Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Interior Releases More of Leaked List of Potential National Monuments

The Interior Department has released the rest of a partially leaked document listing potential sites for new national monuments, but the move did nothing to quell Republican accusations that the Obama administration is plotting to lock up public lands.

House Republicans in February received a leaked copy of pages 15 through 21 of a document that details 14 Western sites potentially eligible for national monuments designation under the Antiquities Act of 1906, a law that allows the president to create new monuments without congressional approval.

The Republicans have been demanding the rest of the document since, which included pushing a "disclosure resolution" through the House Natural Resources Committee in the spring. Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah) today announced Interior had handed over the first 14 pages of the document to his office in late July.

The newly released pages of the document detail the Bureau of Land Management's goals for expanding its National Landscape Conservation System. The agency considers up to 140 million acres of land -- more than half of the 264 million acres it manages -- as "treasured lands," the document says.

The document calls on the administration to first support legislative efforts for new conservation designations and turn to executive action "should the legislative process not prove fruitful."

"However, the BLM recognizes that public support and acceptance of preservation status is best achieved when the public has an opportunity to participate in a land-use planning or legislative process," the document says.

Such assurances did little to satisfy Bishop, who said the new details support his charges that the Obama administration is planning to block energy development across millions of acres of Western lands.

"Thousands of Westerners whose livelihoods depend upon access to our public lands stand to be affected by these decisions, and yet this document blatantly goes out of its way to exclude their input or participation," Bishop said. "If there was any question about whether or not this administration has declared a war on the West, these new documents are evidence enough."

But Interior officials say the document reflects an initial brainstorming session about which areas may merit more serious consideration.

"Secretary Salazar believes it is important that the Department of the Interior serve as wise steward of the places that matter most to Americans," said department spokeswoman Jordan Montoya. "For that reason, he has asked [Interior's] bureaus to think about what areas might be worth considering for further review for possible special management or congressional designation."

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