Opposition to National Monuments: Wrong side of History


Last week, President Trump launched an unprecedented assault on America’s public lands when he ordered Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to evaluate whether dozens of national monuments should be rescinded or reduced in size.

Trump was responding to pressure from Utah’s Congressional delegation, which has long hated the Teddy Roosevelt-era Antiquities Act, the law that gives the president the authority to safeguard lands and waters with outstanding physical or cultural attributes. Some—though by no means all— Utahans are upset about President Obama’s creation of the 1.35-million-acre Bears Ears National Monument, as well as President Clinton’s 1996 designation of Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument.

The long-running campaign against the Antiquities Act comes with a lot of red-hot rhetoric.

When Obama announced the establishment of Bears Ears, Utah Senator Orrin Hatch furmed, “For Utahans in general, and for those in San Juan County, this is an affront of epic proportions and an attack on an entire way of life.”

(Never mind that five Native American nations came together to support the monument, and that it enjoyed deep support nationwide.)

During the signing ceremony for his new executive order, Trump declared that he would end the “abusive practice” of establishing national monuments, which he characterized as a “massive federal land grab.”

(The president, clearly not much of a history student, is apparently unaware that since the Antiquities Act was enacted, every president except George H.W. Bush has used it. Trump is also evidently ignorant of the fact that the lands in question were already under federal control.)

Adding additional misinformation to the Trump pronouncements, Interior Secretary Zinke said that some national monuments are “off limits to public access for grazing, fishing, mining, multiple use and even outdoor recreation.”

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  1. Kathleen Avatar

    From yesterday’s Missoulian opinion page: “With executive order, extremism rooted in Utah casts shadow over Montana”


  2. Kathleen Avatar

    Full page Patagonia ad in our local paper (Missoulian) this a.m. in defense of Bears Ears; a reproduction of it is here: https://www.mediapost.com/publications/article/300601/patagonia-takes-full-page-swing-at-trump.html

    along with how to text your message of defense and support for the national monument to Trump.

  3. Kathleen Avatar

    The Recap (from the House Committee on Natural Resources)on Tuesday’s oversight hearing on the Antiquities Act: http://mailchi.mp/mail/the-source-find-your-park-881589?e=b5c8b0235a

    News release: “Panel Outlines Devastating Social and Economic Consequences of Antiquities Designations”:


  4. Kathleen Avatar

    From today’s Missoulian: “Zinke opens public review of recent national monuments”

    Note that they are offering a gratuitous comment period:
    ““A public comment period is not required for monument designations under the Antiquities Act,” according to an unsigned DOI press release on Friday. “However, Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke and President Trump both strongly believe that local input is a critical component of federal land management.””

    Also note that TWO DIFFERENT DEADLINES are established for public input–with Bears Ears getting only 15 days for comments while the rest get 60.


  5. Kathleen Avatar

    “The best way to save sacred land?”

    “BLANDING, Utah – U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said sacred tribal lands he toured Monday in America’s newest and most hotly contested monument should be preserved but he questioned whether the monument designation was the right way to do it.”


  6. Seth Rossdale Avatar
    Seth Rossdale

    This is nothing compared to what lies ahead.

  7. Kathleen Avatar

    PUBLIC COMMENTS for National Monument review now open. Please note 2 different deadline dates:

    “To ensure consideration, written comments relating to the Bears Ears National Monument must be submitted before May 26, 2017. Written comments relating to all other National Monuments must be submitted before July 10, 2017.”




George Wuerthner is an ecologist and writer who has published 38 books on various topics related to environmental and natural history. He has visited over 400 designated wilderness areas and over 200 national park units.

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George Wuerthner