It appears Nevada will have another 700,000 acres of desert protected from development by Friday. Protected from what, nobody has said.
According to the Washington Post, on Friday Obama will declare a swath of land straddling the Nye and Lincoln boundary as a national monument, because Harry Reid wants it, even though nobody else does.
During a trip to Las Vegas in November, according to WaPo, Reid, who for two years could not get Congress to go along with his proposal to put the land off limits, asked Obama to create a national monument, partly as a buffer for a giant earthen and concrete piece of “art” on private land.
The “art” is described as “reminiscent of a ceremonial Mesoamerican city stretching across an expanse of desert nearly the size of the Mall” in Washington. The “artist” has been working on it for 50 years and allows only VIP visitors and journalists to view his work. It is called “City.”
“Explain it to me,” the paper quoted Reid quoting Obama.
“I can’t,” Reid said he replied.
Since this thing being carved in the middle of the desert is “art,” that’s OK with the self-appointed “conservationists.” But if a rancher wanted to build a landing strip for his private airplane, there would be a hue and cry about the destruction of wildlife habitat and vegetation and defacing the pristine desert.
In May Rep. Cresent Hardy got his hands on a draft proclamation prepared for Obama’s signature that states, “All Federal lands and interests in lands within the boundaries of the monument are hereby appropriated and withdrawn from all forms of entry, location, selection, sale, leasing, or other disposition under the public land laws, from location, entry, and patent under the mining laws, and from disposition under all laws relating to mineral and geothermal leasing …”
Hardy and Rep. Mark Amodei both objected and launched efforts to defund the proposal. Those efforts apparently are still in the talking stages.
On Tuesday night, WaPo says, Hardy sought to amend the Interior Department budget so as to deny funding for any new national monuments under the Antiquities Act in 17 counties in Arizona, California, Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, Oregon and Utah. The amendment is to be voted on by the full House.
County officials have objected to the designation for years and say it will hurt economic development efforts.
But the whims of powerful men are not to be denied. The WaPo story ends thusly:
“This was on nobody’s radar screen, and it certainly wasn’t part of the plan,” said one person close to the president who has been involved in the discussions. When the question of possible controversy was broached, Obama said: “I don’t care. I want this done.”
Reid visited Heizer’s art installation and its remote environs in 2007. He said went “to check off a box.” But the visit changed him. “I became a convert. … You have this magnificent work of art that this man spent half a century working on. And that’s quite a story.”
It is called executive fiat.
Hardy sent a “dear colleague” letter Tuesday explaining his amendment:
I will be introducing an amendment to the FY16 Interior and Environment Appropriations bill today alongside Congressmen Trent Franks (AZ-08), Paul Gosar (AZ-04), Doug LaMalfa (CA-01) Doug Lamborn (CO-05), Steve Pearce (NM-02), Chris Stewart (UT-02), Scott Tipton (CO-03), and Greg Walden (OR-02).
Our straightforward amendment prohibits public land management agencies in this bill from carrying out declarations under the Antiquities Act in counties where there is significant local opposition.
Importantly, this amendment does NOT defund the Antiquities Act in its entirety. Rather, it is a targeted approach that simply prevents proposed monument designations from proceeding in those jurisdictions where local stakeholders have expressed opposition and their desire for increased intergovernmental collaboration.
For some added perspective, I urge you to read my op-ed on the Obama Administration’s legacy project to designate more than 700,000 acres of my district as the “Basin and Range National Monument.” You can also find details on pending designations in each of my colleagues’ districts by reaching out to my staff contact listed below.
Empowering communities and local stakeholders most affected by monument designations will increase transparency, allow for local input, and result in improved management of our public lands. It is our responsibility to ensure that these communities have a legitimate voice in the process. I strongly encourage you to vote YES on the Hardy Amendment to do just that.