Monument reaction

Creation of three new national monuments by President Obama sparked considerable comment. One of those monuments, Basin and Range, is in Nevada (“Monumental,” RN&R, July 16).

Las Vegas columnist John L. Smith wrote, “Folks who see Nevada as a fine place to put a toxic hole in the ground will never appreciate that the ‘big empty' element of the state is one of its magical qualities. The undisturbed long valleys and distant blue vistas are what need preserving, and they're harder to protect than a petrified forest or some Native American cliff dwellings. What's left empty in the frame is still part of the work of art. … For lovers of the real Nevada that exists outside the lights of Las Vegas and Reno, what matters is that substantial sections of our majestic wild country will now be preserved from the brothel treatment by those who are always willing to take a shot at our great outback.”

Immediately after the designation of Nevada's Basin and Range as a monument, a full-page advertisement in the Reno Gazette-Journal praised Obama's action. Sponsored by Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, it read in part that the monument was “conserving wildlife habitat … cultural values and our sporting traditions—now and in the future.”

Others object to creation of the national monument. Humboldt County Commissioner Kevin Phillips told the Wells Progress, “It's disgusting. It's loathsome. It's illegal. It's unfair. We feel like we're not citizens.” Phillips said the designation will prevent oil, gas and mining exploration of the area.

In Utah, the Salt Lake Tribune reported, “Utah's members of Congress complain the recent Nevada designation could undermine the public lands process underway in several eastern Utah counties. … Leaders in the affected Utah counties are working on land-use plans that will be included in [U.S. Rep. Rob] Bishop's public lands bill. He wants such counties to be excluded from future designations.” But one GOP Utah state legislator, Ken Ivory, denounced even Republican Bishop's plans. Ivory wants most federally managed land to be handed over to the states.

Utah columnist Paul Rolly wrote that state officials who denounce “dictatorial” federal officials treat municipal officials the same way.

“The [anti-Obama] sentiments mirror those expressed by local officials and residents of four communities on or near the Wasatch Front that the Prison Relocation Commission has deemed finalists for the site of a new state prison. The elected officials and the vast majority of the residents in those areas are emphatic that they don't want the prison. … Those who have turned a deaf ear to the officials and residents of those four communities are mostly members of the Republican super-majority in the [Utah] Legislature—the same legislators who align themselves with Bishop and the other Republicans in Congress in condemning the tyrannical actions of the federal government when it comes to allegedly usurping their sovereignty.”

Basins have rarely been protected as monuments or national parks, and Nevada has fewer national monuments than many states.