Saturday, October 22, 2011
Congress needs to stop closing off public lands


Butch Meriwether
Butch's Brew

Most people are aware of Department of Interior Secretary Ken Salazar's efforts to close certain areas of Northern Arizona, areas within the state and/or the county.

Salazar and the government's latest round of attempted closures of certain areas include the proposed federal withdrawal of mining from the 1 million acres surrounding the Grand Canyon. And folks, I have to say this is just the first of many "smoke-filled-backroom-underhanded" political maneuvers by our government to keep us from our public lands.

I honestly believe it is Barack Obama's, Ken Salazar's and most all other radical U.S. Government hierarchy agenda is to close off all federal lands in order to keep everyone off them, all in the alleged reasoning of "saving the lands for future generations" and "protecting us from ourselves." I think this is just a bunch of BS (sorry if the term BS offends you) and the bottom line is they really don't want hikers, off roaders, bicyclists, horseback riders or even ranchers grazing their herds on federal, U.S. Forestry and BLM lands. Basically, they want vast portions of our lands to be off limits to everyone; you know just like the secret Area 51 in Nevada where if you happen to enter that area, they are authorized to use deadly force - shoot you on sight!

First off, everyone must realize BLM lands belong to all us. They are public lands and BLM is entrusted as stewards of our lands. The lands do not belong to them even though if you ask some BLM employees, they think it does.

Here is an example of BLM and the federal government "slamming down the hammer" on all of us in our little oasis in northwestern Arizona under the guise of protecting specific areas. There is an area in the southwest Golden Valley and also part of the Black Mountains called the Mt. Nutt Wilderness area. No motorized vehicles are allowed in the 27,600-acre wilderness and the only authorized access into that area is on foot, on horseback or on bicycle. Oh yes, you can't even use a hang glider within the wilderness area. I guess the government officials think a hang glider might make too much noise or its shadow cast on the ground will scare the wildlife as it soars over the wilderness area. Located adjacent to the wilderness area and state trust land is a large parcel of privately owned property. When I was speaking to a BLM employee, they told me the owners of the private property should turn it over to BLM so they could do a better job of taking care of it.
Don't get me wrong; I am all for conservation efforts to protect our natural resources, but the U.S. Government efforts go way too far and it could almost be deemed a dictatorial maneuver on their part. I bet if you ask the average citizen of Mohave County why Mt. Nutt and the surrounding area is deemed a wilderness, they wouldn't know. The reason is Mt. Nutt really doesn't qualify for wilderness status, but it was tossed into that category as a justification because the government hierarchy told the various BLM field offices a long time ago they had to have a certain amounts of wilderness area designations within their areas of responsibility.

Here is what the Department of Interior indicates on the Mt. Nutt Wilderness website as the reasoning for the Mt. Nutt Wilderness, "This wilderness is home to desert bighorn sheep. Scattered springs sustain small oases of large cottonwoods, willows, and oaks. Hiking, camping, hunting, photography, and rock scrambling opportunities are varied and challenging. This wilderness encompasses an eight-mile-long stretch of the central (and highest) portion of the Black Mountains. Nutt Mountain, at 5,216 feet, presides over a colorful and wild terrain. Along the main ridgeline, prominent mesas have been cut into a series of steep maze-like canyons. Outward from the main ridgeline, numerous huge volcanic plugs ring the entire wilderness."

If I was not so confused about their justifying closing off this area to motorized vehicles and being the driving force behind designating our public lands as a wilderness area, I would think that BLM is speaking of all areas located within North Arizona and specially Mohave County. The way they spew this public relations rhetoric, you would think that no other areas in Mohave County are isomorphic (I loved that word) with the Mt. Nutt Wilderness.

Most everyone knows I am not a big Mohave County Board of Supervisors Chairman Buster Johnson fan, but I am thankful he is an advocate of keeping the 1 million acres of land in the Arizona strip open to uranium mining. Johnson recently briefed the Mohave County Republican Forum on the proposed federal withdrawal of mining from the million acres surrounding the Grand Canyon and also Rep. Trent Franks' House Resolution 3155, his initiative called the Northern Arizona Mining Continuity Act of 2011 that he introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives. Johnson told the attendees at the Kingman Republican event the bill would prohibit the U.S. Interior Department from withdrawing more than 1 million acres surrounding the Grand Canyon National Park from any new mining claims for the next 20 years.

The problem as I see it is many believe Barack Obama and his Administration could be ultimately trying to get the 1 million acres, 633,547 acres under the control of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management and 360,002 acres in northern Arizona's Kaibab National Forest, designated as wild lands and that would allow his administration to circumvent Congress using the Antiquities Act in order to declare the land a national monument. President Bill Clinton employed a similar technique with Presidential Proclamation 7265 on January 11, 2000, when he created the 1,048,316-acre Grand Canyon-Parashant National Monument that is located on the northwest edge of the Grand Canyon in Arizona. Creating a national monument would mean the withdrawal of the land for use not only for mining, but for grazing and lumber uses as well.

Here is something the average person doesn't realize. The U.S. Government says they want to protect the habitats of wildlife, protect sources of clean water, and provide recreation areas of untouched land future generations of people can enjoy. However, many believe it is the government's ultimate goal is to completely close off areas to everyone; that means hikers, campers, cattle grazing, and horseback riding.

Until such time that the dust settles from the smoke-filled-backroom-underhanded politics in regard to closing off our areas, everyone should write your Congress members. People should tell the members of Congress it is a bunch of BS rhetoric being spoken by certain government officials and their maneuvering to close off areas of our land should be stopped.

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