Donald Trump has ordered the Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke to review 27 National Monuments designated by the Antiquities Act over the past 21 years to look for “abuses” of the act.
As part of that process, the public is being invited to weigh in on the review as a whole via written comments or an online portal. The White House is calling it the “first ever formal public comment period for members of the public to officially weigh in on monument designations under the Antiquities Act of 1906,” which of course ignores the years-long process of proposals, legislative efforts, and public comments that went into the vast majority of these monuments.
The land-based Monuments under review are listed below, by state:
- Grand Canyon-Parashant
- Ironwood Forest
- Sonoran Desert
- Vermillion Cliffs
- Berryessa Snow Mountain
- Carrizo Plain
- Giant Sequoia
- Mojave Trails
- Sand to Snow
- San Gabriel Mountains
- Canyons of the Ancients
- Craters of the Moon
- Katahadin Woods and Waters
- Upper Missouri River Breaks
- Basin and Range
- Gold Butte
- Organ Mountains – Desert Peaks
- Rio Grande del Norte
- Cascade Siskiyou
- Bears Ears
- Grand Staircase-Escalante
- Hanford Reach
In addition to the 22 land-based National Monuments, five marine National Monuments are being “reviewed” in accordance with the “Implementing an America-First Offshore Energy Strategy” executive order:
- Marianas Trench
- Northeast Canyons and Seamounts
- Pacific Remote Islands
- Rose Atoll
What are these Monuments being reviewed for?
According to the summary of the notice posted by the Department of the Interior, the review is “to determine whether each designation or expansion conforms to the policy stated in the Executive Order and to formulate recommendations for Presidential actions, legislative proposals, or other appropriate actions to carry out that policy.”
The executive order directs the Secretary to consider:
- The language of the Antiquities Act stating “the smallest area compatible with the proper care and management of the objects to be protected.”
- Whether designated lands are appropriately classified as “historic landmarks, historic and prehistoric structures, or other objects of historic or scientific interest.”
- The effects of a designation on the available uses of designated Federal lands, including consideration of the multiple-use policy (emphasis ours) of section 102(a)(7) of the Federal Land Policy and Management Act (43 U.S.C. 1701(a)(7)), as well as the effects on the available uses of Federal lands beyond the monument boundaries.
- The effects of a designation on the use and enjoyment of non-Federal lands within or beyond monument boundaries.
- Concerns of State, tribal, and local governments affected by a designation, including the economic development and fiscal condition of affected States, tribes, and localities.
- The availability of Federal resources to properly manage designated areas.
- Other factors as the Secretary deems appropriate.
How do I comment?
Beginning today, May 11, 2017, citizens can comment on the review by mail or through an online platform.
You may mail your written comments to:
U.S. Department of the Interior
1849 C Street NW
Washington, D.C. 20240
Note that all comments – including any personal identifying information – may be made publicly available at any time.
Comments related to Bears Ears National Monument must be submitted before May 26, 2017. Comments relating to all other National Monuments must be submitted before July 10,2017.
You can also comment via the portal Monuments for All, a nonpartisan group that wants to deliver comments in bulk so they can announce exactly how many people support Monuments.
Where can I learn more about the Antiquities Act and National Monument history?
Should I be worried about any of these Monuments?
If there’s oil, natural gas, or coal under the land or water of a Monument, you might have reason to be worried.
The vast majority of critics of this order seem to be in agreement that this is all part of an effort to expand extractive industries for private profit on public lands.
The most contested of these Monuments have always seemed to be Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante, both of which – along with nearby Canyon of the Ancients – have fossil fuels beneath them. While those two Monuments have received the majority of headline coverage, California’s Carrizo Plain also sits near oil deposits and some oil companies maintain mineral rights below the protected lands in the Monument, and the Mojave Trails National Monument is under threat from the controversial Cadiz Water Project, which aims to drain an aquifer in the Mojave desert to water urban lawns in Orange County.
Secretary Zinke has toured the Monuments in Utah but spent significantly more time with anti-Monument groups and legislators than with pro-Monument ones. The Salt Lake Tribune reported that he only spent 90 minutes with the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition and Friends of Cedar Mesa while “traveling extensively with anti-monument heavyweights” including Governor Gary Herbert — who literally chased the outdoor recreation industry’s $45 million / year Outdoor Retailer conventions out of Salt Lake City by refusing to tone down his anti-public land stances — and Representative Mike Noel, who took Zinke to the Grand-Staircase Escalante National Monument not to gaze upon the pristine and unique landscape, but to look at a seam of coal.
Zinke refused to meet with the Utah Dine Bikeyah, a Navajo nonprofit working to preserve sacred lands and artifacts that was instrumental in the formation of Bears Ears National Monument (the first National Monument formed at the request of a coalition of Native American groups), or the 49 members of the Escalante-Boulder Chamber of Commerce, who unanimously oppose downsizing their nearby Monument — and instead chose to spend time hiking with a Utah political operative with ties to the Koch brothers.
Also, in some moments caught on video by the Center for Western Priorities, Secretary Zinke seemed to not know what activities or provisions are allowed in the existing Monuments and made an offhand statement that seemed to imply he had already made up a decision on removing Monument designation:
What should I write about in my comments?
You should write about whatever moves you.
Maybe you had a personal visit that was transformative.
Maybe you want to highlight the unique and innovative history of the Antiquities Act and how time and time again it has provided the American people with cultural, spiritual, and economic rewards that far outweigh gains from short-term extractive uses.
Maybe you want to talk about the effect of public lands on your nearby business.
Maybe you want to fact-check some of the claims of anti-monument legislators.
Maybe you want to remind them that the vast majority of legal scholars seem to agree that Presidents cannot rescind or undo designations by previous Presidents without an act of Congress. (Here are five good examples, as well as one refutation of the opinion of the Koch Brothers-connected conservative think-tank American Enterprise Institute for good measure).
Maybe you want to highlight the fact public lands like these Monuments enjoy broad public support both locally and nationally, and the ones that didn’t initially now favor Monument status by an overwhelming margin.
Moreover, I believe that the natural resources must be used for the benefit of all our people, and not monopolized for the benefit of the few, and here again is another case in which I am accused of taking a revolutionary attitude. People forget now that one hundred years ago there were public men of good character who advocated the nation selling its public lands in great quantities, so that the nation could get the most money out of it, and giving it to the men who could cultivate it for their own uses. We took the proper democratic ground that the land should be granted in small sections to the men who were actually to till it and live on it. Now, with the water power, with the forests, with the mines, we are brought face to face with the fact that there are many people who will go with us in conserving the resources only if they are to be allowed to exploit them for their benefit. That is one of the fundamental reasons why the special interests should be driven out of politics. Of all the questions which can come before this nation, short of the actual preservation of its existence in a great war, there is none which compares in importance with the great central task of leaving this land even a better land for our descendants than it is for us, and training them into a better race to inhabit the land and pass it on. Conservation is a great moral issue, for it involves the patriotic duty of insuring the safety and continuance of the nation. Let me add that the health and vitality of our people are at least as well worth conserving as their forests, waters, lands, and minerals, and in this great work the national government must bear a most important part.
Just remember to tell them something — and to do it before May 26th if you’re talking about Bears Ears.