Sunday, December 10, 2017

Reducing the Federal Deficit - A Monumental Approach

This past week President Trump reversed protection for millions of acres in two national monuments in Utah.  Bears Ears National Monument and Grand Staircase Escalante will be halved as a result of the major surgery just performed by the Chief Executive.  These moves will likely result in job security for scores of environmental lawyers.

Teddy Roosevelt is growling in his grave.

As expected, there were howls from the left, most of whom have probably never visited the sites.  How many people are against opening up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for drilling who have never been to Alaska?  Keep in mind that the folks who actually live in Utah, and the legislators who represent them, argue that they should have control over their own lands.  Shouldn’t they have the right to determine the fate of their own state and to resist federal encroachment?   Should the feds compensate states for the economic losses that they suffer when lands are deemed to be federal monuments? When do the feds have the right to ‘trump’ states’ rights?

I was shocked to learn that the vast majority of Utah land is controlled by the feds. 

Imagine the reaction if the location that Amazon chooses for its 2nd headquarters were suddenly designated as national monument.  Do you think that state would welcome this federal intrusion?  More likely, would be rioters with pitchforks in the street.


Let's cash in from Old Faithful at Yellowstone Nat'l Park!

Now I admit, I am uncomfortable opening up monuments to development and energy exploration.  Parks and monuments are finite and I fear inexorable mission creep if we have a permissive stance in reducing their size.  But I admit, that my misgivings do not constitute a legal argument.  Keep in mind that Utah is not forced to develop these newly released lands.  If they wish to keep them unmolested, they are free to do so.

Perhaps, we should be looking to generate revenue from governmental protected sites?  This could amass cash that could be used for social programs, conservation efforts or even to provide Americans with tax relief.

As a pilot program, I suggest that the Bright Angel and South Kaibab Trails that descend to the base of the Grand Canyon be monetized.   At each mile marker, hungry and thirsty hikers would encounter Starbucks, Five Guys, a Home Depot Annex, Verizon Customer Service, a Lemonade and Smoothie Stand, Sushi Bar, an Army Recruiting Station, FedEx and Whole Foods.   Of course, these goods and services would not in any way detract from the hiking adventure.  If a visitor does not wish to engage in a commercial transaction, then he can simply walk on by.   But, should we deprive a hiker who wants to satisfy an urge for a Frappacino?

This strategy truly gets airborne when it is applied to all of our national parks and monuments.  If Teddy Roosevelt knew of this plan, would he call out ‘Bully!’ or just ‘Bull’!?

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