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Our Take on Sec. Zinke's Secret Monuments Report

Posted by Gena Goodman-Campbell at Sep 19, 2017 12:00 PM |
ONDA's key takeaways from Secretary Ryan Zinke's report on his review of national monuments
Our Take on Sec. Zinke's Secret Monuments Report

Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument, Photo courtesy of BLM

The public finally has access to the Trump administration’s report on the review of 27 national monuments, but only because it was leaked to the press.

Astonishingly, Zinke’s memo to the president still fails to provide key details on changes he’s recommending to these jewels of our public lands.  Zinke’s report lacks clarity on fundamental questions, such as exactly which lands are proposed for removal from national monument status. It’s clearer than ever that the entire review process was simply an elaborate shell game with a predetermined outcome: to prioritize extractive development by special interests over protection of public lands and resources for all Americans.

The review process did have one consequence the Trump administration didn’t seem to anticipate—a massive public outcry, with 2.8 million people speaking up for public lands and overwhelmingly telling the administration to leave our national monuments alone. With more Americans than ever paying attention to what’s happening on our public lands, the administration responded by trying to keep their plans a secret.

Skip to the bottom of this post to find out what you can do, or read on for our analysis of Zinke’s report.

What’s in the report?

So what is it that the Trump administration worked so hard to hide from the public? ONDA staff analyzed the shockingly brief memo, filled with incomplete and misleading statements, and we can summarize with these three takeaways:

Bears Ears National Monument
Bears Ears National Monument, photo courtesy of BLM
1. Downsizing four monuments: The administration intends to shrink at least four national monuments—Bears Ears, Cascade-Siskiyou, Gold Butte, and Grand-Staircase Escalante—to allow for increased development like mining and logging.  With no maps attached to the report, we can only guess at exactly what lands the administration plans to remove from the four targeted monuments. The most explicit recommendation is for Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument, where Zinke calls for the removal of 16,591 acres from the monument for logging, plus an unspecified amount to “reduce impacts on private lands.”

Our hunch: the administration seems to think that if the public doesn’t know which of our favorite places are included in the lands targeted for development, we won’t have a chance to protest until it’s too late. Meanwhile, Zinke claims that the boundaries of targeted monuments are larger than necessary, while also making clear that the real problem is that there are resources within those boundaries that industry wants to extract for a profit. Unlike the missing information about actually downsizing the Monuments the memo is very specific about some of these resources, including: 4-6 million board feet per year of lumber from Cascade-Siskiyou, and several billion tons of coal and large oil deposits in Grand-Staircase Escalante.

Grand-Staircase Escalante National Monument
Grand-Staircase Escalante National Monument, photo courtesy of BLM
2. Allowing more development: The administration states they want to increase “traditional” uses and public access on 10 national monuments by changing the presidential proclamations protecting them. Exactly what changes the Trump administration will pursue is still a mystery, but the report hints at a few of the ‘traditional” uses we’ll see more of:mining, oil and gas extraction, grazing, logging, and motorized recreation. In addition to the four monuments that Zinke recommended shrinking, changes are also recommended to the management of Katahdin National Monument in Maine, Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks and Rio Grande Del Norte in New Mexico, the Pacific Remote Islands National Monument, and three national marine monuments.

Zinke’s recommendations advises changes to “protect objects and prioritize public access; infrastructure upgrades, repair and maintenance; traditional use; tribal cultural use; and hunting and fishing rights.” These unclear recommendations leave the public to guess at exactly what changes are being proposed, and leave the Trump administration ample leeway to justify changes in management that will ultimately benefit special interests at the expense of irreplaceable cultural, historical, and ecological treasures.

3. Undermining the Antiquities Act: The Antiquities Act gives presidents the authority to protect public lands as national monuments. But buried in the last pages of this memo, Zinke recommends that the Trump administration and Congress take actions to limit how the Antiquities Act can be used by future presidents. Additionally, it calls for reviewing the management plans of existing monuments and potentially allowing for development that would threaten the very resources that these monuments were established to protect. This is a direct attack on some of our most important public lands and our future ability to protect and conserve them.

    What can you do?

    By his own admission, Secretary Zinke’s recommendations go against the wishes of nearly all of the 2.8 million Americans who spoke up during the review and clearly said, “Leave our monuments alone!” The administration can try to ignore the public, but they cannot silence us.

    Here are three ways you can make your voice heard:

    1. Email Senators Wyden and Merkley to tell them we’re counting on them to continue standing up for Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument and other monuments threatened by the Trump administration.
    2. Amplify your voice by writing a letter to the editor of your local paper. Letters to the editor are great tools for shaping public opinion and awareness, plus they are often read by elected officials and their staff. Use our tips for writing effective letters to the editor.
    3. Spread the word about threats to our public lands in your community through the Public Land Leaders program, where we make it easy and fun for you to get your friends together to talk about public lands and take action.  Learn more, or sign up now.
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