Healthy Oceans Blog

The American people rally behind public lands, millions stand up and speak out

Photo credit: NOAA’s National Ocean Service/Flickr

The American people collectively own 640 million acres of land, land that serves a wide range of purposes. From hunting and fishing, recreation, and wildlife and habitat protection, these areas generate billions of dollars in revenue that directly benefits our nation’s economy and the livelihoods of those that live here. On April 26, 2017, President Trump issued Executive Order 13792, directing the Secretary of the Interior to conduct a review of National Monuments designated or expanded under the Antiquities Act of 1906. The order specifically targeted:

“All Presidential designations or expansions of designations under the Antiquities Act made since January 1, 1996, where the designation covers more than 100,000 acres, where the designation after expansion covers more than 100,000 acres, or where the Secretary determines that the designation or expansion was made without adequate public outreach and coordination with relevant stakeholders.”

Following a short public comment period, the Washington Post leaked Secretary Zinke’s recommendations to the President – recommendations that were shrouded in secrecy for weeks prior to the leak. Now, as more details emerge, it is clear that the Trump Administration is preparing an unprecedented attack on protected lands and waters in the U.S.; never before have permanent protections for national parks, wilderness areas, or national monuments in the U.S. been proposed for elimination at such a large scale.

But what does it all mean?

With checks and balances built into our nation’s system, only Congress – not the President – has the authority to take the actions that Secretary Zinke is proposing. If the White House attempts to implement these recommendations, we expect Congress to take the appropriate steps to support the more than 3 million comments from the American people – 98 percent of which supported maintaining monuments as they are – by challenging the Trump Administration’s actions in court and overturning them.

Here are the actions Secretary Zinke’s report is recommending:

  1. Bears Ears National Monument, Utah: Eliminate vast portions (separate reports suggest by as much as 1 million acres) of the national monument and allow ‘traditional’ uses like mining, logging and drilling in protected areas.
  2. Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah: Eliminate vast portions of the national monument and allow ‘traditional’ uses like mining, logging and drilling in protected areas.
  3. Cascade Siskiyou National Monument, Oregon and California:Eliminate vast portions of the national monument and allow ‘traditional’ uses like mining, logging and drilling in protected areas.
  4. Gold Butte National Monument, Nevada: Eliminate vast portions of the national monument and allow ‘traditional’ uses like mining, logging and drilling in protected areas.
  5. Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument, New Mexico: Allow ‘traditional’ uses like mining, logging and drilling in protected areas; leaves open the possibility of eliminating vast portions of the national monument.
  6. Rio Grande del Norte National Monument, New Mexico: Allow ‘traditional’ uses like mining, logging and drilling in protected areas; leaves open the possibility of eliminating vast portions of the monument.
  7. Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument, Maine: Specifies that logging should be allowed in the national monument; leaves open the possibility of eliminating portions of the national monument.
  8. Northeast Canyons and Seamounts, Atlantic Ocean: Allow industrial-scale commercial fishing in the national monument; leaves open the possibility of eliminating vast portions of the monument.
  9. Pacific Remote Islands National Monument, Pacific Ocean: Eliminate vast portions of the national monument; allow industrial-scale commercial fishing in the national monument.
  10. Rose Atoll National Monument: Eliminate vast portions of the national monument; allow industrial-scale commercial fishing in the national monument.

Are you interested in this learning more about this topic? We will continue to provide updates on the Healthy Oceans Coalition Blog, Facebook, and Twitter pages. If you would like to be more involved in taking action to protect our ocean, coasts, and Great Lakes, contact Jenna Valente, Healthy Oceans Coalition Coordinator, at j [dot] valente [at] littoralsociety [dot] org to learn more about participating in our efforts and initiatives.  

Additional resources: 
All of the falsehoods in Ryan Zinke’s leaked national monuments report 
The Lies in the Secret National Monuments Memo
Assessing Public Support for Public Lands