OPINION — Recently, the US Department of the Interior (DOI) released its latest land use plan amendments for eleven western states. These plans were drafted with the intent of saving an already flourishing Sage-grouse population.
In 2011, DOI Secretary Salazar invited eleven western governors to draft collaborative solutions to conserve Sage-grouse habitat in a manner in which the States can lead. Utah, and the other states stepped up in true western fashion. After years of hard work and millions of dollars the end of the process has come, and the time to deliver on that promise by the Secretary is now.
To the surprise of the west and its governors, and in violation of federal law, the BLM land use plan amendments unilaterally rejected the efforts of the states. DOI unleashed a paradigm that removes more than 10 million acres of land from economic public access… a lifeline in the west. Including over 228,000 acres in Utah.
No longer can Utahns travel the public lands without far reaching travel restrictions. No longer can new technologies be deployed on public lands to develop the next energy resource. No longer can those acres remain available to responsibly drive the Utah economy in ways it has for over 119 years.
DOI has delivered one of the largest federal land grabs in the history of the US, in the shortest order and with the least deference to the leadership and residents of Utah who depend and recreate on these lands.
It is noteworthy that seven of the bi-partisan western governors filed formal protests, including Governor Herbert whose protest to BLM said “BLM attempts to divert attention away from its illegal decision, by creating a smoke-screen.”
It is without question these land use plans have charted a costly course to litigation. In the federal government’s rush to completion, the cost to the taxpayer will be enormous as they stand in a courtroom defending the indefensible.
We now must turn to Congress to abate this legal collision course. There are multiple efforts in Congress at this moment, prohibition language in spending bills and stand-alone legislation. These efforts to keep public lands open and stave off costly litigation have champions in Utah’s own Rep. Rob Bishop, Rep. Chris Stewart, and Sen. Orrin Hatch.
They are on the leading edge of driving solutions to address the greatest threats to Sage-grouse — wildfire and invasive species. Sadly, their message and that of the governors were largely passed over for massive land use restrictions that do little to address either.
It is important the efforts of Reps. Rob Bishop, Chris Stewart, and Sen. Orrin Hatch and Gov. Herbert continue. The BLM’s outright rejection of the governors’ consistency review conclusively demonstrates that the Federal Government has no interest in listening to the voice of states. The result is the single greatest assault on multiple-use and access to federal public lands for recreation and economic growth from which Utah may never recover.
About American Exploration & Mining Association
The American Exploration & Mining Association is a 120 year, 2,500 member, non-profit, non-partisan trade association. AEMA members are in 42 states, including Utah.
Submitted by Devon Coquillard, communications and outreach manager with the American Exploration & Mining Association
Letters to the editor are not the product of St. George News, its editors, staff or contributors and are published “as is” without edit. The matters stated and opinions given are the responsibility of the person submitting them; they do not reflect the product or opinion of St. George News
Ed. note: On request, the following documents were submitted to St. George News by the American Exploration & Mining Association as referenced in and in support of the above Letter to the Editor. The documents were then submitted to Gov. Gary Herbert’s public information officer, Aimee Edwards, who confirmed in an email to St. George News Friday that the documents so attributed are authentic and were produced by the governor’s office. Likewise, the DOI letter to the governor was submitted to the BLM-Utah and Megan Crandall, its media contact, confirmed by phone Friday it is authentic.
- An Evaluation of BLM and Forest Service Proposed Plan Amendments As Adequate Necessary and Balanced Conservation Provisions for Greater Sage-grouse – State of Utah July 29 2015
- Letter from Utah Gov. Gary Herbert to BLM-Utah and Intermountain Region-Regional Forester – July 29 2015
- Letter from Kathleen Drake for Utah Governor’s Office to BLM Director re Protest of Proposed BLM and Forest Service Plan Amendments Greater Sage-grouse – State of Utah – June 29 2015
- Letter from US Department of Interior to Governor Herbert – BLM Response to the Governor’s Consistency Review – Utah Greater Sage-grouse Proposed Land Use Plan Amendment – date stamped Aug 6 2015
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