SunSpecial: Too wrong to be Right   Leave a comment

Creation of a new National Park; Monument; Trail; Preserve; or other unit of the National Park Service – each a natural or historic area (sometimes both!) set aside from development for the enjoyment of all people – isn’t an easy process and once accomplished should be a cause for celebration. It’s not everyday that an area is identified and protected as something so special, it’s highest value is to left alone. Since taking office in 2009, our current President has approved nineteen new National Park units; from January 2015 until today, he has designated three new National Monuments in California that protect more than 1.8 million acres of public land; unique ecosystems; and provided additional refuge for threatened and endangered species. But it seems you can’t please everyone all the time, and while everyone in the US who appreciates open spaces or wild places; or clean air or clean water; or a healthy environment should be happy, there’s a group of politicians in Washington who are upset about these new national lands – and this group just always has to be ‘Right’.

Public lands can be shaped in one of two ways: Through grass-roots organization (which can do more than just protect grass, and its roots) that inform, educate, and make aware the importance of a specific site or area, and by engaging with government officials and elected representatives ultimately result in a congressional action that is voted upon by Congress and approved by the President; or lands can be designed by the President as culturally, historically or environmentally unique and of greater importance to the people as a whole rather than any private or commercial development. As his duty and responsibility as President, the current office holder has special powers that were transferred to him when he was bitten by a radioactive spider. No, that’s not right, really these powers were created by Congress (no comment on any connection between mutated arachnids and congressmen) as part of the Office of the President, which not only allow but entrust whoever is currently President to make decisions and actions based upon his determination of what is best for the country and all its people, not just what might be fitting for a small (or influential) group. One of these powers – the Antiquities Act – was approved by Congress in 1906 to allow Presidential action in preserving and protecting American natural, historic, and scientific lands and sites. Monuments as large as thousands of acres; and as small as a few hundred square feet have been set aside through this Act, and the Supreme Court – as many say, the final word in the land – has multiple times upheld these Presidential actions.

'Sheepstep', the Desert Bighorn, is shocked to hear some people don't think his home is special enough to be preserved.  He's also surprised he can stand on the side of a rock without falling off.

‘Sheepstep’, the Desert Bighorn, is shocked to hear some people don’t think his home is special enough to be preserved. He’s also surprised he can stand on the side of a rock without falling off.

However recently a few members of the House of Representatives decided the best way to represent the people who voted for them is to go against this long-standing Presidential responsibility and are calling for an investigation into the Presidents’ declaration of the Mojave Trails; Sand to Snow; and Castle Mountains National Monuments in the California desert, enacted this February. Also, these representatives are questioning Presidential approval of six other monuments dating back to January 2015. Since taking office in 2009 our current President has approved nineteen new National Park units; of these five have completed extensive public and private review process, been authorized by Congress and are awaiting budgeting, land acquisition, and final organizational steps. While other proposed Park units are under review and (for a time) outside the influence of Congress, it seems the Presidential applications of the Antiquities Act is what’s got these House members upset. Assuming, of course, they really are upset about these National Monuments and not about, say, political differences that they hold against a President who belongs to a different political party and holds contrasting beliefs. Of course virtually every recent President – including those in the right wing – has declared or approved natural and historic sites: Richard Nixon created the Golden Gate National Recreation Area in San Francisco and Gateway National Recreation Area in New York City. President HW Bush added fourteen new National Park units and his son George Bush created or approved seven units. Under Ronald Reagan, upheld by many as the founder of the current Republican Party (and who once said “trees cause more pollution than automobiles do”) eighteen new National Park units were added. In 1906 Republican President Theodore Roosevelt created the National Park System much as we know it today.

Yet today these House representatives, elected by the people, are charging “lack of transparency and consultation with local stakeholders” by the application of the Antiquities Act. Despite extensive research, public comment, countless hours of outreach and almost endless pages of reports completed and presented to the President before he took action. No one really knows what these House members are trying to achieve. We’d like to think this is an April Fools joke – but today’s April third, not the first – so if there’s any joke in this, it isn’t for our enjoyment, but rather our loss.


Michonne Says: All these national places are for the people? What about for marmots and other animals, too? Does that mean more men will be coming into the forest and the fields? I don’t like that one bit. Or maybe it means the forest and fields will be left alone so the men can visit and play and look, but not change things. I like THAT a lot.

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