Groups continue push for openness on monuments

Hastings

Initial transparency resolution dies in House committee

By TIM HEARDEN

Capital Press

Two national organizations will try to keep the pressure on lawmakers for transparency in how national monuments are designated, despite a legislative setback, a spokeswoman said.

The National Cattlemen's Beef Association and Public Lands Council officials say they were dismayed that a resolution requiring specific information about monuments died in a U.S. House committee.

The motion, by ranking Republican Doc Hastings of Washington, called for Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to turn over data regarding the government's plan to designate new monuments.

The House Committee on Natural Resources voted 22-20 earlier this month not to give the motion a favorable recommendation.

"It would have to be brought up (to the full House) by the majority, but since it wasn't favorably recommended out of committee, that hinders its chances," said Bethany Shively, the NCBA's legislative spokeswoman in Washington, D.C.

"We're disappointed that it wasn't," she said. "We did support that bill ... We feel that it's important."

The organizations will keep working with legislators to underscore the need for transparency in the process, Shively said.

The two groups are concerned that new monument designations could further hinder public grazing in the West. Lawmakers voiced concerns earlier this year over an internal Department of the Interior memo that details plans to designate as many as 14 new national monuments on 13 million acres across the West.

The memo identifies several new monuments in California, including the expansion of the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument to include Klamath River tributaries. It also names parts of the Owyhee Desert in Oregon and Nevada and the San Juan Islands in Washington as possible monuments.

Salazar has told a Senate committee the memo was merely an attempt to gather ideas from his staff.

The lands council has advocated changes in the 1906 American Antiquities Act to make it more difficult for the president to designate national monuments. Under the act, the president has the authority to designate by executive order "historic landmarks, historic and prehistoric structures, and other objects of historic or scientific interest" as monuments.

The council asserts that Congress should have to approve such designations and existing levels of grazing should have to be maintained in any case.

The organization also wants Congress to exempt the Western states from the Antiquities Act and to reverse or repeal some past designations.

Online

National Cattlemen's Beef Association: http://beefusa.org/

Western lawmakers' letter to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar: http://robbishop.house.gov/UploadedFiles/WC_monument_letter_to_Salazar_022610.pdf

Department of the Interior memo on potential national monuments: http://robbishop.house.gov/UploadedFiles/states_for_designation.pdf

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