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Working for better management options and cohabitation through compromise and communication for the American Wild Mustang

Message from Willis via Nell Green Nylen: Discussion Paper: BLM Treasured Landscapes – Internal Draft Document

Posted by Texas Mustang Project on August 11, 2010

     I’m forwarding (with permission) some relevant comments made by Nell Green Nylen who knows up from down about this stuff. Her most relevant point is that we need to understand what issues are really sinister and what issues really aren’t, and focus our attention on the real problems. This particular issue appears to be “non-threatening” and Ms. Nylen offers some really sound advice.
     Please also note that what we have is a DRAFT, not the final “public” version.
(Discussion Paper: BLM Treasured Landscapes – Internal Draft Document)

“:O) Willis

[Begin forwarded message]

I just read the BLM draft document and let me first say that BLM is not trying to get around the law here. The President of the United States has the power to designate national monuments by proclamation under the Antiquities Act of 1906. The entire point of the Antiquities Act (which was, as all acts must be, passed by Congress) is to give the President of the United States the authority to restrict the use of particular federally-owned land by executive order. Before the Antiquities Act, we had no National Monuments. Since 1906, most national monuments have been established by the President, although Congress can also establish national monuments through legislation — although that has been the exception, rather than the rule. For example, in 1908 Teddy Roosevelt designated the Grand Canyon as a national monument (it was the 11th national monument he designated and the 11th national monument in the United States). 

The following presidents have established national monuments using their Congressionally given Antiquities Act powers:

  • Theodore Roosevelt
  • William Howard Taft
  • Woodrow Wilson
  • Warren G. Harding
  • Calvin Coolidge
  • Herbert Hoover
  • Franklin D. Roosevelt
  • Harry S. Truman
  • Dwight D. Eisenhower
  • John F. Kennedy
  • Lyndon B. Johnson
  • Jimmy Carter
  • William Jefferson Clinton
  • George W. Bush

In the draft document, BLM mentions potential use of the Antiquities Act as only one option that should be considered in trying to improve protections for especially sensitive or culturally important lands. For example, on page 4 the document says the president should:

“Consider use of the Antiquities Act to set aside new National Monuments where there are immediate threats to nationally significant natural or cultural resources on lands deserving NLCS status. However, the BLM recognizes that public support and acceptance of preservation status is best achieved when the public has an opportunity to participate in a land-use-planning or legislative process.”

Use of the Antiquities Act is limited in only two states: Alaska and Wyoming. Congress specifically limited its use in Wyoming after Franklin D. Roosevelt proclaimed Jackson Hole National Monument in 1943 to accept a donation of private lands acquired by John D. Rockefeller, Jr., for addition to Grand Teton National Park after Congress refused to authorize the park’s expansion. In 1950 Congress incorporated most of the monument into the national park, but also “barred further use of the proclamation authority in Wyoming.” Likewise, after Jimmy Carter designated 15 new national monuments in Alaska in 1978 when Congress adjourned without passing an Alaska lands bill that was strongly opposed by the state, in 1980 Congress passed a revised version of the bill that incorporated most of the monuments into national parks and reserves, but also limited the future use of presidential proclamation authority to designate national monuments in Alaska. In every other state, the President is free to designate national monuments on his (or her) own authority.

Whatever your disagreements are with BLM about wild horses, this document largely appears to reflect good science and a much healthier focus that takes into account ecosystem services provided by intact, contiguous public lands as opposed to merely focusing on board feet of timber or oil and gas reserves when considering how much land is worth to the public. This is the kind of planning that should be applauded, and the folks who are freaking out about it (largely Republican politicians) are freaking out because they don’t want additional protections given to federal lands in their states because (1) they want to be able to do whatever they please on public lands without restriction and/or (2) they are generally opposed to public ownership of land in general and will therefore complain when any additional protections are given to it.

You will want to be sure to research specific BLM policies and actions before reacting to them. If you automatically assume that everything BLM does is aimed at destroying wild horses, you will be playing into the “wild horse nut” image you are trying to avoid. It’s far better to start from the assumption that BLM has the right motivations (although we know it often doesn’t) and work from a position of “we know you mean well, but your plans/actions are really falling short here, this is why, and this is what you can do to remedy the problem.” Use their talk of ecosystem services and contiguous public lands to back up your arguments (e.g. “putting up fences and relegating wild horse bands to smaller areas will actually cause overuse and the type of environmental degradation BLM says it’s worried about; removing the older, wiser, horses in ‘gathers’ will have the opposite effect intended on remaining population size because the younger, less experienced horses will procreate less responsibly; etc.”) so they know you know what they’re supposed to be doing and you look like you’re trying to help them do it better. Cite to actual scientific studies and give specifics.

If you think there are problems with the Wild Horse Preserves mentioned on page 2 (or some other aspect of the document), address those specifically in as straightforward a manner as possible (e.g. “Wild horse preserves in the Midwest or East are not a good idea because…. A better tactic would be to … because….” and/or “It is worrisome that the document leaves out mention of wild horses in the west….”)

I know [that as advocates] you are trying to do this already. Just remember that your words will likely be heard better if you don’t sound like you think BLM is outright evil but instead is not fully informed of all relevant information / is interpreting the available evidence without full context. If you paint yourself as trying to help BLM do its job better, I think you will be most effective.

[End forwarded message]

Here’s a link to the draft on AOWHA:

Here are some useful links on the topic of national monuments and the Antiquities Act: (Provided by Ms. Nylen)


3 Responses to “Message from Willis via Nell Green Nylen: Discussion Paper: BLM Treasured Landscapes – Internal Draft Document”

  1. Linda said

    “… the BLM recognizes that public support and acceptance of preservation status is best achieved when the public has an opportunity to participate in a land-use-planning or legislative process.”

    This certainly applies to the WH&BP as well.

    I want the rhetoric and name-calling to stop – on both sides. Innocent wild horses and burros are caught in the middle of a Mexican standoff and are paying the ultimate price for human arrogance every hour of every day.

    And I wish the government would quit treating its citizens like children. If there’s a valid agenda, put it out for the public to see. I bet they’d be shocked at the level of cooperation and support they’d receive if they let us in on the truth the first time.

    This doesn’t have to be an adversarial relationship, but to make it work all parties must be open, respectful, and willing to compromise.

  2. We have no choice but to voice respect and compromise as we are wanting the dialogue and they are wanting nearly no horses left to be in the way of ‘projects’…. There is no equalizer here… mar

  3. morganlvr said

    If “… the BLM recognizes that public support and acceptance of preservation status is best achieved when the public has an opportunity to participate in a land-use-planning or legislative process.” they certainly do NOT act like it. If they actually DID give us a voice, things would be very different. But, as long as they publicly claim that advocates are know-nothing radicals, lie to us constantly and hold to their own agenda no matter WHAT, I don’t see how our relationship with them can be anything BUT adversarial. They leave us no choice. We challenge them or give them the horses with our blessings.

    How come Willis didn’t mention the part of that “draft” where they were discussing ways to get around Congress. That didn’t sit well with me. Sorry, but I don’t trust the BLM as far as I can throw Salazar – which ain’t nearly far enough.

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