WASHINGTON – President Trump today launched a new attack on 27 national monuments around the country — more than 1 billion acres of natural and cultural wonders on public lands and oceans that have been protected by presidents of both political parties.
Trump’s executive order directs the Department of the Interior to review the designation of every monument larger than 100,000 acres protected since 1996. The initiative is widely expected to trigger dramatic changes in protections or boundaries for monuments to accommodate special interests like coal, oil, gas and logging industries.
There are 27 national monuments now at risk, from Grand Staircase-Escalante and Bears Ears national monuments in Utah to vast ocean areas in the Pacific and Atlantic oceans. California, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico and Nevada have the most national monument acreage in the country under threat. (See a state-by-state list of the national monuments threatened by Trump’s order.)
“Trump and the anti-public-lands zealots in Congress are plotting to destroy some of the country’s most stunning landscapes and cultural treasures,” said Randi Spivak, director of the Center for Biological Diversity’s public lands program. “They couldn’t care less how much Americans treasure these iconic places. Their goal is to hand our public lands over to corporations to mine, frack, bulldoze and clear-cut till there’s nothing left to dig up.”
National monument designations have protected some of the most iconic places in the country. Dozens of the nation’s most treasured national parks were first protected as monuments, including Grand Teton, Grand Canyon, Bryce, Zion, Acadia and Olympic national parks.
“These monuments were protected by presidents from both parties for good reason,” Spivak said. “Their natural beauty and scientific and cultural importance is indisputable, but Trump and his corporate friends claim to know better. Sadly it’s just their greed talking.”
In August 2016 President Obama created the largest ecologically protected area on the planet, the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument, on 582,578 square miles off northwestern Hawaii, with coral reefs that are home to more than 7,000 marine species. The action expanded a monument originally created on 140,000 square miles in 2006 by President George W. Bush. Obama also created the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument, an area the size of Connecticut off the coast of Cape Cod — the first such protection in the Atlantic.
The monuments were created using executive powers under the 1906 Antiquities Act, which is intended to protect culturally or environmentally significant lands and waters from development and exploitation. Marine national monuments generally include bans on oil and gas exploration and drilling and commercial fishing operations, although Obama made some exceptions, such as the lobster fishery in the Atlantic.
“Americans know and cherish these monuments. And they recognize corporate greed when they see it,” Spivak said. “Trump won’t seize these public lands without a fight.”
Bear’s Ears National Monument photo by Bob Wick, Bureau of Land Management.