Cody, Wyoming, USA - View across the rugged undulating rugged landscape of Buffalo Bill State park showing the rocky mountains  near Cody, Wyoming, USA. As can be seen the sagebrush thrives in this landscape despite the aridity and the fact that this shot was taken in the height of summer.

10 FAQs on the transfer of public lands

10 FAQs and resources

The beginning of Utah’s 2017 legislative session should bring good news for Utah’s public lands. Rep. Keven Stratton (R-Orem) is introducing a resolution aimed at securing control of our public lands in the hands of those who know and love them the most – the people of Utah. For too long federal mismanagement of our public lands has devastated the environment, depressed local economies, underfunded public education, and blocked recreational access. Our public lands, our communities and our families deserve better.

For the last five years, Utah has pursued legislative efforts and explored legal avenues to transfer title to 31 million acres of U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service lands to the state in an attempt to remedy the consequences of federal management. (This effort does not include national parks, national wilderness, or the vast majority of Utah’s national monuments.)

HCR 1, Concurrent Resolution on Public Lands, moves toward making this a reality. Stratton’s resolution encourages the state to continue to pursue legislative means but stipulates that “in the absence of satisfactory legislative progress” by Dec. 1, 2017, the state will file a lawsuit with the U.S. Supreme Court.

As this resolution gets more attention over the coming weeks, those opposed to local control of our public lands will undoubtedly try to blur the line between fact and fiction in an attempt to drum up opposition. To combat their unfounded rhetoric, the Coalition for Self-Government in the West has produced a document titled Transfer of Public Lands: 10 FAQs & Resources, designed to dispel the myths surrounding the movement to transfer public lands to willing Western states. We hope the public and legislators will look to this document and its accompanying resources to learn more about what the transfer will mean for the state of Utah and the benefits of local management.

Vision for Religious Freedom

True equality requires the protection of religious liberty. Religious freedom ensures equal treatment for all of God’s children.

To understand the former, one need only contemplate the contradiction in values, morals and logic contained in this scenario: A demand for equality leads to legal protection of an individual’s right to their core belief and expression regarding sexuality, but leads to legal prosecution of another individual for exercising their right to their core belief and expression regarding God. That is, in fact, a form of intolerance and inequality masquerading as equality.

To understand the latter, one need only ponder the historical fact that religion was a driving force behind the abolition of the English slave trade, the emancipation of American slaves, and the American civil rights movement. Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. did not lead America’s civil rights movement in spite of his religious identity, but because of it.

Very early on in America’s history, Alexis de Tocqueville noted: “Religion, which, among Americans, never mixes directly in the government of society, should therefore be considered as the first of their political institutions; for if it does not give them a taste for freedom, it singularly facilitates their use of it.”[1] Part of what Tocqueville meant is that religion shapes the experience of citizenship. It is easy to see then, why the freedom to practice religion is critical to the nation’s order and character.

The interconnectedness of religion, equality and freedom is uniquely American. Other nations have viewed religious freedom in different ways. The French Revolution’s 1789 Declaration of the Rights of Man had a “religious freedom” provision, which subordinated the right to the perceived interests of the state: “No one shall be disquieted on account of his opinions, including his religious views, provided their manifestation does not disturb the public order established by law.” This approach allowed for unfettered freedom to believe, but severely constricted the ability to act on or express that belief.

Even the charter of the Soviet Union guaranteed “freedom of religious worship,” which looked nothing like what Americans would recognize as freedom. The governing principle of Communist Russia was that everyone was free to believe what they would like, but with the caveat that expressing those beliefs in contradiction to the laws and will of the state would be severely punished. In practice, even the guarantee of freedom of belief was never honored.

Contrast the foreign ideas of freedom of religious views and religious worship to the American principle of religious freedom. Religious freedom is core to the way Americans constitute ourselves as a people. The pursuit of religious liberty motivated the establishment of America’s second English colony in 1620 in Plymouth, Massachusetts. Religious freedom also holds a unique place in our constitutional order: It is literally the first freedom protected in the Bill of Rights.

Religious freedom in the Constitution is found in two places. The First Amendment provides that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” There is also a provision in the text of the original Constitution, less remarked upon, but no less important. Article VI says that “no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.”

Taken together, these provisions, and similar ones in the constitutions of each state, show that the American ideal is one of robust protection for religious belief, worship and expression in the public square. These protections include three connected principles:

  1. All human beings should be free in their religious beliefs and practices without suffering persecution or official discrimination, except in the rare instances where a religious practice compromises a compelling governmental interest (e.g., protecting innocent life).
  2. Religious organizations must be free to determine doctrines and practices, including standards for membership, and to carry out their activities without government interference.
  3. No one should be forced by the government to affirm or support beliefs to which they do not freely ascribe.

Despite the robustness of the American principle of religious freedom contained in the Constitution, limited conceptions of religious freedom have their advocates in the modern United States. There has been a rhetorical shift among some to speak of a “freedom of worship.” This means that churches and individuals can believe and teach what they like, and perhaps even select their own clergy and perform their own ceremonies, but this “freedom” essentially ends outside the door of the meetinghouse, mosque, cathedral or synagogue.

For instance, a prominent government official recently argued that religious freedom was merely a “code word” for darker motives, such as hate for a particular group of people – the implicit suggestion being that the government can restrict the freedom of people of faith if their beliefs conflict with the official government-endorsed ideology: discriminating against religious people because of their beliefs, in the name of anti-discrimination.

A related notion is that other protections, like freedom of speech, are adequate to protect religious people. Thus, a recent Supreme Court decision dismissed concerns about religious organizations and individuals being asked to facilitate conduct at odds with their beliefs by saying that they still have the ability to verbally express their teachings. But the freedom to state one’s core beliefs becomes largely meaningless without its intended companion: freedom to live according to those core beliefs.

A free society prioritizes religious freedom. It recognizes what Tocqueville observed, that religious devotion fosters accountability that, in turn, secures the qualities in citizens that allows for a broadly tolerant and pluralistic community that is both safe and open. It also recognizes America’s historical reality: that religion is tied to equality, and without religious freedom equality would not exist in its current form in America.

With very rare exceptions – the damaging effects of which can be alleviated by existing constitutional principles – religion inculcates in its adherents a spirit of civility and public-spiritedness that allows a free society to flourish. It motivates individuals to come together to care for those who are less fortunate and to protect those otherwise excluded from the bounties of a prosperous nation.

Religious freedom is a foundation of a decent, equal and free society.

 

[1] Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America 280 (translated by Harvey C. Mansfield & Delba Winthrop, 2000).

Bears Ears National Monument designation

From Sutherland Policy Analyst Matt Anderson:

   “We call on the President-elect and Congress to rescind this national monument designation and allow local voices to be heard and incorporated into how the Bears Ears region will be protected. Furthermore, we call on these elected officials to amend the Antiquities Act to require congressional approval for future monument designations. 

   Pleas for the president to stay his hand from Utah’s entire congressional delegation, Governor Gary Herbert, the State Legislature, local Native American groups and all of San Juan County’s commissioners and city councils fell on deaf ears. Instead, the President’s legacy and the demands of extreme environmental and corporate interests are now reflected in how more than 1 million acres of San Juan County will be managed.”

From Sutherland President Boyd Matheson:

   “The fact that the president is designating the Bears Ears National Monument at 6 p.m. Eastern on the Wednesday of Christmas vacation — and from 3,000 miles away in Hawaii no less — shows complete disrespect for the people of San Juan County. The citizens of this nation make monuments to honor true statesmen. President Obama declaring a monument unto himself with the stroke of a pen is not only unstatesman-like, it is undemocratic. The people of America should expect more and the people of San Juan County deserve better.

Orlando, Florida, USA - October 28, 2016: President Barack Obama makes the case for Hillary Clinton to young voters at the University of Central Florida.

Sutherland Institute condemns imminent Bears Ears National Monument designation

According to multiple sources, President Barack Obama will designate 1.4 to 1.9 million acres in San Juan County as the Bears Ears National Monument next week.

Sutherland Institute condemns this blatant abuse of executive power and calls on Congress and President-elect Donald Trump to commit to rescind this national monument designation and allow local voices to be heard. 

Furthermore, we call on these elected officials to amend the Antiquities Act to require congressional approval for future monument designations. 

 Sutherland Institute, Utah Governor Gary Herbert and the entire Utah congressional delegation, along with San Juan County Navajos, recently held a press conference in Washington, D.C. San Juan County Navajo Susie Philemon said, “Native Americans have given up enough of their ancestral lands for national monuments. President Obama, we the local native residents of San Juan County, Utah, have managed to protect this enchanted place and will continue to do so. Please do not take this land from us. Please don’t break more promises … not again.

Sutherland Institute continues to encourage San Juan County residents to make their voices heard by sharing their stories via video and written posts on social media.

In Washington, Sutherland Institute President Boyd Matheson said, “Often overpowered by well-funded, out-of-state environmentalists and big corporate interests are the voices of the people who actually live in San Juan County.” He continued, “A wealthy man’s monument should never come at the expense of a working man’s dream.”

Matt Anderson, policy analyst at Sutherland Institute, said, “There are many ways to be careful stewards of the land. Our public lands can and ought to be used for multiple and often complementary uses. Rather than a monumental mess by executive order, real compromise – which includes state and local voices – is the way to ensure responsible land management. Utahns across the political spectrum and citizens across the country should support this approach.”

Anderson concluded, “Instead of principled and sensible management of their home, the people of San Juan County will be subjected to increased heavy-handed and ineffective federal regulations – putting archaeological sites at risk as never before, devastating the local economy, restricting traditional Native American practices, and jeopardizing the future of San Juan County. Our friends in San Juan County deserve better.”  

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Cedar-mesa-bears-ears-sunset.jpg

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.

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

When the West is pushed, it turns right

Morgan_Farm_2Most people have heard by now that the locals out West are getting a little restless, as they have every other generation or so since the mid-19th century.

What’s less clear is whether this restlessness reflects a new conservative political tilt, or if it’s just the latest flare-up in a turf war over resources and real estate that’s been waged for over a century.

Are we looking at an ideological movement determined to turn this region to the right, or simply a periodic episode of sound and fury, signifying nothing?

Defining Western political forces has always been tricky because these forces so much depend on the current state of relations between the locals and their Washington, D.C., landlords. The federal government’s hand is especially heavy in a region where bureaucrats half a continent away control 50 percent of all lands and heavily regulate the state and private lands that remain.

Increasingly, though, Westerners’ political leanings can be pretty accurately guessed by how far their trade or their traditions lie from that heavy hand.

As in the blind men and the elephant parable, what an observer might “see” depends a lot on which part of the elephant he or she is sampling. A nurse in Seattle or a software engineer in Denver will perceive a much different Western political culture than will a rancher in Montana’s Missouri Breaks, or a roughneck in Utah’s Uinta Basin. They will also have significantly different public policy inclinations: not so much because their interests or goals vary so much they don’t. Their policy preferences diverge because of the angle and proximity of their viewpoint.

One perspective witnesses and experiences the rural production economy up close as a livelihood and a lifestyle, while the other has real memories or implanted images of an unspoiled and imperiled natural legacy.

This isn’t a left/right or Republican/Democrat divide, although that’s how it is manifested in the voting booth. It’s an urban/rural difference of perceptions more than of aims, and it is too often exacerbated by cooked-up controversies and outside agendas insisting that urban and rural values must be competing rather than complementary. But those perspectives are different, and they do make a difference. Read more

Watch live stream: Sutherland’s Carl Graham to speak at Heritage on Western states

Sutherland-Coalition-Self-Govt-Logo-200Watch live on Tuesday (June 10) as Carl Graham, director of Sutherland’s Coalition for Self-Government in the West, speaks in Washington, D.C., as part of a Heritage Foundation event. “States of Dependence: Reducing Washington’s Control of the Western U.S.” begins at 9 a.m. MST and can be streamed online.

Here’s more about the topic, from Heritage:

Values and priorities imposed by Washington are disenfranchising rural economies and communities. Nowhere is this more true than in Western states, where large amounts of public lands are managed with top-down Washington policy prescriptions funded by federal dollars. Shifting control of some of these lands to Western states will require charting a course whereby states can responsibly manage these lands and insure benefits to their citizens including the responsible stewardship of natural resources and bringing policy decision closer to home.

 

2 cheers for the federalist left

colorado coinLet’s all take a moment to welcome our progressive left friends to the self-government movement. They’re a little late to the party, generally favoring judges and bureaucrats over actually persuading people they’re right. But it’s good to see they have at least a taste for local decision-making when it suits their needs.

This Kumbaya moment comes to me after perusing an article from Colorado describing local efforts there to give communities the power to ban fracking, even though it’s already (for now, at least) regulated at the state rather than federal level.

Still, the cynic in me wants to call their efforts at bringing policy decisions closer to home rank opportunism, but even that dark cloud has a silver lining. There’s at least an inkling of understanding behind the effort that maybe, just maybe letting local people have a say in what’s good or bad for them might be useful and fair and proper, even if the folks are sometimes wrong. So two cheers for opportunism masquerading as principle.

Only two cheers because federalism, you see, isn’t really the favorite tool in their policy toolbox. They don’t normally want to leave deciding what is best for the great unwashed to, well, the great unwashed because all too often the great unwashed don’t know what’s good for them.

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