The Department of the Interior (DOI) is responsible for America’s lands, water, wildlife and energy resources. It honors our nation’s responsibilities to tribal nations and advocates for America’s island communities. The DOI currently oversees the Bears Ears area and will continue to do so if a national monument designation is made. A monument would increase management responsibility for the DOI. Will it be able to properly care for and manage the land under monument conditions?
The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) determines if government entities are doing what they are supposed to do. Over the years, GAO has reported on management challenges, which are due to the difficulty in balancing the demand for greater use of its resources with the need to conserve and protect them. The GAO has identified Major Management Challenges of the DOI. Some of them are as follows:
“(1) Strengthening resource protection: Interior has not yet developed a cohesive strategy to address wildland fire issues as GAO has recommended in the past. In addition, Interior faces challenges in protecting and securing federal lands from illegal activities.
(2) Improving federal land acquisition and exchanges: As the steward of more than 500 million acres of federal land, land sales, acquisitions, and exchanges are important land management functions for the department.
(3) Reducing Interior’s deferred maintenance backlog: The dollar estimate of the deferred maintenance backlog for fiscal year 2010 was between $13.5 billion and $19.9 billion.”
Illegal activities would most likely increase with a monument designation, as statistics prove true in federally designated areas. With a backlog of billions of dollars, the DOI cannot provide the “proper care and management” as stated in the Antiquities Act for an additional 1.9 million acres.
There are 640 million acres of federal land today. GAO reports that with this much acreage, land sales, acquisition and exchange of lands are important functions for management. Makes you wonder, would a Bears Ears National Monument be a good or careless acquisition for the DOI considering the major challenges?