky behavior since upgrading our underlying software, but the story opens fine for me.

I'm just guessing that the Congressmen who are worried about new National Monuments did not watch the wonderful documentary by Ken Burns~National Parks: America's Best Idea".

Well, I agree. What's the big deal with this? Obama read from his teleprompter that his administration would be the most transparent so...?

I suppose what I find distressing is this is nothing more than partisan politics, that the Republicans are just grandstanding against a Democratic president just as Democrats have grandstanded in front of Republican presidents. Where were these 14 Republicans when then-Vice President Cheney met secretly with energy interests to develop a national energy program?

As to the case at hand, is it really unreasonable for an administration of either stripe to analyze a situation internally before bringing a proposal public? Should Interior come out with a statement akin to, "Here's an informal list of Western landscapes we are currently reviewing to see if they merit national monument status, have at it!" Or, should Interior be allowed to come up with a specific list of prospective national monuments the administration would actually like to see and then hold it up to public and congressional scrutiny?

Wouldn't it have been more refreshing to hear Reps. Hastings and Bishop say something akin to, "We've come to learn that the administration is reviewing a list of Western landscapes for possible designation as national monuments. While we understand he has the powers through the Antiquities Act to make such designations, we would appreciate, and look forward to, an opportunity to review those candidates, along with the general public, and offer our thoughts on potential designations."

Finally, as a kicker, don't forget that Congress gave the president the power to create national monuments without its consent:

That the President of the United States is hereby authorized, in his discretion, to declare by public proclamation historic landmarks, historic and prehistoric structures, and other objects of historic or scientific interest that are situated upon the lands owned or controlled by the Government of the United States to be national monuments...

A thank you from Della.

Interesting information, Kurt.
I am sorry to say I was ignorant of it, as the 14 protesters should not have been. Thanks to your lucid history lesson, any fears on the part of those congressmen should be relieved that any suggestions made for monuments would displace anyone anywhere because they are already "situated upon the lands owned or controlled by the Government of the US..." No problem to any American, just smoke and mirrors and talk of cookie-jars to disturb the peace.
I appreciate peaceful solutions. I will send the document to my Friends.

Interesting..I find the quote: "Americans would still be in the dark about the Obama Administration’s potential plans to LOCK UP millions of acres of land across the West,” (said Rep. Hastings).
From my perspective Monuments and Parks "OPEN UP" our beautiful land for enjoyment..

The comment about the Ken Burns film is so appropriate. As with the designation so many National Parks the extractive industries have cried economic woe and a loss of local control throughout the last 100+ years of the National Parks and Monuments. The economic argument by the GOP legislators simply does not hold water. In the southwest since the creation of Grand Staircase-Escalante, Vermillion Cliffs, Canyons of the Ancients, Sonoran Desert, Ironwood Forest,, and Agua Fria National Monuments in the mid 1990's the economies of the towns surrounding the monuments have grown tremendously.

These elected officials should visit the towns of St. George, Springdale, Hurricane, Kanab, Moab, Escalante, Boulder, Cortez, and Page in the 4 Corners region along with Phoenix and Tucson near the last 3 monuments. These towns and cities are almost unrecognizable compared to 15-20 years ago because of the economic growth that has occurred as people from around the the U.S. and the WORLD come to experience the Parks and Monuments of the southwest or escape from the larger urban areas in search of solitude and a connection with nature. These 4 Corners towns are full of outdoor gear stores, motels, hotels, restaurants, guide services, brewpubs, mountain bike and jeep rentals, and other tourism related businesses, most of which are LOCALLY owned and operated. It is these protected areas of National Parks and Monuments that are the draw. The Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance (SUWA.org) has the economic studies to prove that the towns have prospered compared to other rural towns that do not have protected areas. If the tourism that is associated with these areas went away the economies of the towns in the 4 Corners would be devastated.

The local control argument is also specious. The lands are owned EQUALLY by ALL Americans and people living in urban areas, as I do in Phoenix, should have as much say in the management of those lands as the people who live in rural areas nearer the proposed monuments. "Local Control" is often simply a code word for "let us go in and extract as much as we can from the area cutting the timber, overgrazing the land, drill for oil, gas, and minerals and driving our ORV's wherever we d**n please". The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has done a questionable job of managing the lands with current levels of protection and multiple use. A large part of this is monetary resources devoted to protecting the lands but a big part is the pro-development mindset of the BLM and they continue to devote their money towards the extractive industries. All you have to do is see the devastating impact of ORV's around the Moab area on non-Monument lands or the BLM overleasing their lands for energy projects. The BLM has had to shut down access to a huge chunk of the Sonoran Desert National Monument because ORV's have run rampant across the desert landscape. Who is helping the BLM repair the ORV damage? Not the ORV "community" but various conservation groups from Tucson and Phoenix.

All of the areas that the Department of the Interior is looking at for possible national monuments deserve to be considered. These areas that are on the list are there not because some Washington bureaucrat has picked them but because citizens in the affected communities and states have been working for years, sometimes decades, to increase the protection of these areas before it is too late, as the West fills up with people. They are some of the national treasures that exist on BLM lands!

Political grandstanding aside, there are some valid arguments on both sides. National parks certainly create economic stimulus by bringing visitors in, but do they provide good paying jobs to the locals like some of the industries that the parks replace? I'm not saying that we should let mining, logging go unabated, but they also provide jobs for the locals. Furthermore, if we don't extract our raw materials from our own land, where will those come from? It's not like we will stop consuming simply because the mines are closing. I don't have any answers, but I certainly wonder.

Good points, Zeb, and we're developing a longer post that will explore some of those issues. For now let me share this: According to the Outdoor Industry Foundation, outdoor recreation generates $730 billion a year for the nation's economy. In Utah, the sum was $5.8 billion, along with 65,000 jobs and nearly $300 million in state tax revenues.

mobeale,

The comment about locking up the lands refers to the fact that if the lands are turned over the NPS then off-roading will no longer be allowed. I have listened to and seen footage on protests that Utahns have staged concerning the loss of those "rights." Many residents consider using ATV's the only way to enjoy their public lands and having that forbidden means the land is now "locked" and they can no longer enjoy the land that their tax money pays for. Although I don't agree with it, since I hate ATVs with a fiery passion, I can see it from their viewpoint. But it does kinda worry me that some people consider ATVs the only way to get around on public lands. As an avid hiker I do not want to share the trail with anything motorized (unless someone is disabled) and I am glad that there are places where someone can ride ATVs and places where I can hike without having to deal with them.

@Zebulon, logging - particularly logging of primary forest simply is not sustainable. The jobs won't stay, they can only be lost after the forest is gone or the living forest can be used to make an alternative living for at least some of the people but for a long time.

And most logging regions never diversified or expanded along the value chain. It's simply a tragedy when raw timber is transported out of the region and quite often even out of the country to Asia. The US (or for that matter western Canada, where the same issue is relevant) should not export raw materials but highly sophisticated products. Otherwise the wage level can't be sustained.

MRC, we're probably going astray here. Not a big fan of loggers, although Axmen is/was a neat series on TV, but it seems to me (again, I got no background) that logging does not have to be all or nothing. Sustainable logging is possible and is being done all over. Again, the 2x4 I got from Home Depot got to come from somewhere. In many places up in northern California (like say Humbolt county), the loss of logging jobs has hurt the local economy pretty badly, and in many cases, it's pot farms and meth labs that have become the way to make end meets.

As to whether we should export only high value added products, I tend to disagree. Not everybody is cut out to be a software developer or a biochemist. It's a good thing that we have a few industries left over (not many) where somebody can make a living without a college diploma.

Actually, there is a forest that was purchased by some conservation minded non profit organization up in northern Cal (about 4-5 hours from San Francisco) where they are attempting to strike a balance between sustainable logging and trying to develop recreational opportunities. That seems to me to be the way to go about it.