May 3, 2014 2:09 pm -

Presidents can declare certain parcels of land monuments, not to be tampered with, according to the 1906 American Antiquities Act. This has conservatives up in arms (so to speak) in the wake of the Cliven Bundy mess. And it has Utah Senator Orrin Hatch likening it to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

“I’ll use my authority to protect more of our pristine federal lands for future generations,” he said in his State of the Union address earlier this year.

That commitment has some in the West fearing more intrusion by the federal government into their backyard, undermining locally driven efforts to decide the future of public lands. That fear isn’t without precedent.

“It makes me worried that [the president will] just ignore the wishes of the people of Utah and just do what he wants to — like Clinton did,” Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said in a recent Salt Lake Tribune interview. “Sometimes he does act unilaterally.”

Two months before his 1996 re-election, President Bill Clinton stood on the rim of the Grand Canyon in Arizona and declared 1.8 million acres of public land in Utah as the new Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. With a swipe of a pen, he canceled a proposed coal mine in what Hatch described then as the “mother of all land grabs.”

“Like the attack on Pearl Harbor, this massive proclamation came completely without notice to the public,” Hatch declared on the Senate floor. “The biggest presidential land set-aside in almost 20 years was a sneak attack.”

D.B. Hirsch
D.B. Hirsch is a political activist, news junkie, and retired ad copy writer and spin doctor. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.