EDITORIAL: Environmentalists react with hysteria to Donald Trump’s national monument reductions

Self-styled conservationists have reacted with overwrought hysterics to President Donald Trump’s announcement that his administration will scale back two national monuments in Utah.

The founder and CEO of Patagonia, which makes outdoor gear, insisted he will sue, ranting that, “This government is evil, and I’m not going to sit back and let evil win.” And that was one of the more reasoned comments.

The president last week announced that he was reducing the scope of Bears Ears National Monument, created recently by Barack Obama under the 1906 Antiquities Act, and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, set aside by Bill Clinton in 1996. Many locals felt the designations were nothing more than federal land grabs that would harm economic development and put wide tracts of public property off limits to productive use.

“You got Patagonia in here waving the flag of environmentalism while he’s completely exploited the outdoors for industrialized tourism,” Phil Lyman, a commissioner in Utah’s San Juan County, told CNN. “For a person in that position to lecture morality to one of the poorest counties in the entire nation is wrong.”

Expect similar fireworks in Nevada along with legal action if the president follows through on a recommendation to slightly reduce the size of the newly named Gold Butte National Monument near Bunkerville. Local activists have been huffing and puffing for months over that possibility.

The idea that trimming the area of a monument or two will lead to the eventual destruction of America’s public lands and the ruin of treasured sights such as the Grand Canyon or Yellowstone is delusional. The federal government runs herd over a vast portfolio of 640 million acres, primarily in the Western United States. It “manages” 85 percent of Nevada. Doing minor surgery on the 300,000-acre Gold Butte site will in no way undermine the designation despite the fevered rhetoric from the greens.

This is all about control. Environmentalists constantly pooh-pooh the concerns of those who live in areas under federal domain, where far-off politicians and bureaucrats make land-use decisions that affect the livelihoods and recreational opportunities of local residents. Yet trim back the ability of conservationists to use the land in their preferred fashion and the vitriol rains down.

The Air Force is currently on the verge of gobbling up even more of the Desert National Wildlife Refuge north of Las Vegas in an effort to increase training capacity. The move would reduce public access to a tens of thousands of acres, just as a national monument designation can do. Outdoor advocates are wary of the plan because of its potential affect on wildlife, but also because it will limit their enjoyment of the refuge.

That sounds a lot like the complaints rural Nevadans offer when the Bureau of Land Management or Fish and Wildlife shuts down a dirt road or imposes additional restrictions on local land use. Apparently, it just depends on who is getting locked out.

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