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10 questions about the Bears Ears for the outdoor retail industry

Yesterday, some of the country’s biggest outdoor retailers threw their support behind the proposed Bears Ears National Monument, despite opposition to the monument from most San Juan County residents. The press conference and panel event articulating their support were held in conjunction with the semi-annual Outdoor Retailer trade show. However, these events were closed to much of the public, limiting the opportunity for genuine discussion. Therefore, Sutherland Institute takes this opportunity to encourage an elevated dialogue about the Bears Ears by asking some questions of outdoor retailers who are calling for monument:

  1. Why was a press conference about protecting the Bears Ears closed to San Juan County Native Americans opposed to the monument, who have lived on and cared for the Bears Ears for centuries?
  2. It was reported that protecting public lands generates economic benefits due to a stronger outdoor recreation industry. However, San Juan County currently contains all or part of one national park, three national monuments, a national recreation area and a national forest, and yet is the poorest county in Utah and one of the most economically depressed counties in the nation. Why have protected public lands and the outdoor recreation industry failed to bring prosperity to San Juan County, and how will another national monument change that?
  3. Industry leaders said that a national monument designation will attract high-paying employers and a talented work force. But Utah’s major outdoor retailers locate along the Wasatch Front, not San Juan County. Does this mean that a national monument will get rid of high-paying jobs from San Juan County (e.g., natural resource industry jobs) to create new high-paying jobs in relatively wealthier counties along the Wasatch Front, where outdoor retailers locate?
  4. National monuments in Utah, such as Grand Staircase-Escalante, have typically harmed the livelihoods of ranchers, natural resource industry employees, and others. Is there evidence that the economic benefits to the outdoor retail industry from a Bears Ears National Monument will be large enough to offset the likely economic harm to other economic sectors in the state?
  5. It was suggested that a national monument will do more to protect archaeological and historical sites in the Bears Ears than other available options, through additional financial and law-enforcement resources. However, federal land management agencies are strapped for cash and already have a deferred maintenance backlog of almost $18 billion. How will a national monument better protect the cultural resources in the Bears Ears when the federal government cannot even afford to care for the public lands it already controls?
  6. Everyone on both sides praises the unmatched beauty and amazing recreational opportunities the Bears Ears area provides. But these wonders are still available to us in large part because of how the local residents have taken care of the land, going back to times long before it was federally managed. What is it about today’s Native American and non-Native American residents of San Juan County that makes them incapable of caring for the public lands that create their livelihoods and their cultural heritage?
  7. The products sold by outdoor retailers allow individuals to access cliff dwellings and other archaeological sites inaccessible to most of the public. How is the outdoor retail industry promoting the kind of responsible recreation and education that will be necessary to protect Native American sites, especially when a national monument leads to more recreationists visiting the area?
  8. The management of other national monuments, such as Canyon de Chelly and Grand Staircase-Escalante, has shown that (despite assurances to the contrary before a monument has been designated) greater federal “protection” of public lands often restricts active use of the land over time – including recreation, grazing, and Native American access. What legal or other processes are there to guarantee that recreationists, Native Americans and ranchers will not lose their access to the Bears Ears and surrounding areas due to federal land management decisions that go against the spirit, if not the letter, of a national monument designation?
  9. Reports have come out that our national parks and monuments are seeing more visitors than ever, suggesting that a Bears Ears National Monument will bring many more people to the area, thereby intensifying the risk of “loving our lands to death.” What specific policy or legal measures exist to assure recreationists, conservationists and Native Americans that this will not happen in the Bears Ears?
  10. The people of San Juan County have made it clear that they don’t want big business colluding with the federal government to threaten their quality of life by taking away the land that creates their homes and their livelihoods. How will a monument declaration address their concerns?
Bears Ears attendees

Are radical environmentalists trying to dupe Sec. Jewell?

On Saturday, thousands gathered at the Bluff Community Center in Southeastern Utah to share their opinion on the proposed Bears Ears National Monument with Interior Secretary Sally Jewell and other visiting federal officials. As local San Juan County residents arrived, they were met by 100-degree temperatures, signs for and against the monument, and a large contingency of strangers wearing blue shirts. When I asked a local Navajo who these people were, she said, “I know a few of them, but I’ve never seen most in my life.”

Video footage and audio statements from monument supporters appear to show that the Sierra Club and other extreme environmental groups bused large groups in from all across the West in an apparent attempt to hijack the meeting and drown out local voices. One of the bus drivers revealed that “seven or eight buses” brought in monument supporters from 11 locations as far away as New Mexico, Arizona, and Colorado.

A monument supporter said, “This is a coalition of the Wilderness Society, Sierra Club, Wilderness Alliance. They brought in a bus from Flagstaff, from Durango, from Moab.”

What Sec. Jewell promised would be a community meeting intended to “learn from and listen to locals” was, instead, undermined by outsiders.

When given a chance to speak, the majority of San Juan County residents opposed the monument. However, comments made by out-of-staters could have given visiting officials the impression that the county is split on the issue because commenters were not required to provide their names or where they were from.

Under this anonymity, many monument supporters focused their comments on outdoor recreation and its importance in their lives. This was in stark contrast to locals who expressed fears over a monument prohibiting them from gathering wood to heat their homes in the winter, pushing cattle and ranching families off the range, and economically devastating their county. Monument advocates seemed to brush these concerns aside as they elevated their desire to hike, mountain bike and rock climb over the basic needs of San Juan County residents.

Once the meeting ended, the blue shirts filed one by one back onto the buses and made the long trek home. For them, their job was done and they could move on with their lives. But for locals, who are reliant on the land, they have to live with the decisions made by Sec. Jewell (who enthusiastically expressed a desire to vacation in the area) and the Obama administration. Southeastern Utah isn’t a vacation spot for local residents. It’s their home, their heritage and a place where their families have lived for generations.

Secretary Jewell, you came to Utah seeking local input. Unfortunately, what you saw and heard was theater staged by radical environmentalist outsiders intent on smothering local voices. This wasn’t local grassroots. This was astroturf.

New York City Street

Garbage – recycle, incinerate, synthesize

Many of us remember the saga of the garbage barge named the Mobro 4000. In 1987 it was loaded with garbage from the Islip landfill in New York City and set sail to deposit its load out of state. This was a common occurrence, as land was at a premium in the city. However, the owner of the Mobro 4000 failed to finalize the contract before embarking and was soon stuck at sea with nowhere to go. For six months, major news networks led their broadcast with images of this lonely garbage barge wandering up and down the coast, becoming the poster child for wasteful lifestyles and what activists claimed was a crisis of overflowing landfills. Transferring a city’s garbage out of state was a common practice, but the Mobro 4000’s sloppy paperwork problem led to a rallying cry for recycling.

Today, municipal recycling programs are fairly ubiquitous. Cities provide not only garbage pickup but also a separate garbage can for recyclables. Feeling like a responsible environmental steward has never been so easy – just throw all your paper, plastic and aluminum into a special garbage bin and roll it out to the curb each week where other good stewards collect, sort and recycle it.

But much has happened in the world of garbage since the Mobro 4000 was stranded at sea three decades ago. Recycling has always been predicated on our ability to efficiently reuse recycled material. Much of our recycled plastic goes to China, where it is used to make toothbrushes and carpet, and our shredded paper goes to Mexico, where it used to make things like toilet paper. The greatest deciding factor in what is recycled and what goes to the landfill is profitability. And profits from recycling can change – and are changing – based on various global factors. This means not everything you put in the special bin on your curb will actually be recycled. If the price isn’t right, it’ll end up in the landfill anyway.

Which maybe isn’t such a bad thing. For some time now landfills have been used to generate power.

On New York’s Staten Island sits a 2,000-acre landfill known as Fresh Kills. It operated for 50 years and was New York City’s largest landfill. Some of its largest mounds of garbage soared to 200 feet tall. Fresh Kills closed in 2001, but it’s still serving the city. All that garbage is decaying and producing gas, much of it methane, which can be processed and put into the natural gas pipeline. Methane gas recovery from the old Fresh Kills landfill produces enough energy every day to heat 30,000 homes and makes up to $5 million a year for the city.

Garbage is producing energy another way – landfill incinerators. The world’s best recyclers – Sweden and Norway – incinerate so much trash they are actually importing it from other countries. While bans on plastic bags are gathering momentum in many municipalities, including in Utah, Sweden has no such ban, incinerating many of the bags instead. Norway’s capital, Oslo, heats half the city and most of its schools by burning garbage. In fact, northern European trash-burning countries have their sights set on the U.S. garbage market to fuel its 700-million-ton incineration capacity. Today, rather than capturing the world’s attention as a symbol of environmental despair, the Mobro 4000 might be welcomed with open arms.

This article was originally posted on Utah Citizen Network. UCN is an interactive site meant to encourage, teach and empower citizens to become active participants. Join in and maybe you can become governor of Freedomville!

Turn off the lights … why?

Led_LightingThis weekend, many environmental activists are urging people worldwide to participate in Earth Hour by turning off their lights from 8:30 to 9:30 p.m. on Saturday night. The purpose of this effort is to “use your power to change climate change.” According to the organizers, “Earth Hour aims to encourage an interconnected global community to share the opportunities and challenges of creating a sustainable world.”

If sitting at home in the dark for an hour to show support for theories of radical environmentalists isn’t your idea of fun, then you might choose instead to participate in Human Achievement Hour, an event organized by the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

Participants in Human Achievement Hour will leave their lights on Saturday at 8:30 p.m. to celebrate “the human innovations that have allowed people around the globe to live better, fuller lives, while also defending the basic human right to use energy to improve the quality of life of all people.”

With the lights on, the possibilities are endless. You might create a work of art, read a good book or get to know a neighbor. What will you do Saturday night?

Reusable bags are great, but don’t ban plastic

Blue_reusable_shopping_bagI’m a conservative who loves reusable bags.

When I lived in Austria 20+ years ago, I learned quickly that if you didn’t bring your own bag to the corner grocery store, you’d have to carry your purchases home in your pockets or purse. It was odd for an American who was used to free plastic bags at every store, but really, it was not that hard to adjust.

(What was strange was seeing people use their bags like a shopping basket: putting their items in the bag while shopping, then taking them out at the cash register to have them rung up. To an American, that seemed like a good way to get accused of shoplifting.)

Anyway, when reusable bags started making their way into American culture, it seemed perfectly logical to me. Reusing items that you already own and avoiding waste is certainly conservative.

A ban on plastic bags is not.

Why should government mandate that stores cannot provide free plastic bags? It’s another nanny state law.

In fact, enough petition-signers in California have objected to the statewide plastic-bag ban, which was passed last year, that a referendum will likely be forced on the issue in 2016.

I don’t like seeing plastic bags caught in trees or blowing across the street more than anyone else does, but let’s blame litterbugs, not the bags themselves. Also, plenty of people reuse those “single-use” plastic bags as trash can liners.

Stores can set their own rules: no bags, one free bag, 5-cent rebate for bringing your own bag … let the retailer decide. And people can make their own decisions about their shopping bags. This is not the government’s job.

There’s also been some press about bacterial contamination of reusable bags. That’s a legitimate concern – but germs are on EVERYTHING. Wash your hands, and wash your cloth bags as needed. We should worry less about our (possibly contaminated!) cloth bags and worry more about the basic hygiene we learned as children.

EPA's proposed carbon rule hits most vulnerable hardest

epa-logo_edited-1The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) proposed carbon rule is the latest in a series of regulations that will increase the cost of electricity and natural gas at a time when wages are stagnant and a lot of people are struggling to get by.

According to a recently released study, if this new carbon rule is imposed, the average Utah family’s electric bill will go up by $124 and their gas bill will increase by $266 annually, for a total of $32.50 per month. If you don’t think that’s a meaningful amount, then you’re out of touch with a lot of Utah families that are living paycheck to paycheck and are all too often faced with a choice between heating their houses or buying groceries for their children.

These regulations are a backdoor tax plain and simple, and the most regressive and punishing kind possible. It may not hurt you or me to pay an extra few bucks a month to satisfy an environmental feel-good agenda, the results of which will have absolutely no measurable impact on the global climate. But it does hurt the most vulnerable among us. It forces them to pay a larger percentage of their paycheck for everyday needs like heat and electricity, cutting into what disposable income they may have and harming not just their quality of life but also their ability to live. It’s despicable and the height of hypocrisy for ivory tower do-gooders to inflict real pain and suffering on others so that they can enjoy a clear global warming conscience in the comfort of their beautiful homes and SUVs. Read more

Trouble in the West

Montana's Rocky Mountain Front is seen at the right in this aerial photo. (Photo credit: Bobak Ha'Eri)

Montana’s Rocky Mountain Front is seen at the right in this aerial photo. (Photo credit: Bobak Ha’Eri)

The “green-über-alles” crowd has Utah and our neighbors in its sights. For instance, take this editorial from a Montana newspaper (republished by Utah.Politico.Hub), “Big Trouble in Big Sky Country.”

This “big trouble” – referring to tactics used by radical environmentalists who demonize multiple use of our beautiful Western lands – doesn’t just apply to Montana, but to all the states in the West. From the editorial:

When public support for the [1964] Wilderness Act tanked, enter the manipulation by environmentalists. Greens both inside and outside government have turned to an onslaught of other means to control and/or remove land uses they dislike — through appeals, litigation, administrative fiat, bureaucratic delay, endangered species, conservation easements, even national monument designation under the Antiquities Act.

The strategy is to block land uses in hopes the land users go away.

Click here to read the rest of the editorial at Utah.Politico.Hub.

Listing sage grouse as endangered would be 'the worst thing for it'

Sage grouse in San Juan County.

Sage grouse in San Juan County.

By Carl Graham and Brian Seasholes

Add one more potential victim to the catalog of high-profile species likely to be harmed by the Endangered Species Act.

The sage grouse, a large ground-dwelling bird that inhabits 165 million acres in nine Western states, appears headed for listing under the Act, much to the detriment of both the grouse and those with the greatest stake in preserving it.

Over its 40-year history, the Endangered Species Act has often caused significant harm to the very species it is supposed to protect by unnecessarily creating adversaries of landowners harboring these species and pre-empting state conservation efforts.

The Endangered Species Act’s massive penalties — $100,000 and/or one year in jail for harming a bird, egg, or even habitat — turns species into economic liabilities. Understandably, landowners often respond by ridding their land of potentially regulated species and their habitats; but the tragedy is that most do so very reluctantly. They cherish their land and take pride in being good conservationists.

States, meanwhile, realize what is at stake. Listing the sage grouse under the Endangered Species Act “would be the worst thing for it,” said Greg Sheehan, director of the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources. “It would all but do away with any of the conservation that is in place.” States have taken the lead in conserving the grouse but are concerned their efforts will be snuffed out by Endangered Species Act mandates if listing occurs. “We can probably do a better job with our local programs and partnerships than Fish and Wildlife can trying to regulate from afar,” according to Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper. Read more

Thanks to Utah leaders for careful approach on climate politics

Click the graphic to watch a live stream of the International Conference on Climate Change.

Click the above graphic to watch a live stream of climate scientists and policy experts at the conference.

In “Herbert Catching Heat for Climate Change Stance,” (July 7, 2014, Utah Policy Daily), Bryan Schott shares the observation that “half of the nation’s Republican governors are climate change deniers, including Utah Gov. Gary Herbert.”

To which an appropriate response would be “Thank you, Gov. Herbert” – with similar expressions of gratitude to the majority of Utah legislators that prudently have not embraced group-think-based proposed responses to purported anthropogenic (human-caused) global warming/change/disruption/etc.

The perspective underlying Mr. Schott’s July 7 post is similar that of his June 9 “Krugman: Anti-Intellectualism Biggest Hurdle to Addressing Climate Change,” wherein he notes,

Economist Paul Krugman says it’s not vested interests that pose the biggest obstacle to addressing climate change, it’s those who don’t trust scientists. Krugman argues that economic ideology and hostility to science is the biggest problem in the climate debate, because it directly challenges the world view of those who deny climate change.

Quoting Krugman, Schott includes,

And the natural reaction is denial – angry denial. Read or watch any extended debate over climate policy and you’ll be struck by the venom, the sheer rage, of the denialists.

We should be pleased to hear any debate, even a brief one, between anthropogenic global warming (AGW) proponents and those skeptical of that view. Several years ago, while I was collaborating with the governor’s environmental advisor in efforts to plan and organize a public forum/debate that would address the topic of anthropogenic global warming, he and I were frustrated that our efforts came to the disappointing conclusion that no debate would be held. Why? In large measure because, despite earnest and persistent attempts, we could find no AGW advocates of national stature that would be willing to accept our invitation to engage in a public contest of ideas and data on the subject.

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Take advantage of the opportunity today and tomorrow (July 8-9) to watch via live streaming as climate scientists and policy experts meet this week to provide updates on current climate research at the Ninth International Conference on Climate Change. Sponsored and hosted by the Heartland Institute, the full conference schedule, including all keynote addresses and 21 break-out panel discussions, can be viewed live and at no cost as the proceedings unfold, and will be available online after the conference. Note that as all times listed are PDT (Pacific Daylight Time), Utah viewers will be watching one hour later than the listed time.

Podcast: the states vs. the feds on public lands

Sutherland-Coalition-Self-Govt-Logo-200Listen to Carl Graham, director of Sutherland’s Coalition for Self-Government in the West, in a podcast about control and use of public lands. Utah state Rep. Ken Ivory, Donald J. Kochan of Chapman University School of Law, and David Garbett of the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance also participated in the teleforum, sponsored by The Federalist Society, earlier this week.

Here’s a description of what they tackled during the teleforum:

The state of Utah now has statutory authority to sue the federal government for return of its lands in January, 2015. How sound is the legal case, and what are the economic implications for the Western states – as well as the country in general? What are the environmental policy issues and is state stewardship of these lands best?

Click here for the podcast at The Federalist Society website.