Washington, D.C. (month day, 2015) – Today President Obama’s Administration announced that it will unilaterally designate 700,000 acres in eastern Nevada as the Basin Range National Monument, undermining a locally-developed land plan that even Sen. Harry Reid supported and dismissing any opportunity for meaningful public input. This designation will put this enormous swathe of land under lock and key, using a modern art project spanning a few hundred acres to justify a land grab of hundreds of thousands of acres.

President Obama is making this designation despite Rep. Crescent Hardy’s (NV-04) amendment to the Fiscal Year 2016 Interior Appropriations bill that would defund this and similar pending designations in locations throughout the western United States. This week, just prior to the designation, the House of Representatives adopted this amendment with a bipartisan majority.

Western Caucus Chairman Cynthia Lummis (WY-at large), Vice Chairman Mark Amodei (NV-02) and members Rep. Joe Heck (NV-03) and Rep. Crescent Hardy (NV-04) issued the following statements in response: 

“President Obama described his second term with the phrase ‘a pen and a phone,’ which shows just how out of touch he is with American people being shut out of decisions impacting their livelihoods,” said Chairman Lummis. “From over 2,000 miles away, President Obama made this ‘government knows best’ decision with blatant disregard for the exhaustive, locally-driven efforts to appropriately balance land use in the area. This is completely backwards. Land use policies need to be developed from the ground up with those most affected in the drivers’ seat. This brazen move by the President, which goes far beyond the purpose and intent of the Antiquities Act of 1906, underlines the need for Congress to build on the Hardy Amendment, modernize this hundred year old statute, and prevent its continued abuse by a President intent on locking up as much land as possible during his remaining days in office.”

“I guess I missed the Nevada delegation meeting to discuss the second largest conservation withdrawal in the history of the state. At least when Senator Bryan was looking for a legacy, they processed it through something resembling regular order,” said Rep. Amodei. “I keep searching for the resolutions from the Nye and Lincoln County Commissions requesting unilateral action by two political pals to carve out the state of Rhode Island from Nevada, but to no avail. I look forward to visiting the ‘Hairy Berry National Monument’ and joining with my colleague Rep. Hardy in sponsoring legislation to put Rhode Island back in the lead for acreage.” 

“President Obama often says ‘we are stronger as a nation when we work together.’ Apparently that rule does not apply to public lands issues when it involves his political allies,” said Rep. Heck. “The Basin and Range Monument designation goes well beyond the intention of the Antiquities Act which limits parcels reserved by the President to the ‘smallest area compatible with the proper care and management of the objects to be protected.’ It is beyond belief that an area larger than the state of Rhode Island is the smallest area compatible with proper care and management of this land.

“The Nevada delegation has a tradition of working together to build consensus on lands bills important to our state; consider the Tule Springs legislation or my own Three Kids Mine Remediation and Reclamation Act. Those efforts were the result of years of work in Nevada and in Congress and resulted in laws that enjoy wide public support. Yet the President, with the stroke of a pen, has bypassed Congress yet again and ignored any input from Nevadans on this designation. If we are stronger when we work together, then let’s actually work together.”

“I feel strongly that the best management of our public lands comes only through methodical consideration and partnership across all levels of local, state and federal government,” said Rep hardy. “That’s why I’m disappointed for the Nevadans who were left out of the process, including the commissioners of both counties affected: Lincoln and Nye. In May, I broke the news of the Administration’s plan to make the Basin and Range National Monument designation, and this week introduced an amendment to protect local input and increase transparency with such designations, which was adopted and I hope to see pass in the near future.

“We need to be sure local communities don’t have their concerns ignored by politicians eager to leave a legacy or pull favors for their friends by setting aside huge tracts of land. Nevada’s rural county economies are particularly sensitive, and any decisions that restrict ranching, recreation or other types of land use activities should have as much local input as possible. We should empower local communities and local stakeholders most affected by monument designations to have a legitimate voice in the process, but at the moment, they do not. Legacy building in the twilight of one’s career shouldn’t be the driver of our nation’s public land management.”

Background:

  • President Obama unilaterally created the Basin and Range National Monument in eastern Nevada, wiping away a locally developed land plan without any public involvement or regard for the legislative process.
  • This new National Monument would place more than 700,000 acres of Nevada land under lock and key, with over half of the acreage in Lincoln County, Nevada, which is already 97.4% owned by the federal government.
  • Lincoln County went through an exhaustive, locally-driven land planning process in 2004 that already resulted in the creation of 700,000 acres of wilderness by Congress.
  • During floor debate at the time, Senator Harry Reid lauded the bill and said it was a “compromise that is fair, forward-looking and provides for conservation, recreation, and development in Lincoln County and for southern Nevada.”
  • A House bill to support the President’s recent designation was introduced by a Member of Congress who does not even represent the area, while the Senate companion bill is without a single cosponsor.  To the contrary, this week a majority of the House of Representatives voted to defund any new monument designations in Lincoln County, Nevada.
  • Proponents of the monument say land protections are needed to protect the manmade art formation known as “The City,” which is a land-art formation roughly comparable in size to the National Mall in Washington, D.C.
  • An expansive boundary the size and scope of the Basin and Range National Monument, approximately the size of the state of Rhode Island, is not needed to protect an area as small as The City.

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