September 2016

Are Public Lands Being Confiscated to Pay National Debts?

By Janet Wilcox, Retired school teacher, San Juan County, Utah

The Bears Ears controversy could become a best “seller.” – Oh, wait it already is! 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 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 is a tale of deceit, manipulation, unbridled power, and environmental lobbyists dangling promissory carrots to out- of- state coalitions. This theft is being orchestrated in multiple states in the name of “environment” 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. (All quotes below come from the Conservation Lands Foundation or CLF Board Meeting Minutes San Francisco, CA 24 October 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 on-going 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.” That is a direct quote. One of those rural areas is in San Juan County where I live, but the same story is spun and recycled by over and over, in every state being targeted. Since 2014, the Cedar Mesa target has now expanded to the Blue Mountains and beyond and is referred to as Bears Ears. Environmentalists Gone Wild should be the title of this "best seller".

Fallacy: Dick Moe in the DLF meeting stated,” Cedar Mesa has the most unique cultural sites in the nation and are not protected.” Fact: These lands are already designated and protected by the Department of the Interior. The BLM has authority to limit harmful activities, prohibit irresponsible uses, and enforce existing laws. However, the Federal government currently is not adequately funding National Parks, or protecting public lands in many parts of the country. The NPS has a 2-year deferred maintenance list totaling over $11,493,168,812. (that's billions, folks) 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 the green landscapes in the northern part of the proposed Bears Ears monument, Secretary Jewell said, “’This is so pristine; I can't believe it's not protected.’ There lies the oxymoron. The actual 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, Dine’, 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. And the one thing it does have is life giving water which supplies towns below, to Ute, Navajo, Hispanics, and Anglos alike. We protect it because it is our lifeline. Why should we trust the Federal government to do that? 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.

Look behind the smoke and mirrors of media spin:
The illusion that this is a “bottom up” effort driven by indigenous people is false. The Coalition Native group was organized by CLF. This is a Top Down Organization and they are carefully watching all players from Secretary Jewel, down to each tribe as illustrated in their minutes. “Struggles with Secretary Jewell; she is not being a strong advocate for the Antiquities Act, but continues to show gradual improvement. With strong leadership from the White House this has become less of a roadblock.” Yes, we were duped into thinking she was honestly seeking “local input” when she visited this past July.

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 grand scale game of chess, and tribal members as pawns.

Money is Power but does Might mean Right? (2014) “In the event that the Senate turns after the mid-term elections and there are more attacks on the Antiquities Act, CLF is leading a broad coalition of national organizations that are increasingly focused on defense. The Wyss Foundation and other funders have set aside some funding resources specifically for this purpose. Do we believe as a nation that elections, campaigns, and land grabs should go to lobby groups with the most money or with the best spin?

Obviously CLF has money. They “raised $12 million (60% of goal). One member noted that 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 should have such problems. We’ve self-sustained so far by selling t-shirts and decals And of course there was the $30,000 no match funds they gave to Friends of Cedar Mesa. How would that feel to be the targeted minion of somebody’s million-dollar campaign?

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?