The Obama administration just announced a meager list of areas that deserve federal protection. Given the fanfare of the list release, you might ask: does Obama plan to use his ample authority under the Antiquities Act to save these places as national monuments or grant some other form of administrative protection?
The answer is . . . drum roll please . . . no. What they’ve done is produce a list. That’s it. And it’s a pathetic list at that, one that omits upwards of 90% of Utah’s redrock wilderness and is based on 30 year-old and grossly deficient BLM inventories. The list includes just a few hundred thousand acres of already protected land in Utah, in contrast to the more than 9 million acres of magnificent BLM lands that deserve wilderness designation.
And what will they do with the list? Nothing. Not a single additional acre of redrock will be protected.
On the other hand, here’s what this administration IS doing: 1) defending in court the disastrous Bush administration decisions that left open much of this wilderness to ORV use and energy development (see feature story in our autumn/winter 2011 newsletter), 2) pushing forward with approval of a massive drilling project in proposed wilderness along the Green River in Upper Desolation Canyon (even though Desolation canyon is on their list), and 3) wasting valuable time and resources on silly gestures like this list.
Utah’s congressional delegation relishes attacking this administration as an electoral strategy, even for meaningless snake oil like this. Appeasement doesn’t work. So why won’t the Obama administration do something, anything, to protect these lands?
It’s of course our job, with your help, to see that it does.
To date, this administration has been a horrible disappointment for failing to step up to its obligation to responsibly manage our public lands. With this latest meaningless gesture, the only recognizable virtue is consistency.