My view
Are public lands being sold to the richest lobby?

The Bears Ears controversy could become a best “seller.” Oh wait, it already has! The public has been sold a bill of goods under the name of “protection.” Lands that are already “public” and open to everyone, and protected by the Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service, are suddenly being confiscated by the federal government and changed into national monuments and parks. Lands across the nation are turning into trophies in the presidential showcase, with 25 already on display and others being targeted.

This theft is being orchestrated in multiple states in the name of “protection,” and it is of proportions never seen before in the history of the United States. This insidious “campaign” for more “protected” land is not about preservation but about power. As of August 2016 our national debt was $19,492,084,009,780.39. Whoever pays that debt will own the land and have the power.

This land grab ploy often uses indigenous people, the Antiquities Act, or visions of “desecrated” landscapes to spin the need for national monuments. Let’s see how this was masterminded and is playing out in the words of one of the nation’s strongest lobby groups, The Conservation Lands Foundation (CLF) of Durango, Colorado.

(All quotes are from CLF board meeting minutes, San Francisco, California, Oct. 24, 2014)

Lands at Risk: CLF Campaign — targeted areas in 2014

Targeted Lands: ”current status and strategies for the National Monuments Campaign, including the most recent designations of the San Gabriels in L.A., and the Pacific Remote Islands National Marine Monument. Upcoming and ongoing campaigns: Beryessa Snow Mountain, Gold Butte, City, Boulder White Clouds, Cedar Mesa, Coast Dairies, CA Desert and Browns Canyon. CLF staff feel as though we are currently well positioned to secure designation for most if not all of these areas before the end of President Obama’s second term.”

One of those rural areas is in San Juan County, Utah, but the same story is spun and recycled over and over, in every state being targeted.

Fallacies not facts

Dick Moe stated, “Cedar Mesa has the most unique cultural sites in the nation and are not protected.”

These lands are already protected by the Department of the Interior. The Bureau of Land Management has authority to limit harmful activities, prohibit irresponsible uses, and enforce existing laws. However, the federal government is not adequately funding national parks, or protecting public lands in many parts of the country. The NPS has a two-year deferred maintenance list totaling over $11,493,168,812. Utah’s deferred maintenance is $278,094,606. If the federal government cared about “protection” they already have the power to do so. If they cannot afford it now, why do we believe they can afford it when there is one more national monument?

While visiting San Juan County, Secretary Jewell said, “This is so pristine; I can’t believe it’s not protected.” There lies the oxymoron. The Bears Ears area and mountain range HAS been protected. That IS why it is so pristine! It’s been protected well by the Forest Service and local Ute, Diné, Anglos, and Hispanics. All this happened while still being used for herbs and ceremonies and by hunters, campers, wood-gatherers, cattlemen, trail riders, hikers, and all those who have enjoyed and used it the past 200 years. Local people have kept it pristine. Very few ruins dot that mountain landscape. The one thing it also has is life-giving water, which supplies towns below to Ute, Navajo, Hispanics, and Anglos alike. We protect it because it is our lifeline. We don’t want our drinking water put on “deferred maintenance.” Neither the CLF nor federal bureaus seem invested nor care about the lives of rural America.

CLF is using Native Tribes as pawns

One CLF member admits to relying on the Navajo Nation, but asks, “What happens if we separate from them or disagree with them. Without their support the White House probably would not act.” They are using coalition members from the Arizona and Colorado tribes as kings in a game of chess, and tribal members as pawns.

Obviously, CLF has money. They “raised $12 million (60 percent of goal). One member noted an additional $6 million will likely be received through foundation support over the next two years, and emphasized that the last $2 million will be the hardest to raise.”

Local opponents raised money by selling T-shirts and No Monument decals. Should such decisions be controlled by the wealthy?

Everyone has been contaminated by CLF policies, plans and hype — government officials including important cabinet members, congressmen, all states with public lands, down to the poorest counties and reservations in the nation.

The final questions: To whom is the United Stated indebted? Who has been paying our bills? And who has something to gain by owning more and more lands in the United States?

Janet Wilcox has lived in San Juan County for 45 years, a retired high school teacher, and founder of Blue Mountain Shadows, a regional history magazine, available at Back of Beyond Books.

ByBy Janet Wilcox