Monday, March 10, 2008

Received from American Land Rights Association

House Vote on 26,000,000 NLCS BLM Acres Wed. 3-12

...Congress seeks to codify new NLCS Land Grab -- (From Federal Parks and Recreation Newsletter); Seventeen House members from both parties teamed up in April, 2007 to introduce legislation (HR 2016) that would give the National Landscape Conservation System official Congressional certification.

The system, administered by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), was created administratively by former Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt during the Clinton years.

In June 2000 the Interior Department under the guidance of former Secretary Babbitt established the 26 million acre NLCS in BLM to protect what they called special areas.

The NLCS consists of major conservation areas in 12 western states, including 15 national monuments, 13 national conservation areas, Steens Mountain area in Oregon, Headwaters Forest Reserve in northern California, 36 wild and scenic rivers, 148 wilderness areas, 4,264 miles of national trails, and more than 600 wilderness study areas.

Making the NLCS permanent threatens recreation, access, grazing, mining, oil and gas and many other uses. Gradually these areas will be turned into parks with traditional uses strangled and roads cut off. Private property owners and inholders in the areas can say so long to their property rights. You will see new areas nominated for NLCS status gradually eroding BLM multiple-use.

Four Democratic senators introduced counterpart legislation (S 1139) in April, 2007. Said chief sponsor of the Senate bill, Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), "Given the broad public support for these areas, I expect this bill to be non-controversial and it is my hope that it will be able to move quickly through the Congress and enactment into law." Bingaman chairs the Senate Energy Committee. Non-Controversial?

The four lead House sponsors of HR 2016, all co-chairs of an NLCS caucus, are Reps. Mary Bono (R-CA), Rick Renzi (R-AZ), Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ) and Jim Moran (D-VA). Reps. Bono and Renzi need to receive lots of contacts. The others are not likely to change their position but should receive as many calls as possible.

Creating this massive new conservation area program (read land grab) will take money especially from the National Park Service that is way behind in deferred maintenance and other uses. It will also take money from vast areas of BLM lands. The NLCS will eventually become a huge new agency with thousands of additional bureaucrats added over time.

Any promises made when these areas like Steens Mountain and the Missouri Breaks National Monument and all the other affected monuments as well as the Grand Staircase National Monument and many others will be conveniently forgotten as more and more regulations are added.

The NLCS will convert millions of acres of now accessible BLM land into park-like areas with park-like regulations and will be gradually managed like a park. Gradually existing uses will be strangled out of existence.

Supporters of the NLCS insist they are not competing with other conservation programs for fiscal 2008 appropriations. One said, "We do want to see a shift in the funding priorities of the BLM itself. Specifically, the oil and gas program of the BLM has become the dominant program of the BLM at the expense of some the best lands and waters of the American West."

It is the nature of the Congressional appropriations beast that money for all programs in the Interior appropriations bill comes out of the same pot and the programs compete with each other.

One of the sponsors of the bill to codify the NLCS, Sen. Ken Salazar (D-CO), said the measure would not affect management of lands or existing rights or public access. Added Salazar, "The bill does, however, recognize that these landscapes are of great interest to the American people and should be managed to protect their values."

Does anyone believe setting up the NLCS would not change the management of these areas? If that were true, why would Congress want to do it?

American Land Rights will be sending out thousands of faxes, letters and e-mails to alert landowners, rural communities and allies about the danger and work to build more allies in Congress to stop the NLCS from passing. ALRA needs your support to defeat the massive new National Landscape Conservation System.

It is critical that private property owners and Federal land users make a big push now to head off this attack on private property and access to Federal lands. It is so much cheaper to fight it early than to wait. Hit it hard now. Call, write and fax your Congressman. You must overwhelm his or her office with calls between now and 5:00 pm Wednesday, March 12th. You may call any Congressman at (202) 225-3121....

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