December 7, 2017 - Monday, December 4, 2017 was a dark day in the history of conservation of America’s magnificent public lands – places that belong to all of us and to future generations. The Trump Administration continued its assault on our most precious landscapes by announcing its decision to abolish approximately 85 percent of Bears Ears National Monument and 50 percent of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in Utah. This action is one of the most radical and harmful attacks ever on America’s most valuable resources.
These actions do not reflect the values and wishes of the American people. President Trump and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, who recommended this decision, ignored virtually unanimous public comment from almost 3 million people who expressed strong support for the preservation of national monuments. The President’s decision puts in immediate peril the extraordinary natural, cultural, and scientific resources and remarkable landscapes that constitute our Nation’s heritage in these special places. These actions also rebuffed the urgent concerns of Native American tribes – including the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, Navajo Nation, Ute Indian Tribe of the Uintah Ouray, Hopi Nation, and Zuni Tribe – regarding the protection of the abundant rock art, ancient cliff dwellings, ceremonial sites, and countless other sacred sites and artifacts within these monuments.
President Trump’s decision to remove protections from approximately 2 million acres of very special federal land containing significant natural, cultural, and scientific resources are unprecedented in scope and impact. These actions diminish the legacy to our children and grandchildren, reduce educational and recreational opportunities for all Americans, and hurt local economies which have experienced significant upticks from visitation. These actions are cynically designed to benefit an unmistakable minority of interests including industries that profit from extracting resources from public lands, and special interest groups who apparently view national monument protections as an impediment to enjoying public lands.
President Trump’s actions on Monday undermine and violate the authority used to establish much of the National Park System and National Landscape Conservation System. Overturning those actions – and any additional actions in future days against existing national monuments established by previous Presidents – is necessary to retaining America’s indisputable greatness in natural and cultural resource protection.
Yesterday, Secretary Zinke made public his final report on the use of the Antiquities Act and included specific recommendations to modify the proclamations and boundaries of 10 national monuments. The report misconceives and misrepresents much about the Antiquities Act and its past use, resulting in extremely flawed recommendations.
The Coalition to Protect America’s National Parks is particularly concerned about proposed changes to the management of Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument, a unit of the National Park System. As mentioned in the report, Secretary Zinke apparently is suggesting that the President order changes in management not permitted under existing National Park Service authorities. How much more harm to our protected lands is contemplated by the Secretary?
President Teddy Roosevelt, who signed the landmark Antiquities Act in 1906, is deservedly acclaimed as one of the most powerful forces in the history of American conservation. His words from the early part of the last century ring true today:
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.
Sadly, Ryan Zinke and Donald Trump are no Teddy Roosevelt. These recent actions are antithetical to the conservation of public lands for the benefit of future generations and would make Teddy Roosevelt roll over in his grave.
The Coalition to Protect America’s National Parks (Coalition), a non-profit organization of past and current National Park Service (NPS) employees and their allies that studies, educates, speaks, and acts for the preservation and protection of the National Park System and mission-related programs of the NPS. With over 1,400 members, the Coalition represents more than 35,000 years of experience managing and protecting America’s most precious and important natural and historic places.
Source: Coalition to Protect America’s National Parks