PLP attends Feinstein’s Public Meeting, Whitewater CA 10/13/15 2 pm
Three Proposed Monuments comprising over one million acres:
Mojave Trails (AKA Route 66) Between Needles and Barstow: enlarging the Mojave Preserve
Sand to Snow: 134,000 acres from San Bernardino National Forest east into the desert
Castle Mountains: Taking more land off line around the Mojave Preserve near the Nevada border.
Over 600 people showed up to the public meeting, many of whom had hopes of voicing their opinion on the proposed monuments. Many people are passionate about this issue and came to either support the additional monuments or try to dissuade the powers that be from taking more land from the public and locking it up under federal control.
The Wildlands Conservancy graciously hosted the event, providing food and drinks on their property at the site where they recently mothballed the historic Whitewater fish hatchery and opened a visitor’s center.
The meeting was scheduled to begin at 2 pm and people began arriving very early in the morning despite the very hot weather. There were cars parked along the road for several miles and shuttle buses were provided for the attendees.
Senator Feinstein was the moderator and main speaker, introducing other politicians who each spoke in turn. Feinstein, mentioning in reference to the Castle Mountain monument, that the preserve “seeks only lands that won’t interfere with the mine. No active mine will be affected.” She went on to say “I want to be clear, we have worked a carve out for every commercial mine THE COUNTY ASKED US TO.”
What was not said is oftentimes more profound than what was said, though that is bad enough. Someone in a county office, not involved with commercial mining is deciding which mines get to stay open and which ones get included in the monuments. Also, there is NO PROVISION for prospecting for new mineral deposits, or holding in reserve known deposits that are essential to the national defense. Prices of commodities fluctuate and mines open and close depending on economic and national war status. It is VERY SHORT SIGHTED to exclude prospecting for new and ignoring known deposits that are not currently being mined from the discussion of the monuments.
Feinstein continued… “What this desert carries is the tradition of the West that founded California, and we aim to keep that going.” She must have forgotten that California became a state far ahead of all the other western states due to the 1849 Gold Rush. Prospecting and mining built California and propelled it into the economic powerhouse of the nation. It was one of the biggest economies in the world for many decades because of mining and then agriculture also boomed with mining. It has been declining in direct proportion to the increase in regulation and the exodus of businesses from the state.
So now it’s the tourist industry the politicians are banking on to pay the tab for the new monuments, since the BLM and Forest Service are strapped for cash as it is. They claim that the monuments will bring in $146 million a year in additional revenue to the area. Funny thing though, the one gold mine getting ready to open in the proposed Castle Mountain monument area (Castle Mountain Mine) is projected to bring in $220 million a year and provide 300 high paying, long term jobs. Just think if we could remove some regulatory barriers and open up more mines in existing areas already impacted from historic mining how the region could thrive! The active and potentially active mines are mostly in historic mining areas, so preserving the natural landscape is not as crucial, though very important. We can do both- preserve the landscape and wildlife, plus have mining production if it is done correctly with oversight by www.mineralsandminingadvisorycouncil.org .
San Bernardino County Supervisor Ramos stated that “80% of the land is under Federal control”. I agree Mr. Ramos, 80% is way too much! There isn’t much left for multiple use when you consider 25% of the area is Wilderness, a bunch more is locked behind military gates, National Parks, National Monuments, Preserves, etc. There just isn’t very much left for multiple use!
Many speakers including Senator Feinstein called on Obama to use the Antiquities Act to create the monuments, since she could not get it through legislative means. Even when the Democrats controlled both the House of Representatives and the Senate, she could not get it passed. There is a reason for that, it’s a bad idea! She said they are requesting Obama to sign the monuments into being as a ‘Plan B’ running concurrently with the legislative track.
Most people think the only, or the best way to protect the land is to make it into a monument, etc. They don’t realize the public has little or no say in what happens after land is declared a National Monument, National Park, Preserve, etc. It actually changes ownership from the citizens of the United States of America to the Federal Government.
Former Mayor of Redlands Pete Aguilar claimed we need a feasible management plan. Yes Pete, we do, but this isn’t it!
Paul Cook’s Chief of Staff explained Cook’s recently introduced bill which he claims is a more balanced management plan; though groups like Minerals and Mining Advisory Council and Public Lands for the People were left out of much of the planning of his proposed bill since we would not compromise. Though much improved over Feinstein’s version, it lacks much of the mineral resource mining preservation we advocate. It may be a lesser of the two evils (three counting Obama’s pen), but it’s still evil! NO COMPROMISE. Too many groups have done this in the past and we are almost out of land to compromise with!
Robert Bonney, Under Secretary in charge of the Forest Service said “68,000 acres of the Sand to Snow Monument would be in the Forest Service area” meaning, it’s already protected under Forest Service management. No need for a monument there! Already being managed…
The Laborers International Union of North America representatives had about 40 people at the meeting. They came out in favor of mining interests because they realize that without mining, there would be no materials to use on construction projects! They get it. They are for preserving some pristine land, as we are. We agree that we should be good stewards of the land, but we need a fully balanced management plan that takes into consideration National Security, Recreation, the Economy and Preservation. Not one over the others.
During the Public Comment period, speakers were chosen “at random” from their comment cards they turned in before the meeting started. The cards asked if you were for, against or unsure of your position on the monuments. It seemed the speakers chosen were far and away more FOR than AGAINST. When the time for comments came to an end, many folks stood up and protested loudly that they had not been allowed to speak. To her credit, Feinstein conceded, saying she needed to leave but her staff would stay and listen to everyone, letting her know the comments that were made. After that, the ratio of AGAINST the monument comments increased dramatically. Hmmmm one has to wonder, well not really.
The Mayor of Hesperia exhorted the politicians to follow the rule of law, forcefully telling them “don’t change the rules in the middle because you don’t like the outcome!” He is against this monument land grab scheme as many, many folks who love the land are.
About 2 dozen of us signed a paper donating our speaking time to Bill Jensen for MMAC. So when everyone was allowed one minute to speak, he bargained with Feinstein, and she only allowed him 3 minutes to speak. Not a very good deal, but he made some excellent points, concluding with the phrase that sums it all up: “Remember, if it’s not grown, it’s mined!”
-Ron Kliewer, VP Public Lands for the People