- - Wednesday, August 2, 2017


Since Donald Trump has been president, he has not been west of Cedar Rapids, Iowa. No visits to California, Texas, Oklahoma, Colorado, Alaska, Hawaii, Washington, the Dakotas, or anywhere between. However, 92 of his 306 successful electoral votes came from this region.

Despite this absence, there is much to celebrate among Western conservatives. Ryan Zinke, a Western conservative himself, was a great selection as U.S. secretary of the Interior.

At the recent Western Conservative Summit in Denver, Colorado, Secretary Zinke declared, “The war on American energy is over.” The Trump administration has expanded American energy production by approving the Dakota and Keystone pipelines, expanding offshore drilling, increasing production in Alaska, ending the job-killing Obama-era coal regulations, and withdrawing America from the useless Paris climate agreement.

Bottom line, America is producing more energy, driving prices down for consumers, supporting good-paying energy sector jobs, and reducing our dependence on foreign energy.

The Trump administration is also giving local voices an option to speak out about the creation of national monuments. President Obama abused the Antiquities Act of 1906 to name more national monuments than any other president in history, all without local consent. The problem with the Antiquities Act is that it has become a federal government land grab. Local approval to designate land as a national monument is not required even though the designation can have serious impacts on the local community and economy.

Rather than silencing the voices of those most impacted by a decision coming from Washington, D.C., Mr. Trump and Mr. Zinke have implemented a “formal public comment period for members of the public to officially weigh in on monument designations” for sites designated national monuments “since January 1, 1996, where the designation covers more than 100,000 acres.”

This is an important first step to giving Westerners more control over their land. Mr. Trump, unlike Mr. Obama, is willing to give local Westerners a voice.

The president and Congress can, however, go further to give control back to states by allowing the rules governing Wyoming regarding the Antiquities Act to be applied to the rest of the nation. Anytime the president seeks to designate land in Wyoming a national monument, he or she needs approval from Congress. This common-sense approach protects the initial purpose of the Antiquities Act while balancing the needs and concerns of local citizens. The Wyoming model for the Antiquities Act should be applied nationwide.

The president also appointed Neil Gorsuch, a Coloradan who embraces the original intent of the Constitution, to the U.S. Supreme Court. As we’re already witnessing, Justice Gorsuch is bringing western common sense to his decisions. We’re hoping he will uphold the religious freedom for all when Jack Phillips, a Colorado baker, faces the U.S. Supreme Court on religious freedom soon.

There is much to celebrate as Western conservatives, but we would like to see the president, too. Western conservatives are fighting hard to advance conservative principles and public policy in their states. A visit from the president to the Western United States would strengthen grass-roots conservatives and help the president’s agenda. We hope he will visit soon. In the words of Horace Greeley, “Go West, young man, go West. There is health in the country, and room away from our crowds of idlers and imbeciles.”

• Jeff Hunt is the Chairman of the Western Conservative Summit, Director of the Centennial Institute, and Vice President of Public Policy for Colorado Christian University.

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