On April 26th President Trump signed an executive order which tasked the Department of the Interior with conducting a review of 27 national monuments created since 1996. Opponents of these monuments favor opening up the lands to mining, logging, and grazing. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke will recommend executive or legislative changes to the monument designations, which could lead to the President or Congress taking actions to shrink or entirely revoke them. The 1906 Antiquities Act gives Presidents the power to designate these monuments; not since 1938 has a President tried to revoke a designation. In that year, FDR attempted to reverse President Coolidge’s designation of the Castle Pinckney National Monument in South Carolina but the Attorney General determined that the Antiquities Act only gives Presidents power to establish monuments, not abolish them. Presidents such as Woodrow Wilson have shrunk national monuments to open them up for industry such as logging. The Interior Department has established a comment period through July 10th: click on the blue Comment Now! button at this link to weigh in on this issue.
This week we gave to The Conservation Fund, an organization whose mission is to preserve the environment and promote economic prosperity. They focus on the U.S. only, and have helped preserve many of the over 100 U.S. national monuments. Their approach involves creating funds to support innovative solutions for land conservation. For example, The Conservation Fund protects forests by buying private working forest land, acquiring conservation easements on that land to protect it from development, and then selling it back to timber companies whose production must adhere to sustainable management standards such as those of the Sustainable Forestry Initiative. Over 30 years The Conservation Fund has protected 7.5 million acres of land, which is the equivalent of one Central Park each day.
Our national monuments are a treasured part of our nation’s heritage. We agree with what the Attorney General determined back in 1938: that Presidents should have the power to establish new monuments, not abolish existing monuments. Presidents should use their power to create, not destroy. To revoke our national monuments — especially in order to make way for industry such as logging and mining — is to disrespect the Presidents of the past and to show contempt for our nation’s history and our citizens, past and present. We hope the Interior Department does not set a dangerous precedent in giving the President power to abolish our important national monuments.