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President Obama is using his Big Stick authority under the Antiquities Act---first used by Theodore Roosevelt to save Devils Tower and the Grand Canyon---to create 3 new National Monuments on Thursday, February 19.

From Think Progress

On Thursday, President Obama is expected to announce three new national monuments, adding to the 13 monuments he’s already designated during his presidency. Traveling to Illinois, Obama will officially proclaim the Pullman Historic District of Chicago, Browns Canyon in Colorado, and a former Honouliuli Internment Camp site in Hawaii to be national monuments.
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Today the Senate voted 85-14 for cloture on the public lands deal that is part of the House-passed National Defense Authorization Act. Ten right-wing Republicans were joined by Democratic Senators Jeff Merkeley (OR), Ron Wyden (OR), and Kirsten Gillibrand (NY) and Independent Bernie Sanders (VT) in opposing inclusion of the package.

Greenwire (sub) has the summary:

The Senate this morning voted 85-14 to advance a major package of parks, wilderness and land development bills as part of the National Defense Authorization Act, setting up a final vote on the $585 billion measure no later than tomorrow.

The procedural vote ended debate on the motion to concur in the House-passed bill.

The cloture vote was necessary because Republican senators including Tom Coburn of Oklahoma had objected to including parks and wilderness bills in a defense bill. The lands package was assembled by the Republican and Democratic leaders in the Senate Energy and Natural Resources and the House Natural Resources panels.

---snip---

NDAA would designate nearly 250,000 acres of wilderness in Nevada, New Mexico, Colorado, Washington state and Montana; withdraw hundreds of thousands of acres from mineral development; establish or expand more than a dozen national park units; and protect about 140 miles of rivers.
While the land package has been praised for its expansion of wilderness, rivers, and parks, it has also been severely criticized for its secret deals to give public land to mining companies in Arizona and Nevada, open up the Tongass National Forest to clearcutting, expedite grazing, oil and gas permits, and undermine the Endangered Species Act and National Environmental Policy Act.

The High Country News says

it’s decidedly a mixed bag – with one hand, it adds about 250,000 acres of designated wilderness, while with the other hand, it transfers 110,000 acres into private ownership. It creates half a dozen new national parks, but appropriates no extra money to run them. It gives one Indian tribe more control over land, while taking sacred sites away from another tribe. It protects hundreds of thousands of acres from mining and drilling, but tells the Bureau of Land Management to fast-track grazing and energy permits.

Despite the significant and painful compromises, most big green groups see the bill as an overall win, especially given prior Congressional inaction on conservation bills. But nearly 50 other environmental organizations, including WildEarth Guardians and the Center for Biological Diversity, think it’s a net loss, and have sent a letter to Congress requesting that the lands measures be stripped from the defense bill.

 [Among the other groups signing the letter were Greenpeace, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, WildWest Institute, Californians for Western Wilderness, Wild Utah Project, Living Rivers and Colorado Waterkeeper, Wilderness Watch, Klamath Forest Alliance, Western Lands Project, and others.]

Their letter said, in part, that the bill would
"result in a net loss of wildland and wildlife protection on tens of millions of acres of public land. The provisions would undermine some of our nation's preeminent environmental and public lands laws, such as the National Environmental Policy Act ( NEPA) and the Wilderness Act, would give landscapes deemed sacred by Native American tribes to a foreign-owned mining company, and would diminish the federal estate held in trust for all Americans..."
.

Aside from objecting to the trading of National Forest land in Arizona considered sacred by Native American tribes in order to expedite copper mining by Resolution Copper, and the Sealaska giveaway of 70,000 acres of the Tongass National Forest, the letter objected to the automatic renewals of livestock grazing permits "even where grazing operations are degrading wildlife habitat and fouling streams and rivers" without evaluation under NEPA, and imperiling the sage grouse and likely hasten the need for its protection under the Endangered Species Act. It also objected to a stealth provision removing existing Wilderness Study Area (WSA) protections for two areas in eastern Montana, whose protections had never been the subject of legislation or public consideration before.

Nevertheless, despite these and other objections, the land deal will be in the final bill, with a vote expected as early as Friday.

From the summary by High Country News:

Here’s a listing of some of the major public-lands proposals in the defense bill.

LAND TRANSFERS

Transfer more than 2,000 acres of public land in Arizona to mining giant Rio Tinto for the Resolution Copper mine, a deal the company has pursued for a decade. In return, the company would convey 5,000 acres to the federal government. But the land where the mine would be located contains sites sacred to the San Carlos Apache, and they and environmental groups oppose the swap, which failed two previous votes in the Senate.
Transfer 70,000 acres of Alaska’s Tongass National Forest to the Sealaska corporation (made up of Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian Natives), mostly for logging and development. But more than 150,000 acres in the Tongass would be conserved for salmon habitat and wildlife.
 Return 5,000 acres of coal reserves to Montana’s Northern Cheyenne tribe, which they lost to a surveying error in 1900. The current owner, Great Northern Properties, would in exchange be able to mine outside of the tribe’s land. Another 932 acres of tribally owned land would be placed in trust (but omitted is 635 acres near Bear Butte, a sacred site, that was included in an earlier version of this act).
WILDERNESS

Rocky Mountain Front: 275,000 acres of public land protected in western Montana, including 67,000 acres added to the Bob Marshall and Scapegoat Wildernesses (this would be the state’s first new wilderness in 30 years). At the same time, though, wilderness study area protections would be released on 14,000 acres in southeast Montana, and other wilderness study areas would be assessed for oil and gas extraction.
Columbine-Hondo Wilderness: 45,000 acres in the Carson National Forest in northern New Mexico.
Alpine Lakes Wilderness: Expands that 394,000-acre Washington state wilderness by 22,100 acres, and designates sections of the Middle Fork Snoqualmie and Pratt Rivers as “Wild and Scenic.”
Hermosa Creek:  Protects the 108,000-acre Hermosa Creek Watershed in the San Juan National Forest in southwest Colorado.
Wovoka Wilderness: 48,000 acres in Lyon County, Nevada. Also transfers 12,500 acres to the town of Yerington for economic development around a copper mine.
Pine Forest Range Wilderness: 26,000 acres in northwest Nevada.  
NATIONAL PARKS

The National Parks Traveler summarizes the parks-related parts of the bill, which include:

Create the Blackstone River Valley National Historical Park in Rhode Island and Massachusetts.
Designate the Coltsville National Historical Park in Connecticut.
Attach a preserve of 4,070 acres to Oregon Caves National Monument.
Establish Tule Springs National Monument near Las Vegas to preserve ancient fossils.
Transfer the 90,000-acre Valles Caldera National Preserve in New Mexico from the U.S. Forest Service to the National Park Service.
Expand Vicksburg National Military Park in Mississippi.
Consider historical designation for the trail of the African American Buffalo Soldiers, sent from San Francisco to guard the newly created Yosemite and Sequoia National Parks in the early 1900s.
Require the NPS to study other sites to possibly include in the park system.
Prevent the NPS from giving donors naming rights to parks or facilities, endorsing the donor or their products or services, or calling them “official sponsors.” And for the NPS Centennial in 2016, the treasury will mint special collector’s coins that will raise money for the National Park Foundation.
Groups such as the National Parks Conservation Association are elated at what they're calling a "monumental" expansion of the parks system, as are communities and businesses near the new units.

The National Parks Traveler notes, though, that all those new and expanded parks require more money to operate – and the bill provides no new funding...

OTHER PROVISIONS

The Grazing Improvement Act would automatically extend grazing permits on public lands from 10 to 20 years, and allow those permits to be renewed even before environmental review is complete. This provision, says conservation groups, will further degrade the sagebrush plains that the greater sage grouse depends on, thwarting its conservation and increasing the need to list it under the Endangered Species Act. (The “Cromnibus” spending agreement would further harm grouse by preventing Interior from putting Gunnison sage grouse or greater sage grouse on the endangered species list.) And this version of the grazing act omits provisions that would have allowed voluntary retirement of grazing permits in Oregon and New Mexico.
The Cabin Fee Act would put an upper limit on federal fees charged to lease cabins in national forests.
A BLM pilot program to speed up the process for oil and gas permits would become permanent.
Irrigation districts would be allowed to develop hydropower on Bureau of Reclamation ditches and canals.

Poll

The land deal is

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| 29 votes | Vote | Results

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The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) was passed by the House last week, and is likely to pass the Senate this coming week, even if Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) follows through on his threat to  filibuster it because of the inclusion of a package of land deals in the military bill. 

The land deals would be the first significant conservation and wilderness bill enacted by Congress since early 2009, when it passed the Omnibus Public Lands Management Act. That act protected  2 million acres of Wilderness on public land in 9 states. It also protected thousands of miles of Wild and Scenic Rivers, and added 6 trails to the National Trails System as well as protecting other lands in National Conservation Areas. 

There are innumerable reasons to oppose the overall NDAA on military grounds alone, but since it is likely to become law it's worth looking at what some of those land provisions are. Many of them are good bills that have languished in Congress primarily because of Republican opposition. They include legislation to create or expand wilderness areas, protect wild and scenic waterways, and expand or create national parks and monuments. 

But the land provisions aren't all good. Among the worst of them are land swaps in Arizona and Nevada that open up land for mining  and other development, some of it threatening land sacred to Native Americans;   a deal to open up nearly 70,000 acres of the Tongass National Forest in Alaska to clearcutting; expediting of oil and gas permits, and doubling the term of grazing permits on federal land from 5 to 10 years. 

They are all bad provisions, but they're about to become law.  But the good provisions are also about to become law, and it's worth noting what some of them are. 

What follows is a summary of the major provisions of the land deals, and a breakdown by state of some of those provisions. 

From Energy & Environment News and Greenwire (sub):

"The defense bill would designate nearly 250,000 acres of wilderness in five Western states, protect roughly 70 miles of rivers and establish or expand more than a dozen national parks. It would also expedite oil and gas and grazing permits on public lands and convey more than 100,000 acres of public lands for economic development including mineral production, logging, infrastructure and community developments."
From the Los Angeles Times:
"The measure includes about 70 public lands projects, including the first national monument status for ice age fossil beds in Nevada, protection for about 275,000 acres of Montana's rugged Rocky Mountain Front and a land swap that clears the way for a controversial southeastern Arizona copper mine.
Meant to be a compromise between environmental groups and business interests, the package would designate 245,000 acres as wilderness while simultaneously conveying more than 110,000 acres out of federal ownership for economic development, including mining, timber production and infrastructure improvements.

Some of the trade-offs drew the ire of environmentalists, who criticized what they viewed as federal give-aways to oil, gas and mining interests, particularly an underground copper mine on Arizona land prized by Native Americans. Others opposed expanded livestock grazing that could harm the habitat for the sage grouse and other sensitive species."

Reactions to the deal by national and regional environmental leaders has ranged from praise for the protections that will result to condemnation of the environmental price to be paid. A sampling:
From Greenwire: "We're not happy about how this thing unfolded," said Athan Manuel, director of the Sierra Club's lands protection program. "The losses far outweigh the wins....We should not be privatizing federal lands at the behest of a mining company...We should not be privatizing public lands that are sacred to Native Americans."

....

Bobby McEnaney, who oversees public lands and wildlife protections for the Natural Resources Defense Council, called the lands package "a mixed bag" but said he has "pretty big concerns" with how the grazing provisions affect the National Environmental Policy Act, which mandates transparency in public lands decisions.

....

"I can be bought, but I'm not cheap," [environmental advocate Andy Kerr] said, saying he's made past sacrifices to achieve conservation gains.

Kerr said he's pleased to see the package includes roughly 250,000 acres of new wilderness designations in a handful of Western states, but he said many, if not most, of those lands do not face imminent threats. There were other wilderness bills left on the table, he said, including at least four in Oregon.

"Just putting some acres on the scoreboard at the cost of other lands is not a good way to behave," he said.

Kerr was particularly opposed to the grazing permit language, which he said has changed significantly from a bill by Barrasso, S. 258, that passed ENR with bipartisan support a year ago. "The language was pounded together in a back room," he said, warning that, with passage, the listing of sage grouse will be "inevitable."

....

From the Montana Standard:  Matthew Koehler, executive director of WildWest Institute in Missoula: “It’s a terrible precedent to set for public-lands policy. … I just feel like America’s publics-land legacy deserves better than some last-minute, Hail Mary that is passed on a defense spending bill. Really, it’s nothing more than a bunch of pork served up to campaign contributors.”

Among the conservation, natural resource, and park provisions in the defense bill are these:

In Montana:

(Source: Billings Gazette 
December 4, 2014)

Adding 67,000 acres to the Bob Marshall Wilderness and designating 208,000 acres along the Front as a conservation management area;

Releasing 14,000 acres of wilderness study areas in southeast Montana, near Lame Deer and Broadus, for regular (sic) management by the Bureau of Land Management.;

A ban on future mining or drilling on 430,000 acres of public land directly west of Glacier National Park, near the North Fork of the Flathead River;

In Washington:

(Sources: Issaquah-Sammamish Reporter (WA) December 4, 2014; KPLU (WA) December 4, 2014)

Alpine Lakes Wilderness; Additional 20,000 Acres

Pratt and Middle Fork Snoqualmie Rivers Protection Act;

Legislation to designate a segment of Illabot Creek in Skagit County as a component of the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System;

Adjusting  boundaries to allow rebuilding of Stehekin Road in North Cascades National Park;

Allowing Public Access to the summit of Rattlesnake Mountain in the Hanford Reach National Monument;

Establishing a Manhattan Project National Historic Monument around Hanford’s B Reactor;

In Nevada:

(Sources: Reno Gazette; Las Vegas Review)

Creating the Tule Springs Fossil Beds National Monument;

Creating two new wilderness areas: A 49,000-acre Wovoka Wilderness in Lyon County and a 26,000-acre Pine Forest Range Wilderness in Humboldt County;

Expanding the Red Rock National Conservation Area outside Las Vegas by 1,530 acres (trading off 10,240 acres of Sunrise Mountain that was rejected by the BLM as potential wilderness);

In Colorado:

(Source: The Durango Herald)

The Hermosa Creek Watershed Protection Act, which would protect over 100,000 acres of public land, including over 37,000 acres of wilderness;

In New Mexico:

(Source: Taos News; Santa Fe New Mexican)

The Columbine/Hondo Wilderness Act, which would provide wilderness protection to about 45,000 acres in the Carson National Forest;

The bill also redraws parts of the Wheeler Peak Wilderness to create a loop trail accessible to mountain bikes, and transfers land currently managed by the Forest Service to the village of Taos Ski Valley and the town of Red River.

Transfers the Valles Caldera National Preserve to the National Park Service and 

Creates a Manhattan Project Historical Park preserving sites across the U.S. where the atomic bomb was built, including in Los Alamos.

In New York and Maryland:

Harriet Tubman National Historic Park (2 sites)

For a complete list of the land and energy provisions included in the House bill see

http://rules.house.gov/...

Discuss

Today is the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act, passed to protect public land from development, among other reasons. The Act initially protected 9 million acres, but since then Congress has increased the total to over 100 million. Impressive, but far short of protecting many hundreds of millions of additional acres of wilderness that is threatened.

What is wilderness? Why does it need to be protected? The Wilderness Act gives us a definition, and Wallace Stegner gave us his reason in his Wilderness Letter,
written as the drive to protect our environment was picking up steam.

The Wilderness Act says:

“A wilderness, in contrast with those areas where man and his own works dominate the landscape, is hereby recognized as an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain. An area of wilderness is further defined to mean in this Act an area of undeveloped Federal land retaining its primeval character and influence, without permanent improvements or human habitation, which is protected and managed so as to preserve its natural conditions and which (1) generally appears to have been affected primarily by the forces of nature, with the imprint of man’s work substantially unnoticeable; (2) has outstanding opportunities for solitude or a primitive and unconfined type of recreation; (3) has at least five thousand acres of land or is of sufficient size as to make practicable its preservation and use in an unimpaired condition; and (4) may also contain ecological, geological, or other features of scientific, educational, scenic, or historical value.”
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From the Los Angeles Times:

President Obama on Tuesday will use his executive powers to expand the California Coastal National Monument by adding the Point Arena-Stornetta Public Lands on the Mendocino County coast.

The order will add 1,665 acres of federal land north of the town of Point Arena to the monument, which was established in 2000. Managed by the federal Bureau of Land Management, the new acreage includes the area where the Garcia River enters the Pacific Ocean. This will be the first onshore land to be included in the monument.

The monument was set aside to protect the numerous islands and reefs that hug the California coastline for 1,100 miles and to

Poll

Which of these National Treasures most deserves to be protected as a National Monument?

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If you came home from school waving your latest test in your hand, do you think your Mom and Pop would be glad to see a Big Fat Zero on it?

Yeah, be neither. But that's what 48 House Republicans got on the League of Conservation Voters Scorecard for 2013 (PDF) released today.

In the Senate, 17 Republicans scored "Below 10."

Now 10 might sound pretty high, right?

Not when you're scoring out of 100.

By contrast, 72 House Democrats scored "Above 95", which is a A+ in my book.

Three Democratic lawmakers -- California Reps. Linda Sánchez, Scott Peters and Jared Huffman -- received perfect scores.

In the Senate, 30 Democrats---natch---received scores of 100. From Greenwire (sub):

This scorecard is a disturbing reflection of the extent to which the Republican leadership continues to cater to tea party climate change deniers," LCV Senior Vice President of Government Affairs Tiernan Sittenfeld said in a press call today.

LCV officials noted that the average GOP score dropped to a "staggering low" of 5 percent in 2013, down from 10 percent in 2012 and 17 percent in 2008. The average score for all House lawmakers in 2013 was just 43 percent.

Poll

Who Gets The Fattest F on the Environment?

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Which of these Democrats do you most closely identify with?

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Which one of these Democrats do you most closely identify with?

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| 416 votes | Vote | Results

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Thu Jan 09, 2014 at 03:13 PM PST

Snap Poll: Christie & Tricky

by willyr

Which advice from Richard Nixon should Chris Christie follow?

Poll

How is Chris Christie channeling Dick "Dick" Nixon?

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Thu Dec 19, 2013 at 04:17 PM PST

Snap Pole: Dream Ticket--2016

by willyr

Continuation from this Snap Pole: President 2016:

Without further explanation:

Poll

What is your Dream Ticket for President & Vice-President in 2016?

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Mon Dec 16, 2013 at 03:11 PM PST

Snap Pole: President 2016

by willyr

[This Page Left Intentionally Blanque]

Poll

Who is your choice for president in 2016?

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On August 31, 1967, Governor George Romney of Michigan was considered the front runner for the Republican nomination for president. Until he said something in an interview that was picked up by the New York Times:
Romney Asserts He Underwent 'Brainwashing' on Vietnam Trip

Probably not very many people saw the interview, since there were only three national television networks, and they each had a half hour news program every evening. And of course, there was no YouTube. Now there is, and if you want to see what Romney said before there was an internet, watch it here.

Following this, the Detroit News called on Romney to get out of the presidential race, asking "how long does a brainwashing linger?" Senator Eugene McCarthy of Minnesota was asked about Romney's claim that he had been brainwashed, and he quipped that in Romney's case brainwashing would not have been necessary, but
that "a light rinse would have done it."

Most people didn't hear McCarthy say that, either. If they wanted to follow what was going on, they probably could have scanned the headlines in the New York Times, which would have given them some sense of what lay ahead in 1968.

Here's some of what they would have seen:

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Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell, in a speech to the National Press Club on October 31, said if Congress doesn't act to protect threatened public land, President Obama will.

Jewell said she will be meeting with communities in the coming months to identify public lands deserving of protection as  National Monuments under the Antiquities Act.

She chastised Congress for going three years without protecting a single new acre of land as a national park or wilderness.

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