The Myth Versus Truth on National Monuments
No president has shrunk a monument
Monuments have been reduced at least eighteen times under presidents on both sides of the aisle. Some examples include President John F. Kennedy excluding Bandelier National Monument, Presidents Taft, Wilson, and Coolidge reducing Mount Olympus National Monument, and President Eisenhower reducing the Great Sand Dunes National Monument in Colorado.
The monument review will sell or transfer public lands to states
The Secretary adamantly opposes the wholesale sale or transfer of public lands. The Antiquities Act only allows Federal land to be reserved as a national monument. Therefore, if any monument is reduced, the land would remain federally owned and would be managed by the appropriate Federal land management agency, such as the BLM, U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, or the National Park Service (NPS).
Removing the monument designation from land will leave Native American artifacts and paleontological objects subject to looting or desecration
Whether these resources are found on land designated as a monument, national forest, BLM- managed public land, or other federal land, it is generally illegal to remove or disrupt these resources without a permit issued by the federal government.
The monument reviews will close/sell/transfer national parks
No national parks are under review.
The review was done without meeting advocates for national monuments
The Secretary visited eight monuments in six states and personally hosted more than 60 meetings attended by hundreds of local stakeholders. Attendees included individuals and organizations representing all sides of the debate ranging from environmental organizations like the Wilderness Society and the Nature Conservancy to county commissioners and, residents, and ranchers who prefer multiple use of the land.
Tribal Nations were not consulted
Before traveling to Utah, the Secretary met with Tribal representatives in his office. On his first day in Utah in May, the Secretary met with the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition in Salt Lake City, for just under two hours. Throughout the four-day survey of the Utah monuments, the Secretary also met with local Tribal representatives who represent different sides of the debate. The Secretary also met with Tribal representatives for their input on several other monuments from Maine to New Mexico to Oregon and everywhere in between. Additionally, the Department hosted several Tribal listening sessions at the Department and across the country, including a four hour session with the Acting Deputy Secretary on May 30th.
Actual Thefts Were Masterminded by Previous White House officials
Acting on recommendations by Department of the Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, on December 4 President Trump significantly reduced the size of two enormous areas in Utah that Presidents Clinton and Obama had set aside as limited-access, no-development zones under the 1906 Antiquities Act.
Mr. Trump’s action reduced the Grand Staircase Escalante and Bears Ears National Monuments from a combined 3.2 million acres (the size of Connecticut) to 1.2 million acres (slightly smaller than Delaware).
Utah residents and elected officials applauded the move as long overdue. The Patagonia and North Face outdoor apparel companies, environmentalist groups, and various liberal politicians and news outlets branded the action a desecration, claimed President Trump “stole” the lands from the American people, and launched coordinated and hyperventilated disinformation campaigns.
In reality, the actual thefts were masterminded and conducted by previous White House officials, in cahoots with radical environmentalists. Employing the immense power of the federal government, they took valuable state lands, multiple private lands and property rights, and a private company’s most valuable asset (America’s largest clean coal deposit) without any compensation whatsoever.
The Antiquities Act was intended to protect areas of historic, prehistoric or scientific value, and lands designated as monuments were to be “the smallest size compatible with the proper care and management” of objects or sites to be protected. Its goal is to safeguard fossils, unique plants and habitats, Native artifacts and sites, geologic structures and special scenic areas from damage, desecration and looting.
The first national monument ever designated (the 1,347-acre Devils Tower) respected the law’s language and intent, as have most designations since then. However, in recent decades presidents have increasingly used the act to circumvent Congress and replace proper legislative processes with executive decrees. They established enormous de facto wilderness areas with the stroke of a pen – usually with little or no consultation with people and elected officials in communities that would be most severely impacted.
It is these abuses that Messrs. Zinke and Trump sought to correct. In so doing, they followed decisions by Presidents Coolidge, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Taft and Wilson, who also reduced the size of previous monument designations. The Utah changes address arguably the greatest onshore Antiquities Act abuses.
The Real Thievery Behind Land Grabs
Monument designation means exploration, drilling, mining, timber harvesting, motorized vehicles, and even grazing and gathering firewood are prohibited. People’s property rights, lives, livelihoods, living standards and life savings are grievously affected. The entire tax, job and revenue base of communities, counties and states is impacted. Thousands of acres of state “school sections” – which states are granted at the time of statehood to finance schools – are made off limits, with no compensation.
At the very least, this demands careful consultation with the people who live there, and negotiations with their representatives to ensure that all these interests are considered and addressed. Stroke-of-the-pen monument decrees callously circumvented all these constitutional, legal and ethical safeguards. They ensured that valuable property was taken without due process or just compensation.
Department of the Interior