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Git Home!

Can the people be heard?

By Tim Findley

Despite the doubts of even his own Montezuma County Commission, Cortez rancher Chester Tozer thinks that all those who Bruce Babbitt so arrogantly ignored in the last five years may yet have the last word.

And it may be “fraud.”

Tozer and his Southwest Colorado Landowners Association rely heavily on written reports from proceedings now familiar all over the West in which Babbitt first appointed an “advisory council” to support his planned action, and then ignored their consistent rejection of extended federal control as well as the similar objections of even elected local representatives and western governors.

But Tozer and his group believe a remedy is waiting in two laws passed by Congress in 1976. The Federal Land Policy and Management Act of that year specifically calls on the Secretary of the Interior to make an inventory of any public lands to be withdrawn from use, examining economic impacts, both present and potential, and requiring “public involvement concerning such withdrawal.”

The second law, an adjunct to the ’76 Management Act, expresses concern with the way, “[t]he Executive Branch has tended to fill in missing gaps of the [public lands] law, not always in a manner consistent with a system balanced in the best interests of all the people.”

Although it is directed at sales of lands primarily, that portion of the Act takes note of past presidential power and moves to “repeal all existing law relating to executive authority to create, modify, and terminate withdrawals and reservations....” It reserved to Congress alone such authority, and it did not overlook the main land-grab tool Babbitt put in Clinton’s hands. “[The Act] would also specifically reserve to the Congress the authority to modify and revoke withdrawals for national monuments created under the Antiquities Act.”

In short, it was the intent of the Act to retain the integrity and authority over national resources in the hands of Congress, not the President, and certainly not the Secretary of the Interior.

Tozer and his group, by the way, do want the Anasazi sites in and around their own allotments protected. They feel, however, as did most authoritative sources in Colorado, that it was being done and could have continued to be done under terms of a federal Area of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC). That position was overwhelmingly expressed in a meeting last August in Cortez, despite Clinton’s monument designation in June.

“The question repeatedly asked,” writes Art Goodtime of the Southwest Range Advisory Council, “was, ‘What was the problem that prompted this process?’”

Babbitt never answered.

Related stories in this Special Section by Tim Findley:

Making Monuments, Taking Towns

Like Circling Buzzards, NGO's Wait

Don't Accept Lies, Look at the Facts

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last page update: 04.03.05