The Basin and Range Monument came up during the first public comment session of the county commission meeting last Monday in Pioche.
Jaina Moan spoke on behalf of a group in the Las Vegas Valley to support the resolution for the monument created by presidential executive order two years ago.
County commissioners are not in favor of the monument remaining in its current form because they believe it would lock up so much more land that could be used for business and agriculture opportunities.
Commissioner Jared Brackenbury said, “It takes away from use of the land for mining and mineral uses, grazing land for cattle, and eventually, full control of the water. As a small little ghost town community, we depend on all that to make our county work. If we didn’t have that, it would be bad.”
His further opinion was the BLM is always going to find something to restrict local access. “Just another way for them to control you, and it’s a guarantee they will cut the numbers down on it.”
Chairman Paul Donohue said, “History has shown that’s what will happen. Looks good on paper, but…”
Commissioner Kevin Phillips noted even though the proclamation order may have promised certain guarantees for things on the monument lands to remain as they are, “Our experience with the federal government has been, ‘Nicely said, poorly done,’ and we’re dubious because their word has not been kept over many years.” He cited cases going back to the Northwest Ordinance of 1837 and what federal law was in regards to the disposal of public lands.
“All the promises made to us and our ancestors, in spite of federal law, proclamations, declarations, etc., have basically not been kept.”
“We’re not new to this,” noted Donohue. “Wilderness areas already comprise about 1.4 million acres of our county locked out to some degree.”
In making their case for the value of the monument, Moan and another woman with her, primarily indicated the beauty and preservation of what is out there is more important than private land that can be developed and taxed. “It’s not just for people here today, but those in the future,” she said, “who will be able to say how fortunate people had the foresight to set aside this land.”
Commissioners have considered the idea of shrinking the size of the monument as the worst case scenario, and the best case scenario for it to disappear.
Recently, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has been reviewing 22 national monuments “to see whether the designations should be reduced, rescinded or left intact.” He has not visited the Basin and Range Monument as yet, but indicated he wanted to do so before the end of July.