WASHINGTON — The Bureau of Land Management is in the process of spending an as-yet-to-be determined amount of your money to build a replica of a sandstone arch high above the Missouri River that vandals destroyed last Memorial Day weekend.

Now that effort would be questionable enough. But the BLM is not rebuilding the 11-foot “natural” wonder called the “Eye of the Needle” at its original site. It’s building it 30 miles upstream in a small farming community called Fort Benton.

I’m not making this up. And it gets worse.

Officials say they haven’t given up on the idea of restoring the original arch, which was created by erosion over hundreds of years as winds swept down the plains.

“Once the replica is completed and the public can view it, we will reassess the idea of rebuilding the original,” explained Chuck Otto, head of the bureau’s Lewistown, Montana, office.

But don’t fret about authenticity. Otto assures us that the replica will be made, at no small expense, I’m sure, from sandstone quarried from the original site.

Government never stops thinking of ways to spend your money — and steal your property. The latest scam is the protection of, not endangered species, but endangered “cultural sites.” So grab your wallet, and pray no one discovers an Indian burial ground near your home. Because here comes the Monument Gestapo.

As usual, the groundwork for such movements begins with what are referred to in bureaucratic circles from Washington to the United Nations as “non-governmental organizations” or NGOs. One such NGO that bears close scrutiny in the months and years ahead is World Monuments Watch.

Recently World Monuments Watch, a stalking horse for the United Nations, compiled and released its second biennial list of the world’s 100 most endangered cultural sites in 55 countries. The group blames carelessness, mismanagement and, worst of all, “development” for the ravaging of these natural and man-made historical monuments. Cyrus Vance, former U.S. secretary of state under Jimmy Carter and co-chairman of the group, no doubt thinks he or some other bureaucrat could better manage these properties.

The list ranges from single buildings, such as the Metropolitan Cathedral Palace of Fine Arts in Mexico City to the Hagia Sophia Cathedral in Istanbul to — and this is where the agenda gets really dangerous — entire regions, such as the South Pass Cultural Landscape in Wyoming.

“This list is a call to action, alerting people worldwide that it is not too late to save a piece of the past,” explained Vance last month in releasing the group’s latest report.

Among the U.S. sites removed from the endangered list because of government preservation work is the south end of Ellis Island, which, coincidentally, is now also designated as a United Nations World Heritage Site — the predictable next step for monuments noticed by Vance’s group.

One other large U.S. area listed this year is Lancaster County, PA, home of a large Amish community. World Monuments Watch says it is in danger of being overrun by development. My conspiratorial mind wonders if the recent FBI training blunder there, in which a group of local teens was roughed up and handcuffed by jackbooted, heavily armed agents for no apparent or explainable reason, was a simple mistake or an omen of things to come.

“Rapid urbanization and all its predictable incarnations threatens to negate Lancaster County’s sense of place,” the report said. Keep in mind, the group makes this claim from the cozy confines of its headquarters in, you guessed it, New York City.

Other U.S. targets include:

  • Fort Apache, AZ, where the U.S. Cavalry launched attacks against Geronimo and other Apache leaders, needs 29 buildings restored. My house needs painting, too. So what?

  • Cliff dwellings in Mesa Verde National Park, CO, are in danger of eroding. I know I won’t sleep tonight over that one.

  • The Bodie State Historic Park, a Gold Rush settlement in California’s Eastern Sierra Nevada Mountains, is threatened by mining. Did it ever occur to these guys that there wouldn’t be such a settlement if it weren’t for mining?

I, for one, think the residents of these communities are much more qualified to decide whether problems exist and, if so, how to solve them.

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