Quantcast
Trump Watch
New Mexicans worked for years to see the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks named a national monument. Patrick J. Alexander

Defend National Monuments Under Attack

The Antiquities Act, which has been integral to building our nation's public-lands legacy, is 111 years strong. Americans' love of and support for our public lands remains strong, too.


Support is strong despite attempts to transfer, sell off or carve up the lands that belong to all Americans, whether they live next door to a national forest or park—or 2,000 miles away. Support is strong despite efforts to shrink some of our national monuments or rescind the designations altogether. Or dramatically restrict presidents' ability to designate national monuments.

On June 8, 1906, Congress approved the Antiquities Act, which authorized the president to designate federally managed lands as national monuments to conserve important historic, scientific and archaeological sites.

Since then, 16 presidents from both parties have used the law to establish 157 national monuments. These sites are among some of our most treasured public landmarks, some of which were later made national parks—the Grand Canyon, Acadia, Zion, Grand Teton, Arches, the Great Sand Dunes. They're also part of a system of parks, historic trails, waters and other sites that a 2016 study by Harvard's Kennedy School of Government says annually generates $92 billion in economic benefits.

So, on the 111th anniversary of the law that has contributed so much to our nation's heritage, culture, economy and sheer enjoyment, you'd think there would be a lot to celebrate. And there is.

Law, Monuments Targeted

However, there's also work to be done to ensure the law and monuments remain intact. After more than a century of success, the Antiquities Act and some of the monuments created using the law are in danger. An executive order by President Trump has mandated a review of 27 national monuments designated since 1996. That review could result in recommendations to rescind the designations in their entirety or significantly alter the monuments.

In Congress, some members have introduced legislation to restrict the president's authority to establish national monuments. A bill by Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska would require authorization by Congress, legislatures in the affected states and compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act for approval of a national monument.

It's important to keep in mind that many of the monuments being scrutinized by the administration were designated after years of effort by local residents, sportsmen and women, hikers, campers, business owners, tribal members and elected officials. Bears Ears National Monument, whose review had been fast-tracked, was established last year following decades of effort by members of tribes with ties to the area going back several centuries. The Utah monument is home to more than 100,000 archaeological and cultural sites, many of them sacred to several tribes. But for years, looters and vandals have stolen and damaged historic artifacts and even robbed ancient graves. One goal of designation is to better protect these treasures.

Public meetings on proposals to establish other monuments being reviewed drew big crowds of supporters. Business owners joined hikers, mountain bikers, hunters, anglers and Latinos with centuries-long roots in the region to rally for making Rio Grande del Norte and Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks national monuments. When Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks was proclaimed a monument, Kent Salazar, an Albuquerque, New Mexico resident and member of the National Wildlife Federation Board of Directors, said the action "preserves this iconic area for future generations and allows continued traditional uses of the land, helping maintain the local economy and wildlife habitat."

Other monuments under review are:

• Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument, Montana

• Grand Canyon-Parashant National Monument, Arizona

• Grand Staircase Escalante, Utah

• Katahdin Woods and Waters, Maine

• Northeast Canyons and Seamounts, coastal Massachusetts

• Papahānaumokuākea, Northwestern Hawaiian Islands

• Cascade-Siskiyou, Oregon

The administration says it wants public input on these monuments and that "local input is a critical component of federal land management." So far, an estimated 1 million comments have been submitted in response to the administration's review of Bears Ears. Let's boost that number for the other 26 monuments under review and celebrate the 111th anniversary of the Antiquities Act, one of this nation's most important conservation tools, by speaking out publicly for our national monuments and all our public lands.

Show Comments ()
Sponsored
Freight Farms

Why This Montana Farmer Grows Food Year-Round in Shipping Containers

By Isabelle Morrison

Kim Curren, owner of Shaggy Bear Farm in Bozeman, Montana, has worn many hats. She worked in the solar power industry for 15 years, owned her own café bookstore and worked a stint as a medical case manager. In 2016, Curren decided to try her hand at farming, because why not?

Keep reading... Show less
Sam Murphy

Got Nondairy Alternative Milk?

By Sam Schipani

More and more, ecologically minded milk consumers are turning to nondairy products to minimize their carbon hoofprints. Sales of almond milk shot up by 250 percent between 2011 and 2016. Meanwhile, consumption of dairy milk has plummeted 37 percent since the 1970s, according to the USDA.

Keep reading... Show less
Food
A burger made with a blend of beef and mushrooms. Mushroom Council

'Blended Burger' Allows a Simple Shift to More Sustainable Eating

By Richard Waite, Daniel Vennard and Gerard Pozzi

Burgers are possibly the most ubiquitous meal on Americans' dinner plates, but they're also among the most resource-intensive: Beef accounts for nearly half of the land use and greenhouse gas emissions associated with the food Americans eat.

Although there's growing interest in plant-based burgers and other alternatives, for the millions of people who still want to order beef, there's a better burger out there: a beef-mushroom blend that maintains, or even enhances, that meaty flavor with significantly less environmental impact.

Keep reading... Show less
Popular
Old White Truck / Flickr

The Last Straw? EU Official Hints Ban on Single-Use Plastic Across Europe

A top EU official hinted that legislation to cut plastic waste in Europe is coming soon.

Frans Timmermans, the first vice president of the European Commission, made the comment after Britain's environment minister Michael Gove, a pro-Brexiter, suggested that staying in the EU would make it harder for the UK to create environmental laws such as banning plastic drinking straws.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Energy
Flare from gas well. Ken Doerr / Flickr

Court Orders Trump Administration to Enforce Obama-Era Methane Rule

A federal judge reinstated a widely supported methane waste rule that President Trump's administration has repeatedly tried to stop.

Judge William Orrick of the U.S. District Court for Northern California ruled Thursday that Bureau of Land Management's (BLM) decision to suspend core provisions of the 2016 Methane and Waste Prevention Rule was "untethered to evidence."

Keep reading... Show less
Energy
On Jan. 24, 2017 President Donald Trump signed a memorandum to expedite the Keystone XL permitting process. Twitter | Donald Trump

Inside the Trump Admin's Fight to Keep the Keystone XL Approval Process Secret

By Steve Horn

At a Feb. 21 hearing, a U.S. District Court judge ruled that the Trump administration must either fork over documents showing how the U.S. Department of State reversed an earlier decision and ultimately came to approve the Keystone XL pipeline, or else provide a substantial legal reason for continuing to withhold them. The federal government has an order to deliver the goods, one way or the other, by March 21.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Health

New Black Lung Epidemic Emerging in Coal Country

In a study released this month by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), federal researchers identified more than 400 cases of complicated black lung in three clinics in southwestern Virginia between 2013 and 2017—the largest cluster ever reported.

However, the actual number of cases is likely much, much higher as the government analysis relied on self-reporting. An ongoing investigation from NPR has counted nearly 2,000 cases diagnosed since 2010 across Appalachia.

Keep reading... Show less
Energy
Dennis Schroeder / NREL

The Facts About Trump’s Solar Tariffs – Who Gets Hurt? Who Gets Helped?

By John Rogers

The solar-related shoe we've been expecting has finally dropped: President Trump recently announced new taxes on imported solar cells and modules. There's plenty of downside to his decision, in terms of solar progress, momentum and jobs. But will it revive U.S. manufacturing?

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

mail-copy

The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!