Frank Bernheisel: The View From Here
Frank Bernheisel
Frank Bernheisel
Posted 05.20.17
Just Outside Washington


Terminate this charade

To: Secretary Zinke, U.S.Department of the Interior

I have lived many places in the U.S. from Maine to California, traveled to all 50 states and visited many parks, monuments, and other public lands. I am amazed each time by the variety and beauty of our public lands, and by the foresight of those who established and preserved these treasures.

I have talked to many people in the west and along the Colorado River including cattlemen, miners, environmentalists, and American Indians. They conveyed to me a wide range of opinions; pro-exploitation by private industry to Wilderness Act preservation. Some told me it was: "their land," which is partially true because the public lands belong to all of the American people. And the American people use their lands -- the National Parks and Monuments had over 300 million visitors in 2014.

President Trump has ordered a review of all National Monuments established since 1996, and you are responsible for this review. This review effort is a diversion of the Department's efforts and a waste of resources. The restricted budget of the Department of the Interior is insufficient to meet the maintenance needs of the parks and monuments. The deferred maintenance in 2015 was estimated to be $12 billion by GAO. A glaring example of the deferred maintenance is the Memorial Bridge, which alone needs $250 million in repairs.

This review effort is politically driven.

It is ironic that the main complainers about federal land management and National Monuments, in particular, are from Utah. This is the state that in 2012 passed a law demanding that the federal government transfer to the state more than 20 million acres owned by United States taxpayers.

And in 2013, during the federal shut-down, Utah payed $1.7 million to the federal government to keep five national parks, two national monuments and a national recreation area open. The reason was Utah did not want to lose the revenue that visitors to the federal lands bring to the state.

Secretary Zinke, the 27 National Monuments should remain intact and integral to the original designation. Exceptions could be made concerning small parcels of a monument when the state, where the monument is located, has a clear public purpose. These exceptions, if any, should be on the basis of a full review including environmental impact under the National Environmental Policy Act.

Exploitation of energy resources is not a sufficient public purpose at this time as the price of oil is low, there is a worldwide oil surplus, and the U.S. is near energy self-sufficiency. Further, U.S. policy is, or should be, conversion to low environmental impact energy sources and development of the necessary technologies in order to maintain the American lead in this area.

Secretary Zinke, terminate this charade and address the real problems of the nation's public lands.