In order to protect us from ourselves, some politicians have mastered the use of fear tactics. For example, several weeks ago, Rep. Denny Rehberg released the following statement: “Until Congress acts, Montanans will continue to be at risk of unilateral designations for new National Monuments without any public input or feedback.”
While his comment is probably intended to incite his base of support, it is not honest. Rehberg knows that we Montanans were told by the Secretary of the Interior more than six months before designation that he wanted to engage us in a dialogue because he was considering more protection for this unique landscape, the Missouri River Breaks. The proposal was set forth in local and national media. He said he would not only listen but also respond to our concerns, in writing and in public hearings.
The secretary himself came to Montana and held meetings with local residents. Rehberg knows this because he personally attended one meeting in Lewistown, where the secretary asked those opposed and those for designation to engage in a dialogue with him.
How do I know this? I was asked to organize this meeting for the secretary, and I was in attendance.
Rep. Rehberg wrote in his one-paragraph press release, “This isn’t about preventing future monument designations, it's about making sure those designations aren’t forced on people who frankly don’t want or need them.” About whom is Rehberg speaking? Ranchers? How silly. Everyone knows their rights were protected in the Presidential Proclamation. Oil and gas interests? Or is he just trying to scare us? Only Rehberg can tell us.
Here’s what we do know: The people of Montana can hunt and fish in their monument; they can camp, hike, float, and watch birds and other wildlife; they can go out to find solitude, to gaze at amazing vistas, and yes, even drive ORV’s on designated routes in their monument. Rehberg could not possibly be speaking about these people.
The Antiquities Act passed by Congress over 100 years ago grants presidents the power to protect threatened landscapes for all Americans without congressional action. However, Congress did retain the right to modify or undo any monument. Over the past 100 years Congress has acted several times to modify a monument.
Why did Rehberg choose not to use this power as a member of congress, to write legislation to rid Montana of something he sees as so evil?
Protecting us from the evils of big government is what Rehberg likes to say he’s doing. But that doesn’t explain why he has co-sponsored House Resolution 1505, “The National Security and Federal Lands Protection Act.”
This act would grant the Department of Homeland Security ultimate power over all federal lands within 100 miles of our international borders including, among others, the Missouri Breaks and Glacier National Park. It would waive 36 public land laws and environmental laws on our public lands.
In other words, this act allows DHS to do whatever it wants on public lands without public input.
On Wednesday, Rehberg stated: “It’s time to put an end to the dangerous turf war where federal land managers hide behind environmental laws in order to prevent border patrol agents from doing their jobs on federal land.”
Once again, Rehberg has shown us his mastery of using fear tactics. He has paraded out the image of evil federal land managers hiding behind environmental laws causing us great harm while our border agents stand helplessly by.
There is however something quite disturbing about Rehberg’s bill. This bill gives total authority to the Department of Homeland Security. The Secretary of Homeland Security is in the presidents cabinet and serves at his pleasure.
President Obama did not request this additional power. In fact, several other agencies under his direct control, including the Department of Interior and the United States Border Patrol, have strongly spoken out against this legislation.
Is the Rehberg who is fixated on limiting presidential power to designate monuments the same Rehberg who is willing to give the president nearly supreme power over federal lands under the “Homeland Security” banner?
(Hugo Tureck farms and ranches in the Coffee Creek area.)