Exploiting Antiquities

By Rachel Blum Spencer for FRONT PORCH REPUBLIC

Three days ago, Senator Jim DeMint blew the whistle on a presidential land-grab of more than 10 million acres from Montana to New Mexico. This sweeping confiscation was facilitated by Obama’s use of a controversial type of presidential directive: the presidential memorandum. There memos, usually unpublished and unrecorded, are a means through which presidents since FDR have attempted to establish policy by directing bureaucracies to act, all without going through the nay-sayers in Congress.

DeMint, who heard about the Department of Interior objective because the memo had been leaked to a fellow senator, is right to expose a backroom deal. Strangely, the unilateral memorandum is not the object of his criticism. His main objection is that, it would halt “job-creating activities like ranching, forestry, mining and energy development. Worse, this land grab would dry up tax revenue that’s essential for funding schools, firehouses and community centers.”

So that’s the rub. Jobs.

Some of the areas that Obama is attempting to seal off undoubtedly may not qualify for the status of “antiquities” or “national monuments.” But the thought that anyone might want to seal off a basin in Colorado to keep it from being stripped for oil and gas development or to create wildlife reserves in New Mexico seems ludicrous to Senator DeMint, nonsense from the “environmentalist left.”

This is simply “unbelievable” when the nation’s unemployment rate is at 9.7 percent. DeMint concludes, saying that, “Taking the nation’s resources offline will stifle job creation and dry up tax revenues. If anything, government should be selling land off. . . the plan would mean fewer jobs for Americans.”

One finds it difficult to sympathize with either side. Of course a presidential order that secretly authorizes a department to seize land is suspect. Perhaps more disturbing is the lens through which DeMint sees the created world. To him, it is all “resources” and fodder for “job creation.” Certainly nature should not be our god, but something is surely amiss when the right sees the created order through the narrow lens of profit, and extraction of resources shoves aside stewardship.

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