Gosar fights 1.7M-acre land grab
Arizona congressman holds rally to prevent national monument
By BRAD JONES
GPAA Managing Editor
An Obama administration plan to designate 1.7 million acres of public lands in northern Arizona as a national monument came under fire at a recent rally in Mohave County.
More than 120 people, including local ranchers and miners, attended the April 9 event, billed as “Government Land Grabs: Exposing the Truth.”
The rally was spearheaded by U.S. Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., April 9 in Kingman, Ariz. About 20 speakers representing local businesses, county and state agencies spoke out against the proposed Grand Canyon Heritage National Monument.
In an interview following the rally, Gosar called the proposed national monument an unconstitutional land grab.
“This is strictly a power grab that would prohibit grazing, forestry projects and mining,” Gosar told the Pick & Shovel Gazette.
“This is an unconstitutional taking,” said Gosar, adding that the land grab will do nothing to help Arizona’s economy.
“Mining is actually something good that is contributing to our economy, and you’re prohibited from having access to a claim?” he said.
The monument, if proclaimed by executive order, would also restrict the use of off-road vehicles as well as hiking and camping, he said.
“They control who goes past GO, collects $200 and gets to enjoy these lands and who doesn’t,” he said. “They don’t want you on the land; they don’t want you to have access, utilize it or to honor their promises they’ve made to the western states and their people.”
Antiquities Act of 1906
Gosar is fed up with abuse of the Antiquities Act of 1906, which grants the president the power to declare national monuments without the consent of Congress.
The brevity of the Antiquities Act has been broadly interpreted. The law states that a proposed monument must include “historic landmarks, historic and prehistoric structures” or “objects of historic or scientific interest.” Also, the amount of land a monument may encompass “shall be confined to the smallest area compatible with the proper care and management of the objects to be protected.”
Though well intended, since the Antiquities Act was signed into law by President Theodore Roosevelt, it has gone from preserving specific areas of historical significance, scientific value and natural beauty to obvious land grabs. Today, huge swaths of public lands are being designated as national monuments to restrict or ban mining, forestry and grazing, often to appease radical environmental lobby groups.
“The intention of the law was for hundreds of acres, maybe a thousand, and now its up into the millions of acres,” Gosar said. “The president just finished grabbing a million acres in California. It is egregious.”
Since 1906, most presidents have invoked the Antiquities Act to proclaim national monuments—many taking full advantage of the loosely worded law, and clearly disregarding the language “...shall be confined to the smallest area ...”
‘Mother of all land grabs’
Controversy erupted in the mid-’90s when, despite much opposition from local residents, President Bill Clinton invoked the Antiquities Act to designate 1.7 million acres of southern Utah as the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.
Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, denounced the move as “the mother of all land grabs.”
According to a Newsweek Sept. 30, 1996 magazine article, “Monument in the Red Rock,” by Daniel Glick and Sharon Begley, “Residents of Kanab, Utah, a small town bordering the Monument, shut down their businesses to protest the declaration of Grand Staircase. Furious that President Clinton could and did make such a decision without any local input or notice, people of this rural town released black balloons and flew their flags at half mast; area restaurants advertised for ‘Clinton Burgers: 100 percent Chicken.’ ”
Today, the amount of land being eaten up by restricted land use designations such as national monuments is simply staggering.
“When President Clinton designated the 1.7 million acre Grand Staircase-Escalante monument, it impugned and further debilitated the act,” Gosar said. “And, President Obama is moving forward at an unprecedented rate.”
Gosar places the blame for these massive land grabs not only on presidents who sign the executive orders, but squarely on the shoulders of three radical environmental groups-—The Wilderness Society, Center for Biological Diversity and Sierra Club. These groups have lobbied the government and used sue-and-settle tactics to force limits on human activity on public lands.
“We actually have documents that have shown these [groups] are the ones that are conspiring behind closed doors to lock up these lands,” said Gosar, adding these groups have taken out full-page ads in newspapers thanking Obama for the land grabs.
By not allowing multiple uses of the land, closing down access and allowing the overgrowth of forests is a recipe for disaster on public lands, Gosar said.
“They’re actually destroying it because, particularly in Arizona, we’ve had some of the most catastrophic wildfires. Some of the invasive species they say they are protecting us from are actually generated by the fires,” Gosar said.
He contends that the federal government can’t afford to manage national monuments, wilderness areas and national parks that it already has, never mind adding millions more acres.
Gosar, who has introduced a legislative bill to the House of Representatives Resolution 3946 that would scale back the Antiquities Act and limit presidential powers. The Protecting Local Communities from Executive Overreach Act, or HR 3946, would update the Antiquities Act in order to protect property rights, water rights and jobs.
The power of the purse
In the meantime, the best way to stop the onslaught of more government land grabs is for the House of Representatives to deny funding for national monuments, Gosar said.
“We, as Congress, have the power to not spend a dime to implement any of these executive orders. That’s what they are and we just need to have a Congress and a leadership in Congress that understands the power of the purse, and has the backbone to enforce it,” he said.
America’s Great Outdoors
For entrenched urbanites and skeptics who may not believe the government is really taking public lands at an alarming rate, Gosar has a simple fix: “Come out and try to enjoy the western lands ... Try to take an off-road vehicle on one of the trails that’s been decommissioned in western Arizona,” he said. “Tell them to walk a mile in our moccasins, and they’ll have a whole different perspective.”
A staunch opponent of the government’s stay-on-the-path and look-but-don’t-touch philosophy on public lands, Gosar mocked America’s Great Outdoors initiative, which supposedly aims to encourage more youth to experience nature.
“That’s the forest of the future—the concrete jungle ... and the inner cities,” Gosar said.
He also criticized Interior Secretary Sally Jewell’s recent announcement of “The Next 100 Years Conservation Plan” and calls for more land grabs.
Placing huge boulders in the middle of otherwise usable roads defies common sense. It creates safety concerns, blocks access in fighting forest fires and is grossly unfair to the young, elderly and handicapped who may have no other
reasonable means of access to experience nature but by these roads, Gosar said.
“That just shows you the hypocrisy of her argument,” he said.
GOVERNMENT LAND GRABS: EXPOSING THE TRUTH
“While originally created in good faith, the Antiquities Act of 1906 has been repeatedly abused in order to appease special-interest groups and bypass the legislative process. President Obama has exceeded the intent of this law more than any other American president, designating or expanding 22 national monuments and locking up more than three million acres of land. National monument designations under the Antiquities Act typically have significant consequences that negatively affect grazing rights, water rights, wildfire prevention and other land management activities. Our nation’s public resources are best managed when the public is intimately involved in the process.” — Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Arizona
Brad Jones is the Managing Editor/Communications Director for the Gold Prospectors Association of America. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Article as featured in the Pick & Shovel Gazette June-July 2016 edition.