Two weeks ago, we wrote about an Executive Order that put millions of acres of public land protected as National Monuments at risk. The President ordered a review of National Monuments that is a clear first step toward rescinding, rolling back, or changing the boundaries of these protected landscapes. This is part of a larger attack on our public lands, and it’s important that the outdoor recreation community speaks out during the public process.
This week, the Department of the Interior released a list of the 27 National Monuments that they would be specifically reviewing and announced that it would open public comments about whether these places should have been protected. You can see the full list of Monuments at risk at right. The public comment period for Bears Ears, the National Monument most at risk, lasts just 15 days. At Outdoor Alliance, we have a few concerns about this process.
First, the public process for designating any of the National Monuments on Interior’s list has been exhaustive. As one example, the process for designating Bears Ears was a years-long effort to gather stakeholder input, hold public meetings, work with tribes, business partners, and local climbers. We also worked closely with Rep. Rob Bishop, who had worked on legislation called the Public Lands Initiative to protect a similar area (this legislation never passed although the final Bears Ears boundaries track closely with Rep. Bishop’s proposal).
We have also worked to support local efforts to designate National Monuments on many other landscapes – and we found that without robust local support, many of these campaigns have not yet been successful. This is evidence that without powerful local input, previous administrations have been unwilling to designate National Monuments.
The idea that National Monuments are ever enacted without broad local support is, in our experience, inaccurate.
Our second major concern is that revising Monument designations without using the legislative process (a vote through Congress) is a troubling sign for public lands that undermines the integrity of one of our bedrock conservation laws, the Antiquities Act. The Antiquities Act was signed into law by Theodore Roosevelt, who both Secretary Zinke and President Trump have spoken admiringly about. It has been used to provide protection for iconic landscapes across the country with incredible value for outdoor recreation, including the Grand Canyon, Zion National Park, and Acadia National Park.
The current comment period starts May 12. Comments on Bears Ears will be accepted for just 15 days. During this time, it will be extremely important for people who love the outdoors to speak up in defense of public lands.
You can submit your comments directly through regulations.gov, or through our online tool (which routes your comments straight to the form).
A few pieces of advice for writing an effective comment for this process:
- Emphasize that you are an outdoor recreationist and a stakeholder on public lands
- If you feel connected to Bears Ears or another National Monument, explain what it means to you personally
- Indicate your support for National Monuments and protected public lands in general
- Respond to the concerns that there was not adequate public outreach
- Affirm that you want to see Bears Ears, and other National Monuments, retain their protections
You can see our full policy letter submitted to the Department of the Interior here.