Rob Bishop must be looking back at 2016 and wondering how it went so badly for his anti-public lands agenda. After all, he chairs the House Committee on Natural Resources and. His years-in-the-making Public Lands Initiative (PLI) stumbled all year and ultimately failed to pass, he failed to stall important sage grouse protections, and his public lands transfer agenda faced stiff opposition from Utahans throughout 2016. And fortunately for the majority of Americans and Utahans who support public lands, 2017 isn’t looking much rosier, as President-elect Trump has nominated an Interior Secretary who is opposed to Bishops anti-public lands agenda.
Here’s just a taste of what Bishop botched in 2016:
Public Lands Initiative
After 3 years of talk, Bishop finally unveiled his PLI, an “alternative” to a locally-preferred Bears Ears monument designation, in July – a week before Congress headed home for a month-long vacation. But the bad news for Bishop began right away in January when the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition ended discussions with the Congressman after their efforts to engage were ignored and Bishop’s cozy relationship with the oil and gas industry clearly won out.
As we pointed out after its release, the PLI won’t solve the challenges in the Bears Ears. And when his constituents raised concerns at town halls during the August recess, Bishop ignored most, while calling others a “pain in the butt.”
Ultimately, the 114th Congress ended without passing Bishop’s PLI leaving a monument designation the only remaining option to protect Bears Ears.
Public Lands Sell-off Agenda
In early January, we called out Rep. Bishop for his mission to sell America’s public lands to the highest bidder. And the bad news for Bishop kept rolling in.
In October, the bi-partisan Conference of Western Attorneys General issued a report that threw major shade on Utah’s efforts to force Bishop’s public land takeover through legal action. The report’s basic conclusion is clear: any such legal claims are weak at best and stand little to no chance of succeeding in the courts.
A report commissioned by the Wyoming Legislature essentially echoed those findings and urged folks to sincerely participate in the numerous public engagement processes that already exist. “The disconnect between the federal agencies and local communities needs to be addressed in a collaborative manner,” reads its conclusion, rather than a forced takeover.
In what we hope is a final blow to Bishops scheme to sell off our public lands, President-elect Trump nominated Montana Congressman Ryan Zinke to lead the Department of the Interior, a post which oversees millions of acres of public land. While public lands advocates have legitimate concerns about Zinke’s cozy relationship to oil and gas interests, he has voted against selling public lands on more than one occasion. “I’m starting to wonder how many times I have to tell these guys in leadership I’m not going to allow Montana’s public lands to be sold or given away,” he said in a June press release. One has to wonder what this means for Bishops extreme agenda under a Trump administration.
In September, Rep. Bishop tried and failed for a second year in a row (and against the advice of Military officials) to hold up passage of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) in an effort to stifle the landmark greater sage grouse management plans. The agreement, built on unprecedented collaboration between Westerners of all stripes, protects vital western sagebrush habitat while allowing multiple uses, including oil and gas exploration, and keeps the bird off of the Endangered Species List.
Bishop tried to attach a rider to the House version of the NDAA that would have undercut the historic agreement. The Senate version did not include the provision, and the NDAA was, for the second year in a row, passed without Bishop’s rider.