Last week a leaked document from the Department of the Interior gave travelers and outdoor enthusiasts a glimpse into potential plans by the Obama administration to designate as many as 14 new national monuments spread out across nine western states. And while a spokesman for the DOI was quick to point out that the memo was just a draft for internal discussion, environmentalists and conservatives were equally as quick to line up in praise, and condemnation, of the proposal.
The list of potential new monuments, and the states in which they are located, includes the following: San Rafael Swell, UT; Montana’s Northern Prairie, MT; Lesser Prairie Chicken Preserve, NM; Berryessa Snow Mountains, CA; Heart of the Great Basin, NV; Otero Mesa, NM; Northwest Sonoran Desert, AZ; Owyhee Desert, OR/NV; Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument, CA (expansion); Vermillion Basin, CO; Bodie Hills, CA; The Modoc Plateau, CA; Cedar Mesa, UT and the San Juan Islands, WA.
Many of these places are already popular destinations for hikers and backpackers, but naming them as national monuments gives them protected status and removes them from the jurisdiction of the states in which they reside. That is exactly why representatives from Utah are up in arms, and are preparing to fight this proposal to the bitter end. Senator Orin Hatch, who represents that state, has widely been quoted as saying he’ll do everything in his power to prevent the proposal from moving forward, and likewise Utah’s Governor Gary Herbert has been extremely outspoken against the plan as well, arguing that the states should be allowed to manage their own natural resources, not Washington bureaucrats who have never stepped foot on the land.Whether the Department of the Interior moves forward with the plan remains to be seen, but it seems everyone is already gearing up for a big fight. Meanwhile, the hikers that are already enjoying these public lands will probably continue to do so, and not even notice a change should they federal government take control.
For more information on this story, including a look at each of the potential new monuments, check out this story over at The Adventure Life, where you’ll also find the whole controversial document itself in .pdf format.
UPDATE: The Senate rejected a move on February 25 to bar the Obama administration from designating any new national monuments, including two in Utah, that were listed in a leaked Interior Department document. As a result, the administration is required to work closely with local communities affected by any such designation.