On this day, over a century ago, the Antiquities Act of 1906 was passed by the United States Congress and signed into law by Teddy Roosevelt. The act gave presidents the power to turn public land into national monuments, protecting this land from commercial development or future mineral exploitation. The act helped preserve historic and iconic natural treasures such as the Grand Canyon, Olympic National Park, and Grand Staircase-Escalante just to name a few. Yet this protection recently became threatened.
These public lands, currently unharmed, untouched, and open to many outdoor adventurers to explore, are now being called into question. About a month ago, Trump posed the question, should some of our nation’s national monuments enter a “review” process to limit their size?
The question for review came at the end of the Obama administration, after former President Barack Obama designated several national monuments, protecting millions of acres of both land and sea. The one that has received the most media coverage is the Bears Ears Monument, which protects 1,351,849 acres of public land.
Following the Bears Ears National Monument designation, some Republicans in Congress sought to reform the act and put some of these monuments through a review process. This process would see if some of the land protected could be cut down. While the Antiquities Act does not allow the president to take away previous national monument designations, it does allow him/her to change the boundaries of a national monument.
One of those National Monuments being called into question is Bears Ears National Monument, receiving wide notoriety across the media. This newly designated monument in Southeastern Utah, features networks of extensive canyons, ancient artifacts, rare water sources, and ruins. It sits about 100 miles away from another long-standing National Monument being reviewed, Grand Staircase-Escalante. The Trump Administration has launched a 45-day review over whether large national monuments such as these should be shrunk, to drill or further commercialize.
For outdoor explorers and adventurer enthusiasts like myself, this review process comes not only as a shock but also as disappointment to say the least. The thought of having part of this natural, unscathed land millions of people flock to each year to explore suddenly gone is almost heart breaking.
National Monuments not only benefit those who enjoy the outdoors, but also the surrounding communities. These communities benefit from the tourism, which brings traffic and money to their local businesses. Additionally, some of these National Monuments such as Bears Ears, preserve what little is left of ancient artifacts. The sacred burial grounds of the famous Navajo leader Manuelito, for example, are included in this new monument.
Luckily, there is a glimmer of hope amid this growing controversy. Take the time to tell Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke why he needs to protect our national monuments and public lands. He has opened a written comment period through regulations.gov. The Bears Ears National Monument period ended May 26, however, the comment period for the other national monuments closes July 10, 2017.
National Monuments Under Review
- Basin and Range, Nevada
- Bears Ears, Utah
- Berryessa Snow Mountain, California
- Canyons of the Ancients, Colorado
- Carrizo Plain, California
- Cascade Siskiyou, Oregon
- Craters of the Moon, Idaho
- Giant Sequoia, California
- Gold Butte, Nevada
- Grand Canyon-Parashant, Arizona
- Grand Staircase-Escalante, Utah
- Hanford Reach, Washington
- Ironwood Forest, Arizona
- Mojave Trails, California
- Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks, New Mexico
- Rio Grande del Norte, New Mexico
- Sand to Snow, California
- San Gabriel Mountains, California
- Sonoran Desert, Arizona
- Upper Missouri River Breaks, Montana
- Vermillion Cliffs, Arizona
- Katahadin Woods and Waters, Maine
In addition to the 22 land-based National Monuments, five marine National Monuments are also being “reviewed” in accordance with the “Implementing an America-First Offshore Energy Strategy” executive order:
- Marianas Trench
- Northeast Canyons and Seamounts
- Pacific Remote Islands
- Rose Atoll
How to Comment
If you want to take a stand, let your voice be heard today. Write about your own personal experiences at these national monuments, the effects of public lands on the tourism industry, or simply remind him of the longstanding history of the Antiquities Act. Here’s how to submit.
Mail your written comments to:
U.S. Department of the Interior
1849 C Street NW
Washington, D.C. 20240