Rep. Paul Gosar flickr

National environmental groups with close ties to California billionaire Tom Steyer continue to pour money into the west, this time targeting members of the Congressional Western Caucus.

In a press release issued late last week, the League of Conservation Voters (LCV) characterized the Western Caucus as “anti-public lands,” calling for the public to apply pressure to “anti-parks politicians.”

“With the futures of Organ-Mountains Desert Peaks National Monument and Rio Grande del Norte National Monument on the line, the League of Conservation Voters is investing $100,000 in a final push to urge Congressman Steve Pearce and other members of Congress to stop attacking our public lands and to ensure the Trump administration hears the overwhelming outpouring of support for our national monuments ahead of the August 24th deadline for its unprecedented monument ‘review,’” the LCV wrote.

The Western Caucus is made up of more than 70 members of Congress representing states concentrated in the West. The caucus objectives has focused on economic growth, embracing an “all-of-the-above” energy strategy, and emphasizing decision-making at the state and local level rather than the federal level.

The latest LCV ad buy is part of a “final push” against the Department of the Interior’s review of designated large national monuments, the LCV is adding the six-figure social media spend to target Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, as well as four Republican representatives including Rep. Steve Pearce (R-N.M.), Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.), Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.), and Rep. Doug LaMalfa (R-Calif.). Secretary Zinke is expected to send President Trump his recommendations on national monuments this week.

Zinke has recommended no changes to several national monuments under review, including Sand to Snow in California, Grand Canyon-Parashant in Arizona, Upper Missouri River Breaks in Montana, and Canyons of the Ancients in Colorado.

In a statement to Western Wire, Pearce noted his past support for the national parks. “I’ve always supported protecting the Organ Mountains here in New Mexico. I even introduced a bill to make it a national monument before President Obama designated the 500,000-acre footprint.”

“I’ve been working with local communities and governments for years to protect the Organ Mountains and its surrounding natural treasures, while ensuring local farmers, ranchers, outdoorsmen, and recreationalists benefit from multiple uses of the land – something these extreme environmental groups from outside of New Mexico can’t say they’ve done,” Pearce said, noting national special interest groups are quick to distort his record.

Pearce added, “I’ve loved the Organ Mountains my entire life, and will always support protecting them for generations to come. Responsible conservation is about compromise, and that is exactly what a smaller footprint will aim to accomplish.”

The LCV campaign is targeting an executive order signed by President Trump on April 26 directing Secretary Zinke to review large-scale national monument designations made by the federal government.  The review includes designations made since 1996 to determine whether they complied with the Antiquities Act of 1906 and properly considered the effects on adjacent non-federal lands, economic development and input from the local community.  In the past, Western officials and lawmakers have advocated for changes to the national monument designation process to include more dialogue and consultation with local stakeholders.  Zinke’s 45-day review of the monuments included visits to Bear Ears and the Grand Staircase-Escalante.

Lawmakers such as Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah), chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee and member of the Western Caucus, said earlier this year that the order “does what the past administration should have done. Talk to real people who live in the [affected] communities and not just special out-of-state interest groups.”

The digital ad spend is the latest example of an increasing amount of money and attention being paid by California-based groups in other Western states.  As Western Wire has reported, millions have been poured into local political races in states like New Mexico, Colorado, and Nevada by national environmental groups.  On the federal level, the figures climb even higher. Steyer himself spent $163 million over the course of the 2014 and 2016 elections and the LCV spent a combined near-$20 million in the 2016 cycle alone.