April 19, 2010

What Various Groups Are Doing About The Secret National Monument Plans




(ED—Following are two different stories relating what various groups are doing about the recently revealed plans by the federal government to secretly designate several new national monuments.)

Resolution Of Inquiry Directed At Interior Dept. : Republicans Aim To Force Disclosure Of Documents On Secret National Monument Plans

 “… we’re prepared to hold the President to his word on transparency and open government.”

WASHINGTON D.C.  – House Natural Resources Committee Ranking Member Doc Hastings (WA-04) and National Parks, Forests and Public Lands Subcommittee Ranking Member Rob Bishop (UT-01) introduced a Resolution of Inquirythat is aimed at requiring the Secretary of the Interior to turn over to the House of Representatives specific information related to potential National Monument designations. Hastings, Bishop and 14 Members of Congress sent a letter to Secretary Salazar in February requesting further information related to an internal DOI document that revealed the Administration is considering designating 13 million acres of land as National Monuments using the Antiquities Act. While the letter requested the information no later than Friday, March 26, 2010, the Committee has yet to receive the documents.

“These documents were requested over six weeks ago and not one page has been turned over by the Department. Since Committee Republicans disclosed seven pages of this internal document, the Interior Secretary has repeatedly made public statements that there is ‘no secret agenda’ and that this was merely a ‘brainstorming’ exercise. Despite these efforts to explain away what the Department was doing, there has been zero effort to be open and transparent by publicly disclosing documents on the Department’s actions. The American people deserve to know exactly why Obama Administration officials were discussing plans on locking up 13 million acres of land that could be used for recreation, economic development, energy production and job creation. It’s unfortunate that we have to go through such lengths to get simple answers to simple questions but we’re prepared to hold the President to his word on transparency and open government,” Hastings said.

“It has been a month and a half since the date of our initial request and yet we still haven’t heard back from the DOI. There is only one reason Secretary Salazar would be keeping these documents hidden from public view, and that is because they provide further proof that the Administration has in fact been planning to lock up millions of acres of land throughout the West without input from local residents, officials and stakeholders. What else are they hiding? The lack of regard for all Westerners who stand to be affected by the unilateral designation of massive National Monuments is further evidence that the West is under siege by this Administration,” Bishop said.

House rules provide that the Democrat Majority on the Committee has 14 legislative days to report the Resolution of Inquiry or it can be brought to the Floor of the House of Representatives for a vote as a Privileged Resolution. The Resolution of Inquiry seeks the information requested in the February 26, 2010 letter as well as additional information on potential DOI land actions.

Recreation Group Files FOIA Appeal To Department Of The Interior Regarding National Monuments

Oakley, CA - A national recreation group exercised its appeal rights in March by filing a Freedom of Information Appeal to the Department of Interior (DOI). The BlueRibbon Coalition (BRC) is taking this action because the agency stated they found no records or communications regarding the designation of a national monument in the heart of a popular destination OHV area in the Mendocino National Forest.

BRC is concerned the agency arbitrarily restricted its search to the "Secretary's Immediate Office and the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks." The initial FOIA request was for the DOI in general and did not specify the search be limited to the physical space of the Secretary's Office.

Don Amador, Western Representative for the BlueRibbon Coalition, states, "BRC is concerned the DOI's  'no records' response does not comply with President Obama's promise of transparency as articulated  in the early days of his presidency.

"Our members who recreate at the Stonyford OHV Area deserve to see any information that pertains to the potential designation of this popular recreation site as a national monument. I hope the agency complies with the spirit and intent of this appeal and searches its relevant departments and agencies for the requested materials."

A copy of the FOIA Appeal may be viewed at: http://www.sharetrails.org/uploads/FOIA_Appeal_National_Monuments_3.17.100001.pdf








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