Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Update on San Juan Islands NCA or Will it be a National Monumant?

I have been following the effort of designating Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lands in the San Juan Islands designated a National Conservation Area (NCA):
National Conservation Area and San Juan Islands
Sam Crawford Proposes Supporting National Conservation Area Designation for BLM Lands in Whatcom County
Whatcom County Council Supports San Juan Island National Conservation Area 

The proposal has gained strong backing from both Washington U.S. Senators Murray and Cantwell, U.S. Congressman Larson (San Juans are in his district) as well as Washington State Governor Gregoire and U.S. Congressman Rheichard (R) from Bellevue. Interior Secretary Salazar is enthusiastic as well.

Congressman Larson has sponsored a House Bill and Cantwell has sponsored a Senate Bill. The Senate Bill had a hearing in March 2012, but as of yet there have been no hearings by the House Natural Resources Committee or its Subcommittee on National Parks Forest Land and Public Land in the year that has passed since Larson introduced his House Bill.

The Subcommittee web page states. "Last year, an internal document from the Department of Interior (DOI) revealed the Obama Administration’s plans to potentially designate new national monuments under the Antiquities Act. The proposed designations would lock-up millions of acres of public lands in the West, without Congressional approval or public input, and restrict access for energy production, recreation, and other job-creating economic activities."

Given this tone it should be no surprise that the San Juan NCA has not been given even a hearing. In the case of the San Juans, the committee could have public input and hold a hearing, but it appears that a broader political issue is at work and the efforts towards having Congress designate a San Juan NCA has stalled.

Due the apparent lack of U.S. House of Representatives support, proponents of the NCA are now looking at taking the Presidential path and having the lands designated a National Monument

Doc Hastings (R) is the US Congressman from southeastern Washington and the Chair of the House Natural Resources Committee won't support his own State's fellow congressman or Senators. He has been down this path before. The last time a National Monument was designated in Washington State was within his own district when Bill Clinton designated Hanford Reach a National Monument despite the objections of Doc Hastings. 

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