Public Land Management in the American West
The conversation about public land management in the American West continued Tuesday morning during an in-depth NPR segment featuring top officials from the Utah Governor’s Office, the Outdoor Industry Association and western historians.
Cody Stewart, Director of Federal Affairs for Governor Gary R. Herbert and Jessica Wahl, Government Affairs Manager for the Outdoor Industry Association (OIA) agreed on a number of points, including first and foremost that Utah’s public lands need to be protected and accessible, that extracting natural resources and preserving beautiful landscapes aren’t necessarily at odds and that the legislative process, not the Antiquities Act, is the preferred way to protect public lands.
On Dec. 28, 2016 Pres. Obama unilaterally set aside 1.35 million acres of land in San Juan County (larger than the state of Delaware) as a new national monument. The size is important because this decision was made behind doors by one office and one man, without local input. The full area is about 2,100 square miles. By comparison, Yellowstone National Park is less than 1,200 square miles.
Stewart is concerned that the Antiquities Act has become a nuclear option that could prevent good faith negotiations between public land stakeholders. When one side has the power to go straight to the President of the United States and obtain a unilateral monument designation, there is no real need to negotiate or collaborate with local elected officials, including leaders of sovereign tribes or farmers and ranchers.
In addition, Gov. Herbert has reservations about the feasibility of co-management between the local tribes and the federal government at Bears Ears, which was one reason he supported a Congressional fix called the Public Lands Initiative (PLI), on which the Outdoor Industry Association collaborated with Utah’s federal delegation for two years before pulling out and supporting a designation by President Obama, according to Wahl.
Wahl also praised the State of Utah for being the first to establish an Office of Outdoor Recreation and expressed her desire to see more states follow suit so that outdoorists and local stakeholders can have a more productive dialogue and a liason at the state level to improve results when it comes to land management.
Cody Stewart, Director of Federal Affairs for Utah Governor Gary Herbert, Jessica Wahl, Government Affairs Manager for the Outdoor Industry Association, and Patty Limerick, Director of the Center of the American West at the University of Colorado Boulder and Colorado State Historian all participated in the panel discussion.