Sunday, June 19, 2011

Utah’s attempt to assert local control over a national park may have ramifications here in the Mojave. Think roads.

There have been many cases in recent years of local and state bureaucrats trying to take over management functions from the federal agencies overseeing the public lands out here in the west. The activities really took off in the Reagan years and continue on to this day.

The Los Angeles Times Greenspace environmental blog had a recent story
from Utah which you can read here. Go read it and come back, I’ll wait.

An awesome view in Canyonlands National Park, where Utah, on behalf of offroad interests, would like like authority over
road building.

One comment, by Dayna I believe, interested me. She referenced Ed Abbey, as
some of you may know, his seminal work “Desert Solitaire” was written about his time working summers at Arches(then a national monument)National Park.
I also wonder what he would think about this. Since my OUIJA board is broken, I won’t attempt to get an answer Winking smile

Do you think Ed Abbey would approve of new roads in currently road less areas of Arches National Park pictured above?

For decades, the locals have been chipping away at the feds, trying to assume
local control over the public lands. There has been no firm federal response, just various tactics such as stonewalling, or giving in a little, tactics which just
invite further tries from the local governments. This is a complicated issue, multifaceted beyond my ability to comprehend mostly, but I do understand the legal term precedent.

If the feds lose this lawsuit, and it is upheld on appeal, it will mean the loss of ability to control how and what roads are built in the federal lands, ostensibly in the national parks, but I guarantee it would end up being applied to national forests, national monuments, wilderness areas, plus all BLM administered land.

As Don Corleone said, “one smart lawyer with his briefcase can steal more than fifty men with machine guns.” Give the state’s rights lawyers a loophole, and they’ll widen it enough to drive a Bechtel/BrightSource earthmover through,
with thousands of off-roaders following closely behind!

California is home to a large swath of federally owned land, lots of it out in the Mojave Desert, soon to be home to many large renewable energy projects, if the state and feds have their way. Relax, I am not going into that. But I will say
some of these are way out there, and off the beaten path.

How hard would it be, if Utah wins its’ case, for the State of California to demand access to build roads across federal land, where none currently exist
except that in ancient times there might have been a wagon trail or even
a network of paths, build on this old route, wide modern roads for the purpose of access, and construction for the new power plants?

Here is an example that comes to my mind right away. Months ago I blogged about how the Mojave National Preserve was ringed by proposed wind and solar developments. The network of roads in the park may not be good enough
in the ability to support heavy semitrailers hauling the large generators etc, and may not be wide enough- the state might demand they be upgraded for this purpose- do you believe that if that happened, the state wouldn’t demand that the routes be considered part of the state’s public road network? My advice, unsolicited to the new Preserve Superintendent, is to start working
on a night closure of those roads, just as in Joshua Tree- and no, I could care less that this has become a short cut from Palm Springs to Las Vegas!

Of course, there might be routes that could be cut through wilderness or currently (paved)road less areas in the preserve. After all the preserve is home to literally thousands of miles of old dirt roads that could be candidates for paving in the future…..
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In my opinion, the feds need to put their best lawyers on this case, and fight it until the bitter end, there just is too much at stake.

Yes, my astute readers, I see the irony here, having to depend upon the feds
to defend the parklands; the same feds who gave away the store at Ivanpah, but what other choice do we have?

If you see another choice, by all means leave a comment and let’s talk about it.