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Another Obama stealth land grab: Salazar and the NLCS

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By Michelle Malkin  •  November 22, 2010 10:19 AM


Map via Frank Jacobs, Strange Maps blog/Big Think

The TSA isn’t the only one with grabby hands.

I’ve been reporting on the stealth Obama land and ocean grabs for the past several months now — and there is another new, under-the-radar-screen development that deserves your attention.

Quick review: In August, I told you about the “Great Outdoors Initiative” to lock up more open spaces through executive order. This came on top on top of a separate, property-usurping initiative exposed by GOP Rep. Robert Bishop and Sen. Jim DeMint earlier this spring. According to an internal, 21-page Obama administration memo, 17 energy-rich areas in 11 states have been targeted as potential federal “monuments.” The Obama War on the West is a War on Jobs that extends from land to sea based on politicized junk science by executive fiat and czar evasion.

The latest power grab comes via Interior Secretary Ken Salazar — the unchecked, unaccountable data doctor and loathsome cowboy — who has just unilaterally elevated a government landscape conservation system to “directorate” status with no congressional debate, no witnesses, no testimony, no public input.

The full secretarial order is here (PDF).

From the announcement:

LAS VEGAS, NV – Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar today issued a Secretarial Order elevating the Office of the National Landscape Conservation System and Community Partnerships in the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to the level of a directorate within BLM.

“This action reflects the growing importance of the 27-million acre National Landscape Conservation System to local economies, to the health of communities, and to the conservation of some of America’s greatest landscapes,” Salazar said at the National Landscape Conservation System Summit in Las Vegas. “The BLM plays a special role in protecting America’s great outdoors for the benefit of all Americans – for it is the national conservation lands that contain the forests and canyons that families love to explore, the
backcountry where children learn to hunt and fish, and the places that tell the story of our history and our cultures. Each of these places within the National Landscape Conservation System holds special meaning to the American people and is an engine for jobs and economic growth in local communities.”

This National Landscape Conservation System was established as an integral part of the Bureau of Land Management by the Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009, a bipartisan initiative that responded to the critical need, as the population of the West increases, to conserve open spaces that are a unique part of America’s heritage. As an integral part of the BLM’s multiple-use mission, conservation is a long-term investment that provides quality of life and economic benefits for current and future generations. The system contains many of our Nation’s most treasured landscapes, including scientific, historic and cultural resources, wilderness and wilderness study areas, wild and scenic rivers, national monuments, national conservation areas, and scenic and historic trails, among others.

Salazar’s disingenuous pro-jobs spin belies the anti-growth, anti-prosperity, anti-jobs agenda of the green groups who are over the moon about the new maneuver:

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar gave the National Landscape Conservation System a boost this week, elevating its status within the Interior Department and setting conservation as a top priority for the vast federal lands.

In a secretarial order issued Monday, Salazar granted the office that oversees the relatively new system the level of “directorate” within the Bureau of Land Management. He also called for the agency to manage the lands “to protect the values for which they were designated” and specified that science should be involved in all management decisions.

The NLCS is a collage of more than 27 million acres of wilderness, conservation areas, rivers and monuments managed and protected by BLM. It was established administratively by President Clinton nearly a decade ago and put into law in March when President Obama signed the public lands omnibus bill.

The system is intended to protect open spaces in the West that “are a unique part of America’s heritage,” according to the agency.

BLM manages the system for multiple uses, but the order gives more direction to its management. The agency can allow grazing, energy development and tourism, but the order specifies that biodiversity and “ecological connectivity” are supposed to be tantamount. The lands are also supposed to help create “resilience in the face of climate change,” according to the order.

Conservation groups, including the Wilderness Society and Conservation Lands Foundation, praised the “landmark order.”

The NCLS has been singled out by the federal Interior Department inspector general for illegal lobbying and coordination with environmental groups who oppose any human use of these public lands. Via J.P. Freire last October:

Looks like the Department of Interior has a problem with a section responsible for 26 million acres of federal lands. According to an investigation conducted by the Interior inspector general regarding the department’s National Landscape Conservation System (NCLS), employees and environmental advocacy organizations frequently violated federal anti-lobbying policies.

A redacted report from the investigation includes this zinger:

Our investigation determined that numerous activities and communication took place between NLCS officials and nongovernmental organizations (NGO), including discussions about the NLCS budget and BLM employees’ editing brochures and producing fact sheets for a specific NGO. Our investigative efforts revealed that communication between NLCS and certain NGOs in these circumstances gave the appearance of federal employees being less than objective and created the potential for conflicts of interest or violations of law. We also uncovered a general disregard for establishing and maintaining boundaries among the various entities.

In fact, in one instance, Jeff Jarvis, who is an employee of the Bureau of Land Management, requested that a representative of the National Wildlife Federation change legislation affecting NCLS. As the inspector reports, “this was potentially problematic because BLM employees were prohibited from influencing the legislation.”

…I just got off the phone with Congressman Bishop, who had this to say: “This shows an inappropriate and unhealthy relationship between some in the executive branch and some lobbyist groups. This illustrates a legitimacy to our request for more information. While others claimed that this request about the NLCS was a meaningless red herring, we saw smoke and now we see a fire.”

… “If transparency was supposed to be a part of the new administration, it hasn’t hit the Department of Interior yet. We feel like footdragging and obstruction are more appropriate words. We got the documents late, eventually, and they illustrated there was a problem. … It’s time for the Department of Interior to do some housecleaning.”

Remember: The federal government already owns roughly one of every three acres in the United States. This vast amount of property is now in the control of power-hungry bureaucrats who have lied to the public, distorted science, and abused their government positions to conspire with job-killing eco-extremist groups.

If only there were as much public outrage over the Obama enviro-grope-and-grab policies as there is over the Obama airport gropes and grabs…

***

The Dems’ lame-duck plans:

Congress may lose its best chance to pass a suite of public lands proposals that would protect more than 2 million acres of federal lands as wilderness if it fails to move an omnibus measure in the lame-duck session, conservation groups say.

But while a key Senate lawmaker last week said he was bundling several dozen public lands bills into a draft package, Democratic leadership is mum about whether such a measure could move amid a crowded Senate schedule of higher-profile issues including a continuing resolution, tax extensions and other measures.

“It is on a list of items that are possible for consideration during the lame duck,” Regan LaChapelle, a spokeswoman for Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said of a draft public lands proposal by New Mexico Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D). “We have a long list of items that are possible and not much time to do so.”

Reid is speaking with fellow Democrats and Republicans, House leaders and the Obama administration to decide what is possible over the coming weeks, LaChapelle said.

The proposal by Bingaman, who is chairman of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, would include most of the 60-plus public lands bills his panel has passed in the 111th Congress, and none that have failed to pass, said spokesman Bill Wicker.

Bills that have passed the committee include a proposal to designate the Valles Caldera National Preserve in New Mexico as a unit of the National Park System, a proposal to turn the Devil’s Staircase in Oregon into federally protected wilderness where logging and road development would be banned, and a bill to expand the Alpine Lakes Wilderness in Washington and extend the Middle Fork Snoqualmie River and Pratt River wild and scenic rivers.

Other bills would create new national parks, monuments, wilderness areas and wildlife sanctuaries.

“We really don’t know what the prospects for a public lands bill are likely to be,” said Wicker, adding that Bingaman would be talking with leadership and committee Republicans before making a decision on how to move forward. A final decision on a package could come anytime before the end of the session, Wicker said.

“Certainly the chairman would like to see all of those bills succeed,” he said.

The good news: GOP Rep. Rob Bishop is ready to push back as likely chairman of the House Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands.

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