In April 2017, President Trump signed an executive order to review 27 parks designated since the beginning of 1996, with an eye toward shrinking boundaries and reducing protection for many of them. Shortly after, Interior Sec. Ryan Zinke opened a comment period to solicit input from the public, ostensibly to inform his recommendations about what to do with each of them.
Since then, some of the parks on the list have been granted stays of execution, while others, like Utah’s Bears Ears National Monument, received word that the Trump administration intends to cut them to pieces. Throughout the summer, Trump and Zinke’s review played out as a reality show-like spectacle, lacking either transparency or a sense of why it was necessary in the first place.
— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch) July 26, 2017
Now, days before Zinke is scheduled to deliver his final recommendations on Aug. 24, one thing—and only one thing—is clear: the American people decisively reject the parks review and favor the continued protection of natural and cultural landmarks.
More than 2.8 million comments were submitted to Interior during the public comment period and an analysis of 1.3 million comments publicly available on regulations.gov found that 99.2 percent opposed Trump’s executive order, with respondents mentioning a wide variety of concerns.
Key takeaways from the analysis:
- 99.2 percent of all comments received opposed Trump’s executive order reviewing the 27 parks.
- Percent of comments that opposed review of key parks: 95.6 percent for Bears Ears National Monument (Utah), 92.1 percent for Gold Butte National Monument (Nevada), 95.3 percent for Grand-Stairacse Escalante National Monument (Utah), 92.6 percent for Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument (New Mexico), 89.4 percent for Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument (Maine)
- 80 percent of commenters who specified their location resided in a state containing a park under review; 90.9 percent of Utahns, whose home state has been ground zero for many attacks on public lands, opposed the review.
- Commenters who mentioned concerns about the preservation of cultural artifacts, which has been an ongoing concern in the areas now designated Bears Ears National Monument and Nevada’s Gold Butte National Monument, were 98.5 percent opposed to the review
Key-Log Economics, a consulting firm, analyzed and reviewed comments using a “machine learning algorithm.” This algorithm was trained based on the efforts of human volunteers who evaluated thousands of comments.
As we await the Trump administration’s recommendations on the 27 parks, the new numbers serve as another reminder that Americans will likely oppose any anti-public lands policies that arise from them, whether through legislative or administrative action. This review, as well as the larger campaign to hand protected places over to fossil fuel interests, mining companies and more, is as deeply unpopular as ever.