Through tools such as the 1906 Antiquities Act, the government can act to protect and enhance the American public land system. President Trump's executive order requiring Secretary Zinke to review and evaluate National Monument boundaries of more than 100,000 acres designated since 1996 has the potential to undermine this important conservation tool. An attack on the Antiquities Act is an attack on all American public lands and the communities and economies that rely on them.
The outdoor recreation economy annually contributes $887 billion to the US economy, and 7.6 million direct jobs. Most of this recreation takes place on national public lands, which accounts for 46.9% of land in the west. These national public lands are an integral part of the success of our communities due to the tourism they bring, as well as the competitive advantage that being close to open spaces and outdoor recreation provides when attracting businesses and employees. In fact, studies have shown that communities close to national public lands perform better in several key economic measures than communities close to fewer public lands.
Conservation of ecologically, culturally, and scientifically important lands is a necessary component to the American way of life, as well as to the communities (e.g. mountain towns in the Intermountain West) that rely on these lands for economic growth and prosperity.
In July 2017 2.7 million Americans submitted comment in support of leaving national monuments as they are, and in September 2017 Secretary Zinke sent a report to the White House recommending dramatic size reductions to Bears Ears (UT), Grand Staircase-Escalante (UT), Gold Butte (NV), and Cascade Siskiyou (OR) National Monuments as well as huge reductions to two marine monuments.
On December 4, 2017, President Trump traveled to Utah to announce that he would cut Bears Ears National Monument by 85% and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument by half--the largest reductions to federal land protections in history. Many have argued that under the Antiquities Act, presidents do not have the power to reduce national monuments, only to create them, and so an extended legal battle over this announcement is expected to ensue.
MOUNTAIN PACT ACTION
- In May 2017, the Mountain Pact released a new report, The Antiquities Act: A Vital Part of Our Natural Heritage.
- On July 9, 2017 fourteen mountain communities sent a letter to Interior Secretary Zinke to submit public comment urging the Interior Department to maintain the protection and current boundaries of all existing national monuments as they are.
- Teton County Commissioner, Natalia Macker, published an op-ed in the Casper Star Tribune on July 10, 2017.
The Mountain Pact will be working closely with our communities for continued public lands protections in 2017, with more information and actions coming soon. If you are interested in more information about this or The Mountain Pact in general, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.