Public Comments needed by July 10, 2017, as Trump Administration reviews status of 27 National Monuments
In April President Trump signed an executive order authorizing newly-appointed Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to conduct a review of 27 national monuments designated since 1996 under the Antiquities Act.
The Antiquities Act was signed into law in 1906 by conservationist President Theodore Roosevelt and gives Presidents authority to protect lands already owned by the Federal government as national monuments. Sixteen Presidents, 8 Republicans and 8 Democrats, have used the Antiquities Act to permanently protect a variety of historical landmarks, prehistoric structures, and lands of scientific interest. Some national monuments have been upgraded later to national park status such as Grand Canyon National Park, Acadia National Park, Olympic National Park, and Zion National Park.
The Trump Administration has labeled the Antiquities Act as “abusive” and called the creation of national monuments a Federal land grab, despite the fact that the lands already were owned by the Federal government.
The public has been invited to comment on the review, via an online portal or written comments. The Trump Administration has said this will be the “first ever formal public comment period . . . to weigh in on monument designations” although the majority of monuments have been designated as such only after lengthy proposal processes, legislative actions, and public comment gatherings.
Environmentalists and public lands supporters are fearful that the review may lead to a downsizing of certain national monuments, an outright rescission of the designation for some properties, and a weakening of protections now in place which could lead to oil drilling, coal mining, logging, or natural gas extraction on these lands.
Legal experts question the White House’s ability to make any changes in national monument designations made by previous Presidents without Congressional action.
The outdoor recreation industry, which makes an $887 billion annual impact on the nation’s economy, is alarmed about potential downsizing or elimination of public lands which serve as America’s playgrounds.
Written comments to the Department of the Interior are due by July 10, 2017 and may be mailed to Monument Review, MS-1530, U.S. Department of the Interior, 1849 C Street NW., Washington, DC 20240. Online comments can be submitted at http://www.regulations.gov by entering “DOI-2017-0002” in the Search bar and then clicking Search.
Important points to consider when commenting include:
National monuments were designated by Presidents of both parties, acting under authority of the Antiquities Act, to serve as natural and cultural legacies for this and future generations.
National monuments protect valuable historic, prehistoric, biologic, and geologic features of our nation.
Visitation to national parks and national monuments is occurring in record numbers. It is clear that the public values such properties because they contribute positively to the well-being of our nation, including our economy.
Further information about the National Monuments review may be found online at websites for such organizations as the National Parks Conservation Association, the Wilderness Society, the Sierra Club, the Audubon Society, and Modern Hiker.