Anyone who has watched a Clint Eastwood western is familiar with the line he utters to a bad guy who is thinking of drawing his gun. Steel blue eyes, taut jaw, usually a toothpick in the corner of his mouth, a look of undeterred force and with a growly voice he dares his opponent to be dumb enough to try.
That response should be the model for President Barack Obama’s response to the many Republicans who think they can make a politically-winning issue out of the President using his authority under the 1906 Antiquities Act to declare the Boulder/White Clouds a National Monument.
Recently, the Republican-led House passed by a narrow margin (222 to 201) a bill designed to prevent the President from issuing such a declaration without first conducting a complete Endangered Species Act review of the action as well as holding hearings in the local area and conferring with a state’s governor and its congressional delegation before he could utilize the Antiquities Act’s power to withdraw lands from the federal domain. They conveniently ignore the fact that after a presidential declaration the law itself requires public hearings to establish the rules and regulations which will govern the set-aside.
Republicans are making two bad assumptions. First, they assume that requiring a strong showing of local support will set the bar too high for any President to even think of using the redefined Act. Second, they assume that local sentiment will always oppose turning an area into another land-restricting Federal entity.
Ever since the law was passed, most places where a President has used this authority have opposed the initial designation. In fact, local sentiment against protecting a national treasure in the national interest almost always comes about in spite of public sentiment, not because of local, public support.
According to the Idaho Statesman writer Rocky Barker, Interior Secretary Sally Jewel has made the mistake of assuming that a public meeting in Stanley will result in hundreds turning out to talk against the Monument designation. She sees such a hearing, controversial as it may be, giving Interior a better chance at selling a change in status. (more…)