Congressman lambastes Trump for national monument review

Basin and Range National Monument (R-J photo by Jeff Scheid)

Rep. Ruben Kihuen has unleashed a diatribe against President Trump over his executive order telling the Interior secretary to review national monument designations for the past 20 years, saying Trump doesn’t give a damn about Nevadans.

Democrat Kihuen flatly stated that most Nevadans support public lands and their permanent protection and criticized Trump for calling recent national monuments — such as the 1 million-acre Gold Butte and Basin and Range national monument designations Obama created in his final year in office — a “massive federal land grab.”

“What would be funny if it wasn’t so sad is that President Trump is doing exactly what he’s complaining about: imposing Washington, D.C.’s ‘wisdom’ on the people of Nevada,” Kihuen writes. “Instead of ‘returning control to the people’ as he has advocated, he’s side stepping the desires of Nevadans. Instead of being part of the conversation, Nevadans are told to shut up and sit down.”

This ignores the fact Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is currently in Arizona visiting the Bears Ears National Monument to begin what he is calling a listening tour on the topic of the more than two dozen national monuments created in the past 20 years.

This also ignores the fact that many accurately described the creation of Gold Butte and Basin and Range monuments as sops to one man, now-retired Nevada U.S. Senator Harry Reid.

Congressman Cresent Hardy — who Kihuen defeated to represent the 4th Congressional District, home to both monuments — complained, “We need to be sure local communities don’t have their concerns ignored by politicians eager to leave a legacy or pull favors for their friends by setting aside huge tracts of land. Nevada’s rural county economies are particularly sensitive, and any decisions that affect ranching, recreation or other types of land use activities should have as much local input as possible … but at the moment, they do not. Legacy building in the twilight of one’s career shouldn’t be the driver of our nation’s public land management.”

Congressman Mark Amodei, who represents northern rural Nevada, said in an interview, “One of the paybacks for Senator Reid being one of the administration’s backstops for six of their eight years is the monument thing. … Why the hell can’t you go through the public process?”

Then-Nevada Rep. Joe Heck said at the time, “President Obama often says ‘we are stronger as a nation when we work together.’ Apparently that rule does not apply to public lands issues when it involves his political allies. The Basin and Range Monument designation goes well beyond the intention of the Antiquities Act which limits parcels reserved by the President to the ‘smallest area compatible with the proper care and management of the objects to be protected.’ It is beyond belief that an area larger than the state of Rhode Island is the smallest area compatible with proper care and management of this land.”

Sources confirmed Reid’s role to the Washington Post: “It is only due to Harry Reid that this is getting done.” When told it was controversial in Nevada, Obama replied, “I don’t care. I want this done.”

Kihuen further accused Trump of looking out for businesses instead of Nevadans. “Now, President Trump is bucking years of precedent by threatening to revoke the protected status for these designations,” he writes. “Who is President Trump really looking out for? Perhaps it’s big oil and gas who want expanded drilling rights. Or mining companies that seek to extract resources from these federally held areas.”

Or perhaps Trump is sending out the Interior secretary to ask people who actually live near those monuments whether they might like the jobs those businesses create and the tax revenue they generate.

Lest we forget, Kihuen won the 4th Congressional District — which includes part of northern Clark County, the southern part of Lyon County and all of White Pine, Nye, Mineral, Esmeralda, and Lincoln counties — by about 10,000 votes but won in Clark by about 24,000. Hardy won every other county with margins of 2-to-1 or more.

Kihuen further claims, “The Nevada legislature recently passed a resolution expressing support for Basin and Range and Gold Butte. It can’t be any clearer, Nevadans across party lines have made their voices heard. They want these monuments.”
Actually, the resolution has only passed the Assembly and the vote was largely along party lines, with urban Democrats favoring it and rural Republicans opposed. Across party lines?
Who are you going to believe? Kihuen or your lying eyes?

Editorial: Interior secretary nominee should work with states on public lands

Ryan Zinke nominated to head Interior Department (Getty Images via WSJ)

Ryan Zinke nominated to head Interior Department (Getty Images via WSJ)

It is a bit disappointing that Republican President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee to head the Interior Department, which along with other federal agencies controls 85 percent of Nevada, does not embrace his own party’s call for more federal public land to be transferred to the control of the states and local governments, but at least freshman Montana Rep. Ryan Zinke recognizes the need for better cooperative management of those lands.

The GOP platform that came from the summer convention reads: “Congress shall immediately pass universal legislation providing a timely and orderly mechanism requiring the federal government to convey certain federally controlled public lands to the states. We call upon all national and state leaders and representatives to exert their utmost power of influence to urge the transfer of those lands identified.”

But Zinke told the Billings Gazette he doesn’t support the transfer of federal lands.

“Quite frankly, most Republicans don’t agree with it and most Montanans don’t agree with it,” Zinke said of the party platform plank. “What we do agree on is better management.”

He has proposed setting up watchdog panels composed of state, tribal and local government representatives and the mining industry to oversee Interior Department land management.

The Daily Signal online news site quoted Zinke as saying, “As someone who grew up in a logging and rail town and hiking in Glacier National Park, I am honored and humbled to be asked to serve Montana and America as secretary of interior. As inscribed in the stone archway of Yellowstone National Park in Gardiner, Montana, I shall faithfully uphold Teddy Roosevelt’s belief that our treasured public lands are ‘for the benefit and enjoyment of the people.’”

At least he includes benefits along with enjoyment.

Since he seems to favor cooperative management, he would do well to heed the suggestions made by a group of Western policy organizations recently in a letter to Trump and Vice President-elect Mike Pence.

The Western Governors’ Association, Conference of Western Attorneys General, Council of State Governments West, Western Interstate Region of the National Association of Counties, and the Pacific NorthWest Economic Region collaborated to produce what they are calling “Principles to Clarify and Strengthen State-Federal Relationship,” a true partnership, unlike the current tension between the two.

The letter outlines the framework that underpins the lengthy list of recommendations for cooperation: “Under the American version of federalism, the powers of the federal government are narrow, enumerated and defined. The powers of the states, on the other hand, are vast and indefinite. States are responsible for executing all powers of governance not specifically bestowed to the federal government by the U.S. Constitution. In many cases, states delegate a portion of their authority to counties and other local governments. Though local governments are diverse in structure, all are on the front lines of delivering vital services to residents.”

Among other things the associations ask that the new executive administration act on the presumption that sovereignty rests first with the individual states and not the federal agencies.

They ask that states be consulted before decisions are made. Currently the states are routinely consulted under the letter of the law but then largely ignored. Both Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval and Attorney General Adam Laxalt have complained that state input on such matters as sage grouse habitat management have been ignored by federal land agents.

The letter further asks that when new regulations are being promulgated that the cost to state and local governments be taken into account to ensure funds are sufficient to pay for compliance costs.

As for Zinke’s opposition to states taking control of federal land, perhaps he should heed a Wall Street Journal editorial this week that points out federal land agencies lose $2 billion a year. For example, the Forest Service assesses user fees of about 28 cents per dollar spent on recreation, compared to Montana’s $6.31. It is estimated that state-managed lands generate 10 times more revenue per employee than do the feds.

We call on Zinke to be cooperative but also compromise on his stance on the transfer of federal public land to the states — especially land adjacent to communities that can quickly put it to viable economic benefit.

A version of this editorial appeared this week in some of the Battle Born Media newspapers — The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News, the Mineral County Independent-News, the Eureka Sentinel,  Sparks Tribune and the Lincoln County Record.