Horace Albright, director of the National Park Service, dedicates the original 96,000-acre Grand Teton National Park in 1929, a reserve that did not include the sagebrush plains at the base of the famous mountain range critical to scenic views. To preserve that landscape, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt used the Antiquities Act in 1943 to create Grand Teton National Monument, later incorporated into the national park. (National Park Service)

Wyoming-based property rights attorney Karen Budd-Falen recently vowed that if she is confirmed to lead the Bureau of Land Management, she will “advocate for local government involvement,” criticizing an inside-the-Beltway mindset that she said currently pervades land-use planning.

Budd-Falen, who confirmed to E&E News last month that she is under consideration to become BLM’s next director, also endorsed the Trump administration’s push to reduce national monuments and questioned whether two Utah monuments were “lawful to designate” (Greenwire, Oct. 6).

Karen Budd-Falen. (Budd-Falen Law Offices)

The self-proclaimed “cowboy lawyer” made the remarks during a forum Saturday Nov. 18 in Hamilton, Mont., that was organized by Montana state Rep. Theresa Manzella (R).

The event, which focused on land-use planning in Ravalli County, also featured state Sen. Jennifer Fielder (R), who heads the American Lands Council, which promotes the transfer of federal lands to state ownership.

According to transcripts and audiotape of the event provided to E&E News by the Western Values Project, Budd-Falen addressed a variety of topics over several hours and answered audience questions.

“If I am confirmed, I am going to advocate for local government involvement like I’ve been talking about here,” Budd-Falen said in response to a question about how she would lead BLM if nominated by President Trump and confirmed by the Senate.

A longtime critic of BLM who has challenged the agency over grazing regulations and endangered species protections, Budd-Falen added that she would not tell local governments to “violate the federal law” to achieve their goals.

“But I think we need to consider the local needs as we’re doing federal land policy and management decisions. I think that we need to make decisions that are closer to the ground,” Budd-Falen said.

In another response, when asked about the future of national monument creation, Budd-Falen similarly called for more involvement by city or county officials in federal planning.

Karen Budd-Falen grew up on a ranch near Big Piney, which has some 516 residents and calls itself the “Icebox of the nation.” City Hall is one of the landmarks in the western Wyoming outpost in Sublette County at the edge of the Wyoming Range. (Copyright (c) Magicpiano 2017 Permission granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License: GNU Free Documentation License.)

“I think that local governments need to take these opportunities to be more involved. I think that too many decisions are coming out of Washington that aren’t considering people in Ravalli County or Sublette County or Laramie County [in Wyoming], or wherever it is you’re from,” she said. “I think there ought to be significantly more involvement.”

During her remarks, Budd-Falen also criticized what she sees as bureaucratic delays within BLM and said she would work to speed decisions on grazing and other issues at the agency.

“It’s my opinion that the wait is what’s the problem. The final decision, you make a final decision on property, and if I don’t like the final decision I can appeal it. … But just make the decision, and then we can go on from there,” said Budd-Falen, who spent three years at Interior during the Reagan administration.

National monuments legal?

Budd-Falen also endorsed legislation authored by House Natural Resources Chairman Rob Bishop (R-Utah) that aims to overhaul the Antiquities Act of 1906, the law under which presidents can establish national monuments.

Bishop’s proposed bill, which could see a vote on the House floor early next year, would significantly curb existing presidential authority under the law by enacting limits on the size of new monuments, as well as requiring local and state approval for some sites (Greenwire, Nov. 2).

Budd-Falen said she agrees that the current law “was significantly abused,” echoing Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s criticism that many of the existing monuments, including Utah’s Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante monuments, are too large.

Devil’s Tower, also known as Bear Lodge, was the first national monument in the U.S. and it is located in Karen Budd-Falen’s home state. The potential head of the BLM said recently national monuments should occupy the smallest footprint possible and that some in Utah were likely created illegally. (National Park Service.)

“If you read the Antiquities Act, it says you are to designate the smallest area possible to protect the artifact you are trying to protect. I looked at Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante, surely that’s not the smallest area possible to protect these things,” Budd-Falen said. “So, I’m not convinced that those were even lawful to designate.”

During her remarks, Budd-Falen also criticized the Obama administration for what she called a push toward “single-use preferential management.”

“Personally, I am a huge supporter of multiple-use, and I think there is enough land and enough resources that you can have everything you need to have: I think you do oil and gas, I think you can do grazing, I think you can cut timber,” Budd-Falen said. “I think there is absolutely enough room if you, if in your heart what you want is multiple use of the public lands. And I think that’s the direction we need to go.”

Western Values Project Director Chris Saeger criticized Budd-Falen’s view of federal lands, including her description of national parks and wilderness areas as “single-use” properties.

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“The fact that Ms. Budd-Falen apparently believes land is public only if a handful of people can profit from it tells you all you need to know about how radical her approach to leading the BLM would be,” Saeger said.

Reprinted from Greenwire with permission from E&E News. Copyright 2017. E&E provides essential news for energy and environment professionals at www.eenews.net.

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  1. The Bears Ears designation was not locally requested or supported, special interest backers had the ear of president Obama and that powerful lobby had powerful friends in Washington D.C. that pushed it through. There is plenty of research out there that can provide that information. The people of Utah have asked for review, for reason, and a chance at an equal opportunity to have their voices heard by the Trump administration, at the same level as the special interest backers had during the last administration. The abuse of the Antiquities Act needs more than just a conversation, it is time to legislatively restrict it to its original intent and application. The Grand Staircase Escalante national monument designation is a case study in the abuse of political power, deceit and non-disclosure measures, and special interest influence. After-the-fact the case of this designation was examined by Congress, nothing was ever done about the abuses that were found to have occurred. Perhaps now, wrongs can be somewhat righted. Sadly, it will not bring back the lifestyle and family futures that were robbed from and lost to the counties and peoples of Garfield and Emery counties in Utah. History is an honest teacher, hopefully its lessons have not been wasted and true and honest vetting of the protection requirements the region truly needs will be identified and reasonable measures will be arrived at. Massive abuse of the Antiquities Act must end. http://moritzlaw.osu.edu/students/groups/oslj/files/2012/03/64.2.rusnak.pdf

  2. This charge that she “wants to sell BLM administered lands to the highest bidder,” is the usual disinformation that the greens use to scare the “natives!” They used in on Zinke, and it wasn’t true then either.
    Although if they beat the drum long enough, maybe someone will start to think it is a good idea.

  3. Bear’s Ears went through years of local discussion and compromises before it was designated. The decision did not “come out of Washington”. And look at the grouse plan. It was a long hard effort on the part of local people, and still they want to trash it. Budd-Falen isn’t looking for local input. She is looking for corporate input on how to override local concerns to benefit national and international corporations. And we should be grateful if a few jobs trickle down while parks, forests and plains are exploited without concern for people, plants or animals. Or the future. I know we have good conservationists in Wyoming who support both our natural beauty and quality of life along with careful development. Why should we have to settle for an extremist like Budd-Falen? Barrasso and Enzi could stop this if they cared about Wyoming as anything other than a mineral colony.

  4. We cannot allow her to be confirmed as Director of BLM. She is of the same ilk as Rick Perry, Trump’s new EPA Director who has stated that he wants to abolish the agency. Budd-Falen has stated her belief that BLM administered lands should be sold to the highest bidder.