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Patagonia to Zinke: 'Conserve Our Shared Public Lands for Future Generations'
Dear Secretary Zinke,
As Secretary of the Interior, you hold the solemn responsibility to steward America's public lands and waters on behalf of the American people who own them. Our public lands, including the national monuments you are now reviewing, represent a vital part of our nation's heritage—a legacy that belongs not just to us, but to all future generations of Americans. It is an important part of your job to safeguard this legacy by making careful and informed decisions about what federal lands can be used for development and what special or vulnerable areas should be preserved for the future.
That is why the arbitrary 120-day deadline for you to review whether to shrink or rescind dozens of national monuments is absurd. As you know, the process to establish a national monument often takes years, if not decades. It involves significant study of the area of the proposed monument—including its ecological, cultural, archeological, economic and recreation value—and robust consultation with local communities and their elected representatives at every level. Given the unique and complex histories of each monument, there is simply no way to meaningfully review dozens of individual monuments in such a short period.
You justify this review on the false premise that the American people have not yet been heard on the designation of these national monuments. But the communities near the national monuments under your review have already made their voices heard during public input and stakeholder engagement periods prior to designation. For example, notwithstanding the rhetoric of Utah Governor Gary Herbert and members of the Utah Congressional delegation, the designation of Bears Ears National Monument involved years of public input gathered by the Obama administration. This process included a series of public meetings in Southeastern Utah in 2016, including several sessions attended by former Interior Secretary Sally Jewell. It also included significant engagement with the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition, which represents tribal nations for whom the land is sacred and contains archeological artifacts with immense cultural value. Additionally, in a recent poll, 68 percent of voters in seven Western states said they prioritize the protection of land, water and wildlife for recreation on public land, compared with 22 percent who prioritized increased production of fossil fuels. Your review must account for this extensive record of consultation as you purport to seek public input.
As you undertake this review, we urge you to consider the enormous economic benefits of protected public lands for nearby communities, including many rural areas. A recent study showed that areas in the West with protected lands consistently enjoy better rates of employment and income growth compared to those with no protected lands. In the 22 years since the Grand Staircase-Escalante in Utah was declared a national monument, jobs grew by 38 percent in two neighboring counties. The designation of 17 national monuments—including nine monuments covered under your review—led to significant increases in per capita income in regions adjacent to the newly-protected areas.
Rescinding or shrinking the national monuments under review also threatens the fast-growing outdoor recreation economy, which relies significantly on recreation access to protected public lands. These lands are not "locked up," as the Trump administration has said repeatedly declared—they are extremely productive. As you know, since you participated in the outdoor industry's announcement of a new economic study last week, the recreation economy drives $887 billion in consumer spending every year and supports more jobs (7.6 million) than oil, natural gas and mining combined. Rescinding or shrinking the national monuments under review would significantly impact the strength of the outdoor recreation economy and limit our ability to create and sustain jobs.
Patagonia has been outfitting outdoors people and protecting public lands for more than 30 years. The debate over land and water conservation is always complex and sometimes divisive. But we have never witnessed the legacy of America's federal lands encountering greater risk than we see right now. As you visit these protected places and report back to the president, I urge you to follow in the tradition of President Teddy Roosevelt and conserve our shared public lands for future generations.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Tracy L. Barnett
Sources reviewed this article for accuracy.
For Sicangu Lakota water protector Cheryl Angel, Standing Rock helped her define what she stands against: an economy rooted in extraction of resources and exploitation of people and planet. It wasn't until she'd had some distance that the vision of what she stands for came into focus.
Last week, the Peruvian Palm Oil Producers' Association (JUNPALMA) promised to enter into an agreement for sustainable and deforestation-free palm oil production. The promise was secured by the U.S. based National Wildlife Federation (NWF) in collaboration with the local government, growers and the independent conservation organization Sociedad Peruana de Ecodesarrollo.
The rallying cry to build it again and to build it better than before is inspiring after a natural disaster, but it may not be the best course of action, according to new research published in the journal Science.
"Faced with global warming, rising sea levels, and the climate-related extremes they intensify, the question is no longer whether some communities will retreat—moving people and assets out of harm's way—but why, where, when, and how they will retreat," the study begins.
The researchers suggest that it is time to rethink retreat, which is often seen as a last resort and a sign of weakness. Instead, it should be seen as the smart option and an opportunity to build new communities.
"We propose a reconceptualization of retreat as a suite of adaptation options that are both strategic and managed," the paper states. "Strategy integrates retreat into long-term development goals and identifies why retreat should occur and, in doing so, influences where and when."
The billions of dollars spent to rebuild the Jersey Shore and to create dunes to protect from future storms after Superstorm Sandy in 2012 may be a waste if sea level rise inundates the entire coastline.
"There's a definite rhetoric of, 'We're going to build it back better. We're going to win. We're going to beat this. Something technological is going to come and it's going to save us,'" said A.R. Siders, an assistant professor with the disaster research center at the University of Delaware and lead author of the paper, to the New York Times. "It's like, let's step back and think for a minute. You're in a fight with the ocean. You're fighting to hold the ocean in place. Maybe that's not the battle we want to pick."
Rethinking retreat could make it a strategic, efficient, and equitable way to adapt to the climate crisis, the study says.
Dr. Siders pointed out that it has happened before. She noted that in the 1970s, the small town of Soldiers Grove, Wisconsin moved itself out of the flood plain after one too many floods. The community found and reoriented the business district to take advantage of highway traffic and powered it entirely with solar energy, as the New York Times reported.
That's an important lesson now that rising sea levels pose a catastrophic risk around the world. Nearly 75 percent of the world's cities are along shorelines. In the U.S. alone coastline communities make up nearly 40 percent of the population— more than 123 million people, which is why Siders and her research team are so forthright about the urgency and the complexities of their findings, according to Harvard Magazine.
Some of those complexities include, coordinating moves across city, state or even international lines; cultural and social considerations like the importance of burial grounds or ancestral lands; reparations for losses or damage to historic practices; long-term social and psychological consequences; financial incentives that often contradict environmental imperatives; and the critical importance of managing retreat in a way that protects vulnerable and poor populations and that doesn't exacerbate past injustices, as Harvard Magazine reported.
If communities could practice strategic retreats, the study says, doing so would not only reduce the need for people to choose among bad options, but also improve their circumstances.
"It's a lot to think about," said Siders to Harvard Magazine. "And there are going to be hard choices. It will hurt—I mean, we have to get from here to some new future state, and that transition is going to be hard.…But the longer we put off making these decisions, the worse it will get, and the harder the decisions will become."
To help the transition, the paper recommends improved access to climate-hazard maps so communities can make informed choices about risk. And, the maps need to be improved and updated regularly, the paper said as the New York Times reported.
"It's not that everywhere should retreat," said Dr. Siders to the New York Times. "It's that retreat should be an option. It should be a real viable option on the table that some places will need to use."
Leaked documents show that Jair Bolsonaro's government intends to use the Brazilian president's hate speech to isolate minorities living in the Amazon region. The PowerPoint slides, which democraciaAbierta has seen, also reveal plans to implement predatory projects that could have a devastating environmental impact.