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Thursday
Aug242017

National Monument Review - What Next?

Excerpt from Kirsten Blackburn with the Conservation Alliance

It has been a whirlwind of a summer. On April 26th 2017, President Trump issued an Executive Order requiring Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to critically review 27 national monuments over 300,000 acres in size and designated after January 1996, to determine if their boundaries are consistent with the intent of the Antiquities Act. Secretary Zinke was ordered to deliver a final report by August 24th, recommending which monuments should be altered and which should remain unchanged. For nearly ten weeks, Zinke and the Department of Interior hosted an open comment period soliciting feedback from the American public. To say our community engaged in this process would be an understatement. We stood up for the foundation of our businesses, the backbone of our industry, the fuel to our adventures and the wildness in our collective DNA. We proudly stood up for the integrity of our country’s best idea: Our Public Lands.

In a time of political uncertainty, our ability to come together to advocate for something we all believe in is inspiring. Trump’s Executive Order and Zinke’s response to it catalyzed our community into action and unleashed a level of support for our public lands that America has never seen before.

In three short months, Conservation Alliance members, partners, friends and fellow American’s put forth an incredible effort to voice their support for public lands loudly and clearly. Since May 12th: :

Conservation Alliance members, in particular, rose to the challenge and put forth an unprecedented public display of support for our wild places. These are just some examples of the many actions taken:

SO WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?

We are on the eve Secretary Zinke’s final national monument report. Will our voices have been heard? Will our national monuments remain intact? We won’t have a clear indication until the report has been released, but there are some consistent hypotheses. There is general consensus that at least eight monuments are at risk for recommended changes, these include:  Cascade-Siskiyou; Gold Butte; Basin and Range; Organ Mountains Desert Peaks; Grand Staircase Escalante; Bears Ears; Katahdin Woods and Waters; and Papahanaumokuakea, a marine national monument. Please note this list has not been confirmed by the Department of Interior. How these monuments are changed is still up for debate, but three methods seem likely:

  1. Zinke recommends that Trump use executive action to change national monument boundaries, or rescind them entirely.

Some even believe Trump will immediately exercise executive action to rescind or alter certain monuments. Legal experts believe that executive action to alter an existing national monument is illegal and would be followed by years of litigation.

  1. Zinke recommends a mixture of executive and congressional actions.

Under this scenario, Zinke would recommend that Trump take executive action on certain monuments, and recommend that Congress reshape others. Congressional actions could include things like redefining a monument’s boundary or changing its designation from National Monument to something like a National Conservation Area, which would decrease the level of protection for the landscape.

  1. Zinke puts the ball entirely in Congress’ court, and leaves it to our Senators and Congressional Representatives to redraw or un-do our National Monuments.

Unfortunately we have yet to find an expert who thinks all of the monuments under review will escape the process without a recommended alteration. To date, Zinke has indicated six national monuments have been spared, including: Grand Canyon-Parashant; Canyons of the Ancients; Craters of the Moon; Upper Missouri River Breaks; and Hanford Reach.

WHAT THE CONSERVATION ALLIANCE WILL DO.

The short answer is: Not back down. The Conservation Alliance has, and always will, oppose any effort to change the boundaries of existing national monuments through executive action.

We have a 28-year history of supporting grassroots groups working to secure permanent protections for wild places. Since 1999 we’ve made 25 grants totaling $765,000 to 13 different groups whose work was instrumental in protecting ten of the monuments under review. It is in our interest, and the interest of our members, to defend them.

In January of this year we launched our Public Lands Defense Fund. A new, fluid and board administered fund that exists to defend previous Presidents’ National Monument designations, defend our bedrock conservation laws, and oppose the proposed transfer of federal lands to the states or to private hands. We have $120k remaining in this fund for 2017 and anticipate it will be spent on preserving existing national monuments.

We stand ready to formally engage in the defense of our national monuments in the form of public statements, organizing, and grantmaking to grassroots groups working to uphold these places. We look forward to offering many opportunities to join us in these efforts through letters, social media campaigns, lobby visits, and more.