Last week we asked our members to show up in mass on Friday to the Governor's meeting with national BLM director, Robert Abbey. Well, hundreds of you responded! It was a
massive showing of force. We estimate about 250+ people showed up from our side. In fact hundreds showed up early. There were certainly under 10 pro-Wilderness supporters in the main meeting room. The Governor's staff had to open up 2 overflow rooms that had audio connections to the meeting but no video! By most counts there were about 100 pro-Wilderness activists stuck in the overflow rooms. Many government folks thanked USA-ALL for doing such a great job of getting people there and how nice it was to see Utah truly represented in a public meeting. We estimated that around 80-85% of the multiple use activists were there as a result of USA-ALL and our partners efforts. We want to thank Blue Ribbon Coalition, At Your Leisure, and many local clubs for also broadcasting the meeting info. There was excellent team work involved in getting the word out about the meeting. We particularly want to thank the
American Motorcyclist Association
(AMA) for sending out an alert, communicating with us on the secretarial order, and overnighting us 100 of the red "Stop the Land Grab!" stickers. We printed up 116 more for a total of 216 stickers and we gave every one of them away! They stood out and really let folks see how many supporters we had there.
For details on the actual meeting I am going to borrow 2 reports from outside sources.
The first is from USA-ALL supporter Scott Jacobson. Here is his report...
Here are my impressions and comments from attending the public BLM Director Meeting this afternoon at the Utah State Capital.
- Well attended from both factions' with two additional over flow rooms required. I'm not good at total numbers so I've leave that for someone else's comments, however, the numbers suggested is over 350 people attended. Estimated land use advocates (lsa) versus the environmentalists (ev) were; Primary committee room 210 - 90% "lsa" vs 10% "ev", first over flow room - 65% "lsa" vs 35% "ev, second over flow room - 35% "lsa" vs 65% "ev". About a 2:1 overall Pro Land Use versus Environmentalist turnout (good job Mike suggesting getting there early).
- Each of the over flow rooms had audio only. During the meeting the Pro Land Use Advocates were not bashful in becoming a little vocal of which caught the ear of Ted Wilson, Chair of the Council of Balanced Resources such that he made the request in maintaining the meeting's previously requested "balanced" level of respect. (Not really sure that was justified or necessary, but that was his job)
- The agenda allowed first for all members of the committee and other state representatives attending to speak first to Bob Abbey and the State BLM director and the public in attendance. Without question, the tone of each speaker was asking about the intent of the Secretarial Order, the process of next steps and a repetitive questioning of why from previous years of RMP's, litigations, arbitration and compromises it was their concerns from this Order that it only re-opens up the processes' for unnecessary reviews all ready established that will very likely lead to changing existing agreements that have all ready been reached and have taken years to achieve. Bob Abbey, now all ready close to the edge of a defensive posturing, responded that litigation is now included as part of the RMP and other land management review process. His comment was not taken well and was jeered by those in attendance.
- As the comments continued it became clear by the clapping of hands and support for each representative speaking the balance of those in attendance in this meeting were in the majority and in favor of Pro Multiple Land Use ATV/ Cattle etc. advocates.
- So over whelming, the chair, Ted Wilson, during and at the end of the meeting needed to interject comments from hand written question cards from the "other side" to appease and achieve his "balanced" meeting agenda.
- When former Congressman Hansen was given the chance to speak he pushed aside the rhetoric and with his comments completely hit it out of the park with multi-faceted remarks that politely took Bob Abbey to task. He completely changed the tone of the meeting. Hansen nailed and covered all aspects of the issues in a concise way with all cards on the table. Bob Abbey I believe was stunned. Bob's posturing was never the same after Hansen's comments.
And here is another report from Randy Parker and our partners at the Utah Farm Bureau...
n Friday January 14th the Governor hosted BLM Director Bob Abbey in Salt Lake City. The venue was a committee room that seated about 150 people. The Highway Patrol was providing security and moved about that number into an overflow room where they could listen in. The room with the Governor and Abbey was mostly folks wearing badges "Stop the Land Grab" associated with outdoor recreation / 4-wheeling mainly. The environmental side mostly attended in the overflow room. There were a lot of rural county commissioners in attendance, as well as the legal counsel for the Utah Association of Counties. Some counties with strong Farm Bureau ties in attendance - Uintah, Duchesne, Tooele, Carbon, Emery, Box Elder and Iron. I probably have missed others.
In his opening remarks, Mr. Abbey complimented Utah on its willingness to come together in reaching compromise. He noted Washington County and the Bill Barrett agreement with SUWA on some energy leases and drilling in the Nine Mile Canyon area. He also noted two of his predecessors as BLM director were at the table serving on the Utah Balanced Resources Committee - Pat Shea (Clinton Appointment) and Kathleen Clark (Bush Appointment)
The focus of the 90 minute meeting was the December 23rd announcement by Secretary Salazar to vacate the 2003 settlement agreement with Utah Governor Mike Leavitt and to institute a new round of wilderness inventories that likely will end with new "Wild lands" designations. Basically more BLM administered defacto wilderness. Abbey did make the statement the BLM does not plan on establishing more in his own words "Defacto Wilderness" which was meet with confrontational questioning from Utah Governor Herbert, Lt. Gov. Bell and Kathleen Clark.
In opening comments, Herbert questioned the timing of the Secretary's announcement on December 23rd and the dampening effect it will have in Utah on the collaborative efforts that are underway in a number of counties working on land bills similar to the Washington County Lands Bill. He noted the state of Utah was "blindsided" and noted that the Administration is lacking in its transparency.
Probably the more important and critical questions came from Lt. Governor Greg Bell how quoted passages in the Secretary's order that were exactly opposite of the picture Abbey tried to paint. Bell reading some specific language noted that the Secretary's directive turns the entire wilderness inventory process on its ear. He suggested the directive to fit the Administration's view of the protections and expansion they are seeking.
In his final comment, Governor Herbert expressed some frustration regarding the fact, the political realities of federal land management in Utah are making job creation and economic stability difficult for Utahns. Kathleen Clark pushed it up a notch in her comments pointing out as a past BLM director, the BLM controls nearly half of Utah. Businesses in Utah and looking at Utah see the politically charged and lack of stability the is the Washington DC reality as detrimental to bringing risk capital to Utah. This is not a good scenario for Utah.
As you would guess, the anti-Wild Lands crowd cheered several times when Utah leaders challenged the Director.
As the meeting was nearing the 90 minute point, retired Utah Congressman Jim Hansen seated at the Council table was asked his thoughts on the Salazar directive and vacating the Utah agreement. A 22-year member Congressman, member of the House Natural Resources Committee and ultimately chair was asked is thoughts. That was not without controversy. Pat Shea objected noting Council protocol. He missed objecting to the Governor's and Lt. Governor's remarks - also not members of the Council.
Recognize this Council is about cooperation and collaboration. Ted Wilson who chairs is a Herbert appointee who was a two term Democrat Mayor of Salt Lake City and Vice Chair of the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance (SUWA). Many in the audience don't necessarily agree with the Governor's appointment nor do they trust Wilson. Wilson ruled as chair that Jim Hansen could comment. Pat Shea stormed out in protest! A few in the audience applauded as he made his way out.
Jim had some very worthwhile and valuable insights. He too suggested that the Secretary has overstepped on the directive. He noted that wilderness is the prerogative of the Congress and not the agency or White House. He pointed out numerous legal ruling place the Interior Department crossways with case law. The term Jim used was the BLM would be creating "fake" wilderness and that their efforts would provide for endless litigation.
The meeting attracted some 250 or more. No comments were taken from the audience. Questions and comments were allowed on 3 x 5 cards and maybe 4 were read and commented on by Mr. Abbey. Utah Farm Bureau had prepared formal written comments and was prepared to make brief verbal comments if provided the opportunity. That did not come.
USA-ALL wants folks to know that this recent announcement regarding Wild Lands is just the tip of the iceberg. We expect a full onslaught of anti-access policies and actions in the next 2 years. We are determine to be effective in thwarting as much of this ill advised agenda as possible. With support like we received at this meeting we will be better able to be successful. Later this week representatives from USA-ALL will be traveling to Washington D.C. to make the first of many trips to D.C. to meet with congressional staff and other organizations in an effort to better protect access to public land in Utah. A big, "thanks" to those who have donated to help make this happen.