Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar faced some impertinent questions from a Senate committee yesterday about an internal memo suggesting that his agency is actively seeking nominations for new national monuments.
Salazar denied that he's trying to use the process to lock up western lands primed for oil and gas development. But what's the fun of being in charge of a fifth of the country's real estate if you can't designate your own monuments now and then?
In the interests of bringing more transparency to the process, we humbly suggest that the Secretary consider three potential monuments right here in his home state. None of them have exceptional wilderness value, but they should be memorialized as a way of recognizing certain essential public land management follies. Here's the list:
1. Minerals Management Service Faux-Swiss-Chalet Government-Industry Sleepover Monument (Vail)
To commemorate the warm and friendly relationship between energy producers and the dedicated government employees assigned to regulate them during the Bush years, a foreclosed condo should be set aside in Vail. Ideally, it should be one of the facilities used for parties, golf and ski junkets, and monkey business between MMS royalty supervisors and energy execs that sparked internal investigations and an overhaul of Interior's "royalties in kind" program. But actual historicity is less important than capturing the true spirit of bend-over collaboration inherent in the alliance.
2. Windy Point of No Return Renewable Energy Monument (Tyrone)
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Whereas, the U.S. Army has had designs on huge chunks of ranchland in southern Colorado for decades; and whereas, it's pretty damn windy in Las Animas County, without nearly enough windmills to advance the renewable energy agenda of the present administration; and whereas, enough hot air and bluster has been produced on the subject of renewables on public lands to power Interior headquarters in Washington if anyone was only smart enough to harness the gasbags responsible; and whereas it would cost very little to erect a sign on a suitable Windy Point to signify said futility while protecting the land from military predations... why not?
3. Stationary Wild Horse Monument (Burlington)
Burlington's famous antique carousel is already a powerful tourist draw. It should be designated as a national monument, in honor of the herds of wild horses that the Bureau of Land Management has mismanaged into near oblivion over the past half century. Salazar has already taken considerable heat from wild horse advocates over recent roundups and a costly plan to relocate penned-up western mustangs to new pastures in the East (dubbed "Salazoos" by the plan's critics).
There are now more wild horses in pens than there are on public lands, and horse activists claim that few herds are being managed at genetically viable levels. The proposed 2010 budget for Interior includes $42 million for purchasing preserves that will eventually be used as Salazoos, but it might be simpler to set aside an appropriately colorful array of wooden steeds for the enjoyment of future generations.