Grijalva rallies local communities to fight rollback attempts

As Republicans on Capitol Hill and the Trump administration contemplate how to roll back some of the national monuments created under the Antiquities Act, Democratic Rep. Raúl Grijalva of Arizona is urging voters in the Southwest to "build a united front" to combat such efforts.

The top Democrat on the House Natural Resources Committee is set to address residents in New Mexico tonight, the final stop on a three-day tour of the state's national monuments that has included Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument, White Sands National Monument and Bandelier National Monument.

"The fight is going to be a localized fight as much as it is a nationalized fight," Grijalva told E&E News in a telephone interview from the Land of Enchantment, where he is scheduled to speak at the Fuller Lodge Art Center in Los Alamos later today.

Grijalva has split with Natural Resources Chairman Rob Bishop (R-Utah) over whether President Trump can eliminate national monuments created by previous presidents under the Antiquities Act.

"The more support and the more of a pushback we have from local communities to local delegations will protect these assets," Grijalva said. His visit to the state included a meeting with New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas (D) to discuss legal strategies for land preservation.

The Democratic lawmaker criticized the recent adoption of a House rules package earlier this month that designates federal land transfers as cost-free.

Bishop has dismissed suggestions that the change is intended to ease the way for selling off iconic parks and monuments — telling E&E News that such characterizations are "bullshit" and that the change is merely an accounting measure. But Trump's nominee to lead the Interior Department, Montana Rep. Ryan Zinke (R), has indicated he will urge the White House to undo some national monuments (E&E Daily, Jan. 6).

Zinke has also emphasized that he is opposed to the sale or transfer of public lands, however, and members of Trump's campaign repeatedly indicated during his run for the White House that the new president would buck efforts to dispose of public land.

But Grijalva remains skeptical. "I don't care what the incoming secretary says, Trumps says, Chairman Bishop says. Everything that's being done" — Grijalva pointed to the recent House rules package — "that sets the stage for other things."

The Democratic lawmaker also pointed to Trump's push to reduce or roll back federal regulations, and potential efforts to short-circuit the National Environmental Policy Act.

"It's going back to how you view a resource. Do you view it as a commodity; do you do it as a production unit? The conservation needs are either being ignored or completely undermined," Grijalva said.

The Arizona lawmaker said he will focus on rallying together environmentalists and local communities, including sportsman, recreational users and families.

"If they want to keep their access and keep the utility and the beauty of what they're enjoying, there's going to have be a concerted effort," Grijalva said.

By:  Jennifer Yachnin
Source: E&E News