President Obama today was to announce the creation of a national monument in southern New Mexico — the 500,000-acre Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument.
It looks suspiciously like an opening round in a bid to carry out a plan — first outlined in a secret Bureau of Land Management in 2010 — that would lock up abut half of the BLM’s 264 million acres, about the size of Colorado and Wyoming combined, and halt most productive private use, such as ranching and mining and oil and gas exploration.
The Washington Times reported that about half of the land involved in today’s announcement is to be set aside as wilderness, meaning it would be closed to vehicles and construction and mining. Local ranchers say it’s a land grab that will interfere with their grazing rights.
The Congressional Western Caucus released the 2010 memo — which is headed “Internal Draft – NOT FOR RELEASE” and labeled “Treasured Landscapes” — Tuesday. It lists more than two dozen specific areas from which the agency seeks to lock out most human activity. Three of those are in Nevada.
The Times article warned that the New Mexico designation could lead to conflicts like the one recently in the Gold Butte area when the BLM tried to roundup Cliven Bundy’s cattle but were faced down by armed citizens protesting the confiscation.
Interestingly, the second item on the BLM’s list of Treasured Landscapes is: Gold Butte, Nev.:
“Northeast of Las Vegas, Gold Butte is named for a historic mining town and tent city of 1,000 miners in the early 1900’s. Gold Butte is much more than remnants of early mining. It is 360,000 acres of rugged mountains, Joshua tree and Mojave yucca forests, outcroppings of sandstone, and braided washes that turn into slot canyons. Gold Butte is important to numerous wildlife species, including desert tortoise, desert bighorn sheep, the banded Gila monster, great horned owls and a great variety of reptiles, birds and mammals. Gold Butte has abundant archaeological resources, including rock art, caves, agave roasting pits and camp sites dating back at least 3,000 years, and notable historical resources that deserve conservation, including Spanish and pioneer mining camps dating back to the 1700s.”
The memo also lists Heart of the Great Basin, Nev., which from the description appears to be a swath from roughly Austin to Tonopah in Lander and Nye counties. Another area is Owyhee Desert on the Nevada-Oregon border in Elko County. No acreage was listed these two areas.
The Western Caucus described the memo as outlining plans to grab millions of acres of Western land by using the list in the memo. “The President is going down the list, and sealing off vast swaths of the West on behalf of his special interest allies, who view our states as their personal playground.”
The BLM secret memo recommended that the president use the Antiquities Act to set aside National Monuments, which is what today’s announcement does. It also calls for “maintaining healthy wildlife populations, ecosystems, airsheds, watersheds, and riparian areas” — without deigning to mention that most of those watersheds and riparian areas include privately held water rights.
Western Caucus Co-Chairman Steve Pearce of New Mexico said this is the latest example of the president bypassing Congress and the American people to push his special interest agenda.
The 21-page memo: BLM Treasured Landscapes Plan