This is the second post in a series of blog posts about the Trump Administration’s attacks on our public lands. Read the first post here.
We have the unique opportunity to act today to defend our national monuments. Contact your senators and urge them to prevent our president from abusing his authority and dramatically altering these monuments. Empower them to stand up to President Trump.
Zinke Recommends Radically Altering 10 Monuments
Late last night, the Washington Post published Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s leaked report on certain national monuments. In his report, Zinke recommends President Trump shrink at least 4 monuments—including Utah’s Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante, Maine’s Katahdin Woods and Waters, and Oregon’s Cascade-Siskiyou—and modify 6 others, including three marine national monuments.
The secretary’s report also recommends changing how these 10 national monuments are managed, arguing the Trump Administration should allow “traditional uses” that have typically been restricted within the national monuments’ boundaries, such as grazing, logging, coal mining and commercial fishing. Restrictions on these uses, which are carefully crafted in response to the specific needs of each area, were put in place to protect the unique objects of significance in each monument.
This report follows Trump’s April 26 executive order, which instructed Zinke to review all national monuments created since Jan. 1, 1996 and spanning at least 100,000 acres. This radical executive order—which allowed for a sweeping review of 27 protected places—and Zinke’s resulting report are an attack on all public lands.
With these recommendations, it is clear the Trump Administration is preparing an unprecedented attack on protected lands in the United States. Never before has the United States government eliminated, at such a large scale, permanent protections for national parks, wilderness areas, or national monuments.
Monuments at Risk
Here are just some of Zinke’s recommendations on national monuments included in the leaked report.
- Bears Ears National Monument, Utah: Home to pronghorn antelope, mountain lions, bighorn sheep, black bears and peregrine falcons, the monument’s immeasurable ecological value is complemented by 100,000 irreplaceable archaeological and tribal sites. Zinke recommends eliminating vast portions (separate reports suggest by as much as 1 million acres) of the national monument and allowing “traditional uses” like mining, logging and drilling in protected areas.
- Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah: Providing habitat for mountain lions, bighorn sheep, river otters and pronghorn antelopes, Grand-Staircase Escalante is also home to incredible geological features like vermillion cliffs, steep stone staircases and slot canyons. Zinke recommends eliminating vast portions of the national monument and allowing “traditional uses” like mining, logging and drilling in protected areas. If protections are indeed stripped from this national monument, where several significant fossils have been unearthed, the area could be at risk for fossil fuel extraction.
- Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument, New Mexico: This dramatic landscape, covered in volcanic mountains, is home to mountain lions, mule deer, golden eagles and rare desert plants. Zinke recommends allowing “traditional uses” like mining, logging, and drilling in protected areas and leaves open the possibility of eliminating vast portions of the national monument.
- Rio Grande del Norte National Monument, New Mexico: The monument is home to volcanic cones and deep canyons, through which the Rio Grande River carves an 800-foot deep gorge. It contains important archaeological sites with petroglyphs and prehistoric dwelling sites and is also an important area for wintering animals, providing a corridor by which wildlife move between the two mountain ranges. Zinke recommends allowing “traditional uses” like mining, logging, and drilling in protected areas and leaves open the possibility of eliminating vast portions of the national monument.
- Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument, Maine: The monument protects 87,563 acres of the Maine Woods, some of the most undeveloped land in the eastern U.S. Local communities and conservation groups, including Wildlands Network, fought hard for decades for this designation. Its status as a national monument ensures it as a critical link in our Eastern Wildway. Zinke’s recommendations specify that logging should be allowed in the national monument and leave open the possibility of eliminating portions of the national monument.
- Cascade Siskiyou National Monument, Oregon and California: According to The Wilderness Society, this monument was one of the first protected specifically for biodiversity. It’s home to elk, bobcats, black bears and a myriad of bird species. Zinke recommends eliminating vast portions of the national monument and allowing “traditional uses” like mining, logging and drilling in protected areas.
Other National Monuments
- Gold Butte National Monument, Nevada: Gold Butte’s national monument status, designated in December 2016, protects its Native American cultural and artistic sites from vandalism. It’s red sandstone cliffs and canyons also protect rare and threatened species, such as the Mojave desert tortoise and desert bighorn sheep. Zinke recommends eliminating vast portions of the national monument and allowing “traditional uses” like mining, logging and drilling in protected areas.
- Northeast Canyons and Seamounts, Atlantic Ocean: This monument is the first U.S. national monument in the Atlantic Ocean, and it protects several underwater seamounts and submarine canyons. It’s home to rare and endangered species, including sperm whales and Kemp’s ridley seas turtles. Zinke recommends allowing industrial-scale commercial fishing in the national monument and leaves open the possibility of eliminating vast portions of the monument.
- Pacific Remote Islands National Monument, Pacific Ocean: This monument, comprised of islands, reefs, and atolls, represents one of the largest marine conservation areas in the world. The protected monument provides homes to millions of species of wildlife, many of which are rapidly vanishing from our planet, including sea turtles, dolphins, whales, coconut crabs, and sharks. Zinke recommends eliminating vast portions of the monument and allowing industrial-scale commercial fishing within the monument’s boundaries.
- Rose Atoll National Monument, Pacific Ocean: Rose Atoll is a nesting site for rare species seabirds, giant clams and reef sharks. It’s also home to unusual abundance of rose-colored corals. Zinke recommends eliminating vast portions of the monument and allowing industrial-scale commercial fishing within the monument’s boundaries.
Zinke Recommendations Counter Wildlands Network’s Mission
Wildlands Network is fully committed to protecting our nation’s public lands. We are deeply disappointed that our government is considering selling out these incredible natural treasures to special interests like mining, logging, drilling and commercial fishing.
“Instead of building upon conservation success to create a better future for people and wildlife, the Secretary has apparently chosen to take a huge step backward by recommending we sacrifice our shared values and spaces to cater to select special interests,” says Katie Davis, our Western Program Director. “Wildlands Network will continue to support the efforts of our regional and national partners to defend our conservation progress and public lands for humans and wildlife.”
Selling out these lands will result in the loss of millions of acres of prized wildlife habitat, much of which resides in our wildways. The secretary’s recommendations to alter these national monuments fundamentally counter our mission to promote human coexistence with the land and its wild inhabitants.
All of our nation’s protected public lands, including these 10 national monuments, give wildlife critical room to roam to find mates, habitat, water and food. Of course, humans also depend on national monuments and other protected wildlands for spiritual enrichment, outdoor recreation, and connecting with our natural heritage.
Wildlands Network is committed to protecting and connecting public lands in North America so that life in all its diversity can thrive. We can’t functionally reconnect these lands if they aren’t protected.
Altering Public Lands Is Deeply Un-American and Illegal
Not only are these lands critical to our connectivity goals, they are deeply cherished by millions of Americans. The administration’s efforts to sell out these special places in incredibly unpopular and un-American, as demonstrated by the more than 2.8 million public comments poured in during the Department of the Interior’s 60-day comment period—a record-breaking response. More than 98 percent of all comments received expressed support for maintaining or expanding national monuments.
What’s more, most legal experts agree that the president doesn’t have the authority to alter national monument designations. Trump’s original purpose in ordering a national monument review was to “end another egregious use of government power,” referring to the Antiquities Act of 1906, which allows presidents to safeguard and preserve U.S. public lands and cultural and historic sites for all Americans to enjoy. If Trump does indeed alter these monuments, such an abuse of power will be immediately challenged in court.
Help Us Protect Our National Monuments Today
More than 150 monuments protect America’s cultural, historical, and natural heritage for future generations. Since the inception of the Antiquities Act in 1906, no other president in history has attempted to reverse a predecessor’s national monument designation. Take action now to protect our wild places so President Trump isn’t the first.