CRS is deeply disappointed that Secretary of Interior Ryan Zinke has recommended that the Trump Administration dramatically shrink protections for some of our nation’s cherished national monuments. Secretary Zinke confirmed that he recommended rollbacks in a report to President Trump, but the administration has thus far kept the details shrouded in secrecy.
“This outcome seems to have been baked in from the start,” said CRS President David Jenkins. “How else can one explain a decision that defies consensus legal opinion and ignores the clear wishes of more than 99 percent of Americans who submitted comments?”
According to press reports, Zinke has recommended slashing at least four national monuments. Two of these are in Utah, Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante. Oregon’s Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument is reported to also be on that list.
Such rollbacks of national monuments are unprecedented, and according to a broad consensus of legal experts, illegal. This includes legal opinions from conservative consultants that advised the Trump transition team.
One such opinion points out: “Congress intended the Antiquities Act to be used as a ‘one-way’ authority to create and expand monuments, not abolish or diminish them in size.” It went on to note that Congress reaffirmed this by passing the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976 (FLPMA), which stipulates that only Congress has authority to modify and revoke national monuments created under the Antiquities Act.
The administration has allowed the opinions of a few disgruntled special interests and their pals in Congress to trump the opinions of most Americans—and the best interests of communities that benefit from our national monuments. When the details come out, it is a safe bet that the chunks carved out of these monuments will be those portions coveted by special interests.
“It is particularly frustrating that Secretary Zinke and the president fail to grasp just how much national monuments drive local economies and a multi-billion outdoor recreation economy,” Jenkins said. “These protected lands—and the attention they draw—are a great asset to rural communities, generating jobs, tourism revenue, recreational opportunities, and improving the quality of life.”
As we await the details one thing is certain, there is nothing even remotely conservative about this illegal—and overwhelmingly unpopular—attempt to diminish our beloved national monuments.