Thursday, September 21, 2017

Do You Really Want To Dismantle U.S. National Monuments?

Sequoia National Monument

President Trump’s Executive Order 13792 to review national monuments “created under the Antiquities Act” may seem innocuous, but it threatens who we are as Americans.

Our National Parks and National Monuments protect wilderness, natural landscapes, historic, cultural, and scientific treasures so they will out last any single generation and benefit all Americans into the future. So what is going on with EO 13792? 

The Executive Order is asking for a review of national monuments that encompass 100,000 acres or more. Apparently size is the only reason to question the value of a monument. A letter sent by 17 members of Congress to Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke, containing their recommendations regarding 27 current national monuments, reveals the real reason for the reevaluation. Read the Letter.

The national monuments being recommended for either rescission (which means repeal of national monument status) or dramatic reduction in size, are not just Bears Ears National Monument, which was designated at the end of the Obama presidency, but national monuments established or expanded over the last 20 plus years by the past three presidential administrations–Clinton, Bush, and Obama. 

Sequoia National Monument
You’ve probably visited some of these national treasures. Here are a few of the recommendations I find particularly troubling:

Giant Sequoia National Monument, CA - (designated by Clinton in 2000) We know so much more about giant sequoias than we did 20 years ago. These unique and ancient trees depend on the forest and watershed that surrounds them. They are not single trees, but organisms interconnected with their entire ecosystem. Recommendation: reduce the current size “so that the monument is ‘confined to the smallest area compatible with proper care and management of the objects to be protected’.” Harvest “timber resources.”

Craters of the Moon National Monument, ID - (established 1924 by Coolidge, expanded by Clinton in 2000) Expanding the monument protected three lava flow areas, Native American cultural sites, and unique wildlife. Concessions were made to allow continued hunting in some areas. In 2017, even the Idaho State Senate voted in favor of petitioning congress to designate Craters of the Moon as a National Park. Recommendation: reduce the current size “so that the monument is ‘confined to the smallest area compatible with proper care and management of the objects to be protected’.”

Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, UT - (designated by Clinton in 1996) We visited this monument for the first time this August; the geology was stunning. New dinosaur fossils are being discovered here every year and the record of human habitation goes back nearly 2,000 years. Concessions made to ranching allow continued grazing by cattle. Recommendation: “total rescission” of the National Monument. Pursue mining of coal and gas exploration.

Carrizo Plain National Monument, CA - (designated by Clinton in 2001) Largest expanse of native grassland remaining in California; home to pronghorn, tule elk, endangered kit foxes, and a variety of birds. San Andreas Fault crosses the plain. BLM land and land purchased by the Nature Conservancy were combined to create monument. Recommendation: reduce the current size “so that the monument is ‘confined to the smallest area compatible with proper care and management of the objects to be protected’.” Develop fossil fuel resources. (45 oil wells remain on monument land and 15 are active; future development is prohibited by current monument status.)

Vermilion Cliffs National Monument, AZ and Grand Canyon-Parashant National Monument, AZ - Both of these monuments are part of the Grand Canyon area. Vermillion Cliffs is to the north and Parashant is along the north rim of Grand Canyon. There are no paved roads accessing Parashant, it was initially BLM land, part of the Lake Mead National Recreation Area, 23,000 acres of AZ state lands and ~8,000 of private land. It is a designated a Dark Sky Park. Cliffs was initial protected by the Desert Wilderness Act of 1984. Both areas are vital wildlife habitat: elk, mountain lion, desert bighorn sheep, and CA condor. Recommendation: “total rescission” of the National Monument. Pursue mineral and geothermal development at Vermillion Cliffs and mineral resources at Parashant.

Yellowstone National Park
What would Yellowstone National Park look like today if 50 years ago, we as a country had abandoned the idea of preserving natural places and wildlife, and reduced the Park to a small area around 'Old Faithful' and developed the rest for geothermal energy? 

Yosemite National Park
What would Yosemite National Park be today if it went the way of Hetch Hetchy and was dammed to generate hydro-power? 

Developing these unique landscapes for short-term gain is shortsighted. When you think of a place that feeds your soul, makes you happy to be alive, what do you think of? A coal mine? An oil field? Or do you think of a natural place?

We protect and preserve too little. We treasure too few. Stand-up for preserving our National Monuments. If we don't, the National Parks will be next.

See what other groups are saying about Executive Order 13792:

Advisory Council on Historic Preservation: Letter regarding Bears Ears

letter from 121 law professors

Letter from the US Senate committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry
Letter from the International Dark-Sky Association

No comments: