About half of all the all of the Sequoiadendron giganteum that exist on Earth reside in California’s Giant Sequoia National Monument. At Bear’s Ears National Monument in Utah, pre-Columbian petroglyphs and potsherds can be found tucked amid the high desert buttes. Maine’s Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument is a testament to how a forest battered by logging can regrow into a wet and wild home for moose, bear, and lynx.
Wonderful places, all—and each of them under threat.
Public Domain, Link
As you might have heard, these national monuments and nearly two dozen others are the target of downsizing or elimination as Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke conducts an unprecedented review of the national monuments created under the Antiquities Act.
The whole thing has been something of a sham from the start. It seems little more than a way for President Trump to throw a bone to the Bundy clan (or is it, ahem, klan?) segment of his base, the anti-government zealots in the West who hate the very idea of public lands. The scope of Zinke’s review has been arbitrary from the start: monuments created since 1996 and over 100,000 acres in size. Those lines were quite transparently drawn to draw in Utah’s Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, which has been a bête noir of Utah’s congressional delegation since it was established by President Clinton. Katahdin Woods didn’t qualify—at 87,00 acres, it’s relatively small—but Zinke included it anyway. This is apparently because the monument—a donation to the American people from the family behind Burt’s Bees—annoys (even-crazier than Trump) Governor Paul LePage.
By MajorRogers - Photographed on an October trip to the Monument. Previously published: Cover photo on my Katahdin Woods and Waters Facebook page, Link: https://www.facebook.com/groups/183741732065812/?ref=aymt_homepage_panel, CC BY-SA 4.0, Link
Even as Zinke moves to reduce Bear’s Ears by as much as half, he’s already announced that five monuments are going to be spared: Craters of the Moon in Idaho, Hanford Reach in Washington, Canyons of the Ancients in Colorado, Grand Canyon-Parashant in Arizona, and Upper Missouri River Breaks in Zinke’s home state of Montana. Why these ones? The public doesn’t know, as the Interior Department has dodged questions about why these five deserve protection.
Zinke’s one nod to transparency and public input backfired on the Trump administration. Of the 2.7 million comments submitted during all-too-brief public comment period, 98 percent of them expressed support for maintaining the current national monuments, according to the Center for Western Priorities.
The public comment period is now closed. Trump’s executive order directs Zinke to issue his preliminary recommendations by August 24. But there’s still one last chance to make your voice heard.
Starting this Saturday, August 19 and stretching through August 22, there will be rallies nationwide to demonstrate support for public lands. You can find a list of events here.
Hopefully you can make one of them, and let the national monuments and Trump-Zinke know how much you love our public lands.