Former Department of Interior (DOI) Secretary Bruce Babbitt wrote an article:
Many politicians--mostly Republicans (and some Democrats as well) are complaining vociferously about the 1906 Antiquities Act that provides Presidents the authority to designate National Monuments, and Rep. Bob Bishop [R-Utah] has recently shepherded a bill through the House of Representatives to "gut the law," as Babbitt notes in his May 26 HCN guest editorial.
A few months ago, I attended a meeting in Bozeman to hear from Sec. of the Interior, Sally Jewell, and Montana Senator Jon Tester. A question from the audience to Sen. Tester asked if he thought the President would consider a new National Monument(s) for Montana. Tester said he would oppose such a thing "without a lot of local support." Sec. Jewell seconded Tester, saying she too would have to see significant local support. No mention was made of the non-local citizens of the other 49 states and what they might support for their public lands in Montana.
In 1943, Franklin Roosevelt created the Jackson Hole National Monument, vastly expanding the tiny Grand Teton National Park that had been established in 1929. Roosevelt acted in the face of overwhelming local opposition including the entire Wyoming congressional delegation, all but a few members of Wyoming State Legislature, the Teton County Commission, the vast majority of the people of Teton County, and the U.S. Forest Service. Wyoming Senator Edward Robertson called the Monument "...a foul stinking Pearl Harbor blow," and locals predicted the Monument would ruin forever the economy of Teton County. Yet today, praise for the Park from every quarter is essentially unanimous. History has shown FDR’s wisdom and political leadership was right for America.
In Utah, Rep. Bishop’s home state, there are five National Parks. They're the pride of Utahns, and an enormous economic asset generating nearly seven hundred million tourism dollars a year. Four of those five Parks were originally set-aside by American presidents as National Monuments.
If the" local support" that Sec. Jewell and Sen. Tester want for any new National Monuments had been required for the creation of National Monuments in the past, Americans visiting the valley of Jackson Hole today would likely see wall to wall condos, honkytonks and worse . Likewise, four of the five now-cherished National Parks in Rep. Bishop's home state may never have happened.
Some local support is helpful, but what's really needed for the conservation of America's extraordinary landscapes today is foresight and political leadership. Babbitt has it right. Does Barack Obama?
by Rick Reese