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Old 06-30-2016, 07:16 AM
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jim putman jim putman is offline
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Dear Jim,
Sometimes the word “management” in the name of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management is downright oxymoronic. Here is a prime example.
On July 10, 2015, President Obama proclaimed the Basin and Range National Monument on 704,000 acres in southern Nevada. The action was supposed to protect some of the nation’s most undisturbed desert lands containing petroglyphs and prehistoric rock art as well as important wildlife habitat and migration corridors.
Even as the President Obama designated this area for enhanced conservation, his BLM which manages the land was secretly negotiating to reroute a major off-road race through the new monument’s most rugged tracts. PEER blew the whistle on the impending deal and filed a complaint with both the White House and Interior Secretary charging that BLM is not only nullifying the presidential proclamation but also breaking laws requiring public involvement and environmental review prior to any major federal action of this type.
Adding insult to injury, not only did BLM leave the public in the dark about race planning but earlier this month BLM invited public input about developing a monument management plan without mentioning the race at all.
Race organizers rushed to the defense of BLM with a letter improbably explaining why this high-speed race through the desert would not disturb “any rocks, any shrubs or any wildlife.”
My favorite part of this rebuttal read:
“Off-highway racing is a very viable sport. Obviously, it doesn’t appeal to the PEER community, people who like to sit indoors and read books. I’m not saying anything is wrong with that…”
Now that this whole fiasco is out in the open, BLM is stuck between an ORV and a hard place. The race is slated for this August 19 and 20th, with the roughest part of the race course running through the new monument on the first day. At this late date, the agency still has not issued the draft Environmental Assessment (EA) it must finalize in order to issue a permit allowing the race just weeks away.
We are hearing reports of BLM infighting and that Senator Harry Reid (D-Nevada) who was responsible for Obama creating the monument has expressed his displeasure. But the clock keeps ticking.
In order for the race to go off as scheduled, here is what’s likely to happen. BLM will –
• Issue a draft EA –probably tomorrow, on the Friday before the three-day 4th of July weekend, the perfect time to deflect public attention from a sleazy move (a process called putting out the trash);
• Allow 30 days of public comment and, after another two weeks, make an illegitimate and laughable “Finding of No Significant Impact” on the EA, allowing it to issue the permit the day before the race to run out the clock on any possible legal challenge.
Regardless of the outcome, the episode raises troubling questions about BLM’s stewardship of this monument as well as the 24 other national monuments and scores of other protected areas in its custody. Called the National Landscape Conservation System, they contain some of the West’s most spectacular landscapes, covering approximately 32 million acres – an area the size of North Carolina.
The challenge is that after these monuments are declared, the environmental community often walks away. That is precisely when PEER goes to work. Help us safeguard these special lands.
Sincerely,
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Old 06-30-2016, 09:44 AM
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Old 06-30-2016, 12:11 PM
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From ARRA Newsletter July 2016:

The House Appropriations Committee has completed its work on the FY17 Interior Appropriations measure and that measure is slated for full House action in July. The Committee added a very important provision to the bill that would forbid the designation of national monuments in specific counties in eight different states. For this to become effective the Senate would have to agree to the provision and that is unlikely. However, the provision does focus attention on the ongoing controversy surrounding monument designations and the ramifications of those designations.

An example of unexpected ramifications has to do with the 704,000 acre Basin and Range National Monument in Nevada that President Obama designated back in July, 2015. In the President’s proclamation, he specified that motorized recreation would be permitted “but only on those roads existing as of the date of this proclamation.” An organization called PEER, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, has filed a formal complaint with the Bureau of Land Management because the agency is going to authorize an off-road race in the Monument area. It is important to note that this race has been held in this area for over 10 years and the permit seeking permission for this year’s race was filed in May, 2015, two months before the area was designated as a National Monument.

One of PEER’s complaints is that BLM is allowing this race to go forward before it completes a new management plan for the Monument area, something it is required to do within three years of the actual designation. It is totally unrealistic to assume that they agency could have completed this task within one year of the designation so the PEER complaint is without merit.

The PEER intervention with this off-road race is just one good example why the Appropriations language having to do with national monuments is so important. It’s time to take a long pause on any more designations.
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