Sunday, November 20, 2011

Doc Hastings and San Juan Island National Conservation Area Proposal

I have previously posted about a proposed San Juan Island National Conservation Area

Seems National Conservation Areas are among the things Doc Hastings Chair of the United States Congressal House Committee on Natural Resources does not care for.

Per McClatchy reporter Rob Hotakeinen:

"When Salazar suggested listing the San Juans and sites in eight other states as new wilderness and conservation areas, Hastings was quick to object.
He said Congress "has the sole authority" to decide which lands should be designated as wilderness "and which should instead be allowed to contribute to the full range of recreational, conservation, economic and resource benefits that carefully managed multiple-use lands provide."
Besides, Hastings said, the country can't afford any more public land."

Designation of Natural Conservation Areas as proposed does require an act of Congress as does the designation of wilderness areas. I know that Ken Salazar (Interior Secretary) is well aware of this. I am not sure what Mr. Hastings meant by "the country can't afford any more public land" as the lands in question are already owned by the public. In fact, part of the motivation for the San Juan designation is to better and more efficiently manage these lands.

The context of Hastings comments was in regards to a hearing on energy prodction from public lands and waters. Wilderness or conservation areas often trigger quick objections on the broad principle of not wanting to lock up lands from resource extraction. Hastings is an advocate for opening up more land for oil and gas development. Hence, wilderness proposals and conservation areas may get a bit of  broad brush treatment that is not necessarily reflective of the underlying geology. Not much chance of energy production from the small scattered islands and rocks in the San Juan Islands of northwest Washington and other than quarry rock not much mining value either.

Besides the energy issue, Hastings' comments regarding public land raises an over century old argument about public ownership of lands. It also revolves around the long standing struggle between local desires to extract revenue from Federal land and Federal control of those lands. In this regard, National Conservation Areas should have some appeal as it involves local planning efforts.  

It is a bit ironic that the background picture for the House Committee on Natural Resources web page has a picture of a wilderness area in Washington State as its background image and Doc Hastings' on web page includes a rolling set of pictures that includes a view of a Hanford Reach National Monument and a National Scenic Area.

Perhaps those images tell a truer story about the values that tend to prevail over the rhetoric and political dogma, otherwise pictures of open pit coal mines and other resource extraction images should be included.


DaveOnFidalgo said...

Your mistake is assuming members of Congress possess some degree of intellect. Or even the gumption to read. Because thinking about an issue can actually be painful to them, instead they deploy ideological templates to make decisions. Of course we Americans must keep in mind, we usually get exactly what we vote for.

Dan McShane said...

I watched the Natural Resource Committee hearing. The hearing was theater and sound bites with no listening taking place by the majority of the committee. A few members could easily be mistaken as having mental difficulties and a few others have deep blind hatred they make no attempt to cover over. I can understand a dogmatic view of the world, but as chair Hastings is running a circus show.