Rep. Jason Chaffetz continued his string of anti-public lands gestures.
Credit: Brookings Institution, flickr.
Apparently not deterred by a wave of criticism centered on his proposals to seize national public lands and make them less safe, Rep. Jason Chaffetz has launched an attack on Utah's Bryce Canyon National Park.
The park's crime? Tweeting an innocuous congratulatory message about the establishment of Bears Ears National Monument last December.
Chaffetz, the head of the House Oversight Committee, has come under fire for an apparent reluctance to investigate various Trump administration controversies.
The congressman has said he is pressing President Trump to reverse Bears Ears National Monument, whose designation he loudly criticized despite the fact that 71 percent of registered Utah voters and a vocal coalition of Native American tribes supported it.
Chaffetz is concerned that the tweet—which was posted the day after President Obama used his authority under the Antiquities Act to protect Bears Ears—indicates secret coordination between the White House and Bryce Canyon. Chaffetz has asked Bryce Canyon to identify employees who might have been involved and clarify exactly when the park cleared a spot for Bears Ears on its shelf of maps and brochures.
The park's interim superintendent explained that Bryce Canyon staff did not communicate with the Obama administration about Bears Ears, and the tweet was merely a gesture to "reach out and welcome [the monument] to the federal family." But to coin a variation on Abraham Maslow's famous hammer proverb, if all you have is a deep animus for public lands, everything looks like a national monument conspiracy.
Another chapter in Utah leaders' bizarre anti-public lands campaign
Chaffetz's latest misadventure underscores the strange anti-public lands vendetta that recently led the Outdoor Retailer show to leave Utah, its host state for two decades. Utah Governor Gary Herbert and the state's congressional delegation—notably Chaffetz and Rep. Rob Bishop—have reliably opposed federal agencies' conservation efforts, even trying to damage the ability to establish new national monuments in the future.
Instead of investigating innocent tweets, we would like to see Rep. Chaffetz reconsider his legislation (H.R. 622) that would completely eliminate law enforcement officers from the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and U.S. Forest Service (USFS), making it even harder for the chronically underfunded agencies to protect wildlife habitat, prevent poaching, preserve cultural sites and otherwise take care of the nearly 440 million acres of land they collectively manage. Bears Ears, which was designated a monument largely to protect its thousands of archaeological sites from vandalism and looting, is jointly managed by those two agencies.