SFExaminer Editorial: Interior secretary acting like a commissar on land

President Barack Obama is expected to sign a measure that will charge foreigners a $10 tax to visit the United States. The House passed the Travel Promotion Act last November; on Thursday, the Senate sent it to the president’s desk following a 78-18 vote. The legislation creates a $200 million-a-year government-run tourist bureau, the largest in the world, which will supposedly create up to 290,000 American jobs, at least according to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. But the presidential ink had not even been affixed before the European Union signaled it would retaliate by imposing a similar tax on Americans traveling abroad, thus encouraging everybody to just stay home and retarding international cultural and business activities.

That’s not the worst part. Missing from the final bill was an amendment offered by Sen. Jim DeMint, D-SC, that would have stopped Interior Secretary Ken Salazar’s plans to confiscate more than 10 million acres of federal lands in nine western states by declaring them national monuments. Salazar acted unilaterally, without consulting local or state authorities or members of Congress representing the affected areas. During floor debate on his amendment, DeMint characterized a leaked Interior Department memo listing even more public and private lands Salazar wants locked away from energy, mining, forestry and grazing activities as “a big government land grab.”

Preserving wilderness areas is a legitimate function of the federal government, but it already owns a staggering 650 million acres nationwide, mostly in the west. It’s also hard to believe that the proposed sites eluded the army of government preservationists who continually scour the countryside in search of something to save. On Friday, the Congressional Western Caucus sent a letter to Salazar requesting all internal documents relating to the monument designations, including any referring to coordination with “outside groups” since July 1, 2009.

Public input is not required under the American Antiquities Act, so Salazar was not legally required to consult local authorities before declaring an area a national monument. So the Obama administration is free to permanently lock up millions of publicly owned acres by a mere stroke of the presidential pen. But the law does require that “the limits of which in all cases shall be confined to the smallest area compatible with proper care and management of the objects to be protected.” It’s a stretch to assert that 10 million-plus acres is the smallest possible area needed to protect the black-tailed prairie dogs listed in the DOI memo. Salazar’s action smacks of a Soviet commissar and is alien to republican liberty.

editorialeditorialsOpinionSFExaminer

Just Posted

Plan Bay Area 2050 is an expansive plan guiding the region’s growth and development over the next three decades. The regional plan addresses progressive policy priorities like a universal basic income and a region-wide rent cap, alongside massive new spending on affordable housing and transportation infrastructure. (Shutterstock)
$1.4 trillion ‘blueprint’ would address Bay Area’s housing, transit woes

Analyzing the big ticket proposals in ‘Plan Bay Area 2050’

A felled tree in San Francisco is pictured on Fillmore Street following a major storm that produced high winds and heavy rains on Oct. 24, 2021. (Photo courtesy of Philip Ford)
Storm updates: Sunday was wettest October day in San Francisco history

Torrential rainfall causes flooding, triggers evacuations in burn areas

On Sunday, California bore the brunt of what meteorologists referred to as a bomb cyclone and an atmospheric river, a convergence of storms that brought more than half a foot of rain to parts of the Bay Area, along with high winds, concerns about flash floods and the potential for heavy snow in the Sierra Nevada. Much of the Bay Area was under a flash flood watch on Sunday, with the National Weather Service warning of the potential for mudslides across the region. (NOAA via The New York Times)
Bomb cyclone, atmospheric river combine to pummel California with rain and wind

What you need to know about this historic weather event

While Kaiser Permanente patients seeking mental health care will get a 30-minute phone assessment within days, in many cases, they cannot get actual treatment for months. (Shutterstock)
City employees face months-long wait time for mental health care

‘We are in the midst of a mental health crisis’

Klay Thompson, left, and his boat dealer Kenyon Martin take on his test drive on the NBA star’s 37-foot vessel; injury woes sent Thompson, the Golden State guard, looking for solace. He found it on the water. (Courtesy Anthony Nuccio via New York Times)
Warriors star finds love with his fishing boat

Being on the water is a ‘safe space’ for Klay Thompson

Most Read