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Wednesday, April 26, 2017

UPDATED: An Attack on One Monument is an Attack on All: Donald Trump’s Attack on National Parks, Public Lands and Oceans

The executive order is an attack on America’s national parks, public lands and oceans. 
  • National parks and public lands and waters help define who we are as a nation. Attempts to revoke or change the fabric of national monuments is an assault on our nation’s historical, cultural and natural heritage. 
  • The review will encompass about two dozen monuments created over the past two decades, and this action is a setup to try to undermine one of the nation’s most important conservation tools.
    The Antiquities Act was signed by President Teddy Roosevelt in 1906 to safeguard and preserve U.S. public lands and cultural and historical sites for all Americans to enjoy.  Sixteen presidents – eight Republicans and eight Democrats - have used this authority to protect places from the Grand Canyon to Acadia to Papahānaumokuākea in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.  The Act also helps tell a more complete story of our nation, protecting sites from Stonewall to Birmingham to Cesar Chavez.
  • The executive order is part of a larger effort to sell off America’s public lands and waters for fossil fuel development.
  •  There’s no doubt that a number of the national monuments targeted by the review hold resource potential that the oil & gas industry wants to access.  
  • Opening these special areas to development would threaten cultural and natural resources that could never be replaced.  Our national parks, public lands and waters protect a shared history and culture that are worth more than the minerals beneath them.
  • Groups like the American Petroleum Institute have made clear they see the Antiquities Act as a threat to oil & gas development. And, in the case of Bears Ears, the Western Energy Alliance has confirmed industry’s interest in drilling.   
  • A 120-day review (or 45 days, in the case of Bears Ears), makes a mockery of the decades of work that local communities have invested to protect these places for future generations.

  •  Behind each national monument — and the plans guiding their management — are well-documented facts about the cultural and natural resources under the monument’s protection. President Trump's administration or the Congress can’t shrink, eliminate or alter national monuments without undermining the very cultural and natural resources they protect.

  • While the details on how the review will be conducted are unclear, it’s hard to see this exercise as anything more than kabuki theater.  Any honest review of a national monument would be transparent, engage the public, and consider the decades of community engagement behind many of these monuments.  

  • Efforts to eliminate or shrink national monuments will hurt local economies.
  • National parks, public lands and waters are a critical part of the nation’s economy – especially for rural and Western communities that benefit from the tourism, outdoor recreation and quality of life associated with healthy public lands. 

  • Outdoor recreation alone generates $887 billion and 7.6 million jobs every year.  And in 2016, National Parks saw a record 331 million visits, contributing almost $35 billion to the U.S. economy.

  • Regions surrounding national monuments have seen continued growth or improvement in employment and personal income, and rural counties in the West with more federal lands had healthier economies, on average, than their peers with less protected lands.
This action is deeply unpopular – the public overwhelmingly opposes attacks on national parks, public lands and waters.

  • In the 2017 Conservation in the West poll conducted by Colorado College, 80% of western voters supported keeping protections for existing monuments in place while only 13% of western voters supported removing protections for existing monuments.
 Other recent polls have shown strong support for national parks and monuments.  A 2014 Hart Research poll conducted for the Center for American Progress showed that 90% of voters supported Presidential proposals to protect some public lands and waters as parks, wildlife refuges and wilderness.

No President has attempted to revoke a national monument – for good reason.
  • There are over 150 monuments that protect America’s cultural, historical, and natural heritage for future generations.  Notably, no president has attempted to revoke a predecessor’s monument designation, even where some initial public disagreement over the designation existed.

  • While several monuments established in the early part of the 20th century were later modified, none of the past boundary adjustments have been challenged – or upheld – in court.  

    Nicole Gentile, Deputy Director, Public Lands Project, Center for American Progress, c: 202-203-0758

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