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Know the West

We can't trust the BLM

  Dear HCN,

Columnist Jon Margolis concludes that designation of the new Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument was not a "model of cooperative federalism. Consultation with the state was non-existent, ..." " (HCN, 9/1/97).

If President Clinton had consulted with the state before issuing his proclamation, he would have run up against a monolithic stonewall of resistance from the congressional delegation, the governor and the county governments in the area. Every possible legal and legislative roadblock would have been used to prevent the designation of the monument, and it is quite possible this would have made the designation impossible, even though, as Mr. Margolis states, it was legal.

President Clinton, however, did make a fatal mistake in his proclamation, a point Mr. Margolis missed: The monument was put under the jurisdiction of the BLM, when it should have been managed by the National Park Service. The Bureau of Land Management has neither the mission, nor the expertise, nor the needed vision to manage any public land primarily for preservation. The BLM is devoted almost exclusively to the grazing, mining, oil/gas and ORV interests, with little concern for wilderness, wildlife or preservation. Under BLM jurisdiction, there is almost no hope that the values the president cited in his proclamation will be realized.

Conoco Inc. applied for permits to drill on an additional five sites within their leases on monument lands, and it has indicated in public statements it plans to drill on all its leases (perhaps 25-30 wells). BLM's second environmental analysis concludes again that additional wells would have "no significant impact," devoting only one page to concerns raised by the EPA. Clearly, the BLM is prepared to grant Conoco carte blanche with respect to their plans, regardless of the clear and devastating impacts on the values of the monument. For the BLM, it is business as usual, notwithstanding that a national monument is not a BLM multiple-use area where anything goes.

The only hope for the monument is to transfer its jurisdiction to the Park Service.

Jack T. Spence

Teasdale, Utah

The writer is a professor emeritus in chemistry and biochemistry at Utah State University.