Martin Litton 1917 – 2014

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Martin Litton

February 13, 1917, to November 30, 2014

On his passing, stories from Dinosaur National Monument to Giant Sequoia National Monument and beyond. (Note: I only spoke with Martin Litton once, by phone back in 2006, but this conversation and the views he expressed fundamentally altered my perspective on forests and land management. In reading these articles, it seems like that’s the kind of influence he had on people. Thank you to Jeanne Nienaber Clarke for making this connection happen!)

“Appreciation: Lessons From the Man Who Stopped Grand Canyon Dams”

The full text of this National Geographic article is here.

“Martin Litton dies at 97; passionate wilderness conservationist”

The full text of this Los Angeles Times article is here.

“Environmental warrior Martin Litton is still fighting at 95”

From 2012, the full text of this High Country News article is here.

“Sierra Club Director and Uncompromising Preservationist, 1950s-1970s.”

From 1982, the Sierra Club Oral History Series at The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley.

 

Image credit: Anacleto Rapping / Los Angeles Times

Martin Litton

Love Your Monuments? Please Slow Down!

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Here’s an awesome and timely heads up from Hanford Reach National Monument in Washington:

“Watch for Wildlife

The days are turning shorter and the nights colder. Fall is the time of year when wildlife is on the move, preparing for a difficult winter. While winters in the Columbia Basin aren’t that stressful to wildlife, nonetheless creatures here follow the natural instincts of their kind everywhere and are on the move preparing for winter. This is also the time of year when young are dispersing, leaving their birthplace to find territories of their own. Drivers need to slow down and keep a constant watch for wildlife. Haven’t you noticed more dead animals along the road lately? There’s always an upswing of wildlife-vehicle collisions in the fall. So, if getting home 23 seconds sooner is worth squashing a squirrel, mangling a marmot, bashing a beaver, or demolishing a deer, then by all means, keep driving like you’re on the NASCAR circuit. Apart from the permanent damage to wildlife, you’ll incur several hundred dollars worth of damage to your car. So, why don’t you just follow the traffic laws instead? Both your fellow drivers and our wildlife will thank you.”

Learn more about this monument here

“Welcome to the Hanford Reach National Monument—the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s first national monument.”

Image credit and sources:

Image from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service “About Hanford Reach National Monument

Text from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service “Of Special Interest: Watch for Wildlife” and “About Hanford Reach National Monument

 

Love Your Monuments? Please Slow Down!

 

Dear Los Angeles Times

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Members of Congress watch as President Obama signs San Gabriel Mountains proclamation

Dear Los Angeles Times,

In regards to your October 10, 2014, article “Critics protest Obama’s San Gabriel Mountains National Monument” by Louis Sahagun and Kate Mather, and specifically the statement therein: “The designation marks the 13th time that Obama has used his executive powers to establish or expand a national monument without congressional approval.”

The President is always acting with congressional approval when exercising his authority under the Antiquities Act. The text of the Antiquities Act shows both the source and discretionary power of this authority:

“Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled . . .

That the President of the United States is hereby authorized, in his discretion, to declare by public proclamation historic landmarks, historic and prehistoric structures, and other objects of historic or scientific interest that are situated upon the lands owned or controlled by the Government of the United States to be national monuments, and may reserve as a part thereof parcels of land, the limits of which in all cases shall be confined to the smallest area compatible with [the] proper care and management of the objects to be protected. . . .”

“Approved, June 8, 1906”

Furthermore, each national monument proclamation from President Obama includes an explicit statement expressing this congressional authority:

“NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by the authority vested in me by section 2 of the Antiquities Act, hereby proclaim the objects identified above that are situated upon lands and interests in lands owned or controlled by the Government of the United States to be. . . .”

National monument proclamations from presidents Theodore Roosevelt to George W. Bush also include a statement such as this one. Congress has amended the Antiquities Act once and, as the nation’s lawmakers, may do so again in the future. Consideration of the Act’s 108-year history, however, suggests that presidential use of the Antiquities Act is clearly occurring with the approval of Congress.

[Letter to the editor, submitted October 11, 2014, with the following response:

“Thank you! Your letter has been successfully submitted.”]

 

Image credit and sources:

Image from Representative Judy Chu, October 10, 2014. For original image and associated text, please click here.

Los Angeles Times article source: http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-protest-obama-san-gabriel-mountains-national-monument-20141010-story.html

From Sections 1-4 of the American Antiquities Act of 1906 (34 Stat. 225, 16 U.S.C. 431-433)

Antiquities Act text source: http://www.cr.nps.gov/local-law/anti1906.htm

Antiquities Act as amended: http://www.cr.nps.gov/local-law/FHPL_AntiAct.pdf

The  Obama national monument proclamation text source used in this example is from his 2014 establishment of Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2014-05-28/pdf/2014-12508.pdf

Also see this letter from Congress to USDA Secretary Thomas Vilsack, in which Members of Congress request “protection of existing recreational opportunities,” along with the “establishment of [a] Public Advisory Council,” as well as other specific elements addressing local, regional, tribal, and other stakeholder values,  should these public lands become a national monument.

Dear Los Angeles Times

 

Designation of the San Gabriel Mountains as a National Monument

“Remarks by the President at Designation of the San Gabriel Mountains as a National Monument”

Views of the San Gabriel Mountains from 2013 and 2014

“And 150 years ago, President Lincoln signed a law that forever changed the way we conserve our natural heritage. It might have seemed like an odd thing to do at the time. Civil war raged between North and South; the fate of our union hung in the balance. Lincoln himself had never even been to California. For a good part of his life, his home state of Illinois was considered the West.

But descriptions and drawings, and even some early photographs of the Yosemite Valley, had made their way back East — the cathedral peaks, the waterfalls, the giant sequoias. So too had stories about encroaching development that threatened the area. So President Lincoln decided to help protect a place he had never visited — for a nation he might not be able to save and for a future he would never live to see. And that place is at the heart of what now is Yosemite National Park.

So it’s fitting that we meet here in California, because this was the state that inspired Lincoln’s actions, and made possible all that followed, including this moment. Today, I’m using my executive authority to designate the San Gabriel Mountains as a national monument. (Applause.)”

 

These remarks are from the White House, Office of the Press Secretary, October 10, 2014.

For the full text of President Obama’s remarks on the designation of the San Gabriel Mountains as a national monument, please click here.

For the White House statement and release (including area map) titled “President Obama Designates San Gabriel Mountains National Monument,” please click here.

Image credits (two images above): US Forest Service Air Monitoring Program

For more information about the US Forest Service Air Monitoring Program, please click here.

Image archiving: Westernlabs

Current and archived images from US Forest Service and National Park Service locations are available here  Westernlabs  @WesternlabsUS  and here  Kurt Angersbach  @theparktoday

Designation of the San Gabriel Mountains as a National Monument

 

“Building an environmental legacy with a simple signature”

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President George W. Bush is receiving a lot of press these days. The coverage is positive, even laudatory, in acknowledging Mr. Bush’s role in using the Antiquities Act to establish large-scale ocean-focused national monuments during his final years in office.

Three themes appear in most of these media reports: One theme addresses the scale of the new monuments, one emphasizes the legacy-building aspects of presidential use of the Antiquities Act, and the third theme focuses on the bipartisan history of monument establishment over the past 108 years. Here are two examples:

From the New York Times, as seen October 1, 2014

“Mr. Obama’s Pacific Monument”

“It’s safe to assume that most presidents have big ambitions and visions of lasting Rooseveltian achievement. Though, in recent history, the millstones of Washington’s pettiness and partisanship usually grind such dreams to dust. There are exceptions, which happen when presidents discover the Antiquities Act.

This is the law, used by Theodore Roosevelt and many successors, by which the executive can permanently set aside public lands from exploitation, building an environmental legacy with a simple signature and without Congress’s consent. This is how President Obama last week, in addition to everything else on his plate, created the largest marine preserve in the world.”

So far, this NYT piece mentions Roosevelt (twice) but the final sentence brings the editorial around to George W. Bush.

“Republicans will complain, but they should remember that it was President George W. Bush who created the monument. Mr. Obama only expanded it. Building an environmental legacy is an idea with bipartisan appeal.”

Certainly there are many who will disagree, but this author is happy to go on record as saying that it has to be considered a good day when the New York Times’s Editorial Board name checks GWB in conjunction with Theodore Roosevelt, and throws in positive references to “bipartisan appeal” and “environmental legacy” to boot.

The next example, from The Wilderness Society (~September 29, 2014) looks even better for former President George W. Bush. In this piece, Roosevelt appears again (once), but Bush is referenced four times. Here, too, the themes of scale, legacy building, and bipartisanship are present throughout the article. This quote, from “Newly-expanded Pacific Ocean monument builds on bipartisan legacy,” is currently the lead story on The Wilderness Society’s web site:

“In protecting a large ocean monument, President Obama is in good (and bipartisan) historic company. President Bush originally protected the monument in 2009 along with two other marine monuments in the Pacific Ocean. Earlier, in 2006, President Bush had protected the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument (originally called the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands Marine National Monument). When he left office, Bush had set aside more square miles of ocean for protection than any political leader in U.S. history. The Antiquities Act has been used by presidents of both parties to preserve sites of unique natural and cultural value since President Theodore Roosevelt signed it into law in 1906.”

The Wilderness Society also includes a map showing the scale of the expanded monuments. Less immediately eye-catching than the graphic in the New York Times piece, this map works when the viewer locates the linear scale in the lower right corner and realizes that the circles representing the expanded monument boundaries are measured in hundreds of miles.

 

Image credit, quote sources, and links to full-text versions of the quoted material follow:

Image credit (above):  The New York Times Company 2014. Image title (via The New York Times Company):  “Bigger Than Texas.”

Source for title and quoted material in Example 1 is the The New York Times Company.

For the full text of the New York Times piece, please click here.

Source for quoted material in Example 2 is The Wilderness Society.

For the full text of The Wilderness Society piece, please click here.

 

“Building an Environmental Legacy with a Simple Signature”

 

“Congress should…bar further national marine monument proclamations in Hawaii…and the US Pacific Remote Islands.”

Observations regarding the process and proclamation of the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument Expansion follow a familiar path.

Consider these two views of an August 2014 “Town Hall Meeting” in Honolulu, hosted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, as an example.

“More people testified in support of the proposed expansion than in opposition. All of the testimony was recorded and will be summarized and submitted to NOAA officials and, presumably, President Obama.”

“PRIMNM Town Hall Listening Session: Strong Opposition to Proposed Monument Expansion”

Same meeting. Different perspectives.

One of the most interesting reactions to the President’s proclamation comes from Kitty Simonds, Executive Director of the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council. Here is the full text of Ms. Simonds’ quote:

“Congress has curtailed further use of Presidential monument proclamation authority in Alaska and Wyoming, and Congress should similarly bar further national marine monument proclamations in Hawaii and the US territories of American Samoa, CNMI, Guam and the US Pacific Remote Islands.”

This rhetoric may sound familiar. For nearly a decade, press releases and bills from legislators in several western states have included nearly identical language. Readers who are unfamiliar with the history of the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council may find this 2009 report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office illuminating.

“Fisheries Management: Alleged Misconduct of Members and Staff of the Western Pacific Fishery Management Council,” United States Government Accountability Office, released June 19, 2009.

One final thought from the Executive Director of the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council closes this post:

“We now look to see how this declaration will be achieved in practice, beyond paper and politics….”

Sources and additional text for quotes and comments:

USFWS notice of the town hall meeting

In support of the proposed monument expansion

Opposition to the proposed monument expansion

Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council Press Release

 

Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument Expansion

“These agreements . . . should not be held up as a model of how the Federal government should do business.”

Yesterday, the Senate National Parks Subcommittee hearing included discussion of the October 2013 federal government shutdown and its effect on parks, monuments, and certain other public lands.  S. 1750, the “Public Access to Public Land Guarantee Act,” was addressed during this hearing.

Sponsored by Sen. Jeff Flake (AZ), and co-sponsored by Sen. Mike Lee (UT), Sen. Orrin Hatch (UT), and Sen. John McCain (AZ), S. 1750 would “authorize the Secretary of the Interior or the Secretary of Agriculture to enter into agreements with States and political subdivisions of States providing for the continued operation, in whole or in part, of public land, units of the National Park System, units of the National Wildlife Refuge System, and units of the National Forest System in the State during any period in which the Secretary of the Interior or the Secretary of Agriculture is unable to maintain normal level of operations at the units due to a lapse in appropriations, and for other purposes.”

Christina Goldfuss, Deputy Director, Congressional and External Relations, National Park Service, Department of the Interior, provided the Senate Subcommittee members with this key observation:

“Enacting a law to try to avoid the impact of a future shutdown on specified activities is not a responsible alternative to simply making the political commitment to avoid a shutdown in the future….”

Additional comments from Christina Goldfuss regarding S. 1750 follow:

“The Department [of the Interior] strongly opposes S. 1750. We have a great deal of sympathy for the businesses and communities that experienced a disruption of activity and loss of revenue during last fall’s government shutdown and that stand to lose more if there is another funding lapse in the future. However, we disagree generally with the idea of enacting laws to try to lessen the impact of a future government shutdown for a few select governmental activities rather than protecting all such activities by avoiding a lapse in appropriations. We also believe that this legislation specifically, with its mandate to enter into agreements to reopen public lands at the request of a state, would be very difficult to execute. Furthermore, we are concerned that agreements to have states provide funding for activities that are inherently Federal in nature, even for a short period of time, would undermine the longstanding framework established by Congress for the management of Federal lands under the stewardship of the Department.”

“The desire to avoid the kind of disappointment to the public and disruption of economic activity that results from a lapse in Federal appropriations is understandable. When the partial government shutdown occurred from October 1 through October 16, 2013, a lot of attention was focused on effects of closures of national parks, national wildlife refuges, public lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management, and national forests – all places that are highly valued by the public for their recreational offerings and that serve as economic engines for the communities in which they are located.”

“These agreements did help a select number of businesses and communities. However, they should not be held up as a model of how the Federal government should do business. The national parks that were opened during the shutdown were fortunate to be located in states that had the resources and political will to fund them. The National Park Service, the Bureau of Land Management, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which all seek to treat the land units under their stewardship equitably, have grave concerns about enshrining in law a process that favors units located in states willing to donate funds to operate them over those located in other states.”

“The 2013 Federal government shutdown had terrible impacts for American citizens, businesses, communities, states, and the economy as a whole. These impacts are summarized in the report released by the Office of Management and Budget entitled ‘Impacts and Costs of the October 2013 Federal Government Shutdown’ (November 2013). The report makes clear that the economic effects and disruption to lives and activities from the shutdown were felt far and wide. Enacting a law to try to avoid the impact of a future shutdown on specified activities is not a responsible alternative to simply making the political commitment to avoid a shutdown in the future by providing appropriations for all the vital functions the Federal government performs.”

The link to this Senate National Parks Subcommittee hearing is here.

Full text of the comments of Christina Goldfuss is available here.

See Thomas for more regarding S. 1750.