Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke has been ordered to review 27 National Monuments designated by the Antiquities Act over the past 21 years to look for so-called abuses of the act. The public is invited to weigh in on the review as a whole via written comments or an online portal. The White House, by ordering this action, ignores the years-long process of proposals, legislative efforts, and public comments that went into the vast majority of these monuments.
Mail your written comments to: Monument Review, MS-1530,U.S. Department of the Interior, 1849 C Street NW, Washington, D.C. 20240. Online comments may be submitted via regulations.gov by searching for “DOI-2017-0002” or by linking here Comments related to Bears Ears National Monument must be submitted before May 26, 2017. Comments relating to all other National Monuments must be submitted before July 10,2017.
The most contested of these Monuments are Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante, both of which have fossil fuels beneath them. California’s Carrizo Plain National Monument also sits near oil, and the Mojave Trails National Monument is under threat from the controversial Cadiz Water Project, which aims to drain the Mojave aquifer to provide very expensive and inefficiently delivered water to Orange County.
Secretary Zinke has toured the Monuments in Utah but spent significantly more time with anti-Monument groups and legislators than with pro-Monument ones. The Salt Lake Tribune reported that he only spent 90 minutes with the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition and Friends of Cedar Mesa while “traveling extensively with anti-monument heavyweights” including Governor Gary Herbert and Representative Mike Noel, who took Zinke to the Grand-Canyon Escalante National Monument not to gaze upon the pristine and unique landscape, but to look at a seam of coal.
Zinke refused to meet with the Utah Dine Bikeyah, a Navajo nonprofit working to preserve sacred lands and artifacts that was instrumental in the formation of Bears Ears National Monument (the first National Monument formed at the request of a coalition of Native American groups), or the 49 members of the Escalante-Boulder Chamber of Commerce, who unanimously oppose downsizing their nearby Monument — and instead chose to spend time hiking with a Utah political operative with ties to the Koch brothers.
Moreover, I believe that the natural resources must be used for the benefit of all our people, and not monopolized for the benefit of the few, and here again is another case in which I am accused of taking a revolutionary attitude. People forget now that one hundred years ago there were public men of good character who advocated the nation selling its public lands in great quantities, so that the nation could get the most money out of it, and giving it to the men who could cultivate it for their own uses. We took the proper democratic ground that the land should be granted in small sections to the men who were actually to till it and live on it. Now, with the water power, with the forests, with the mines, we are brought face to face with the fact that there are many people who will go with us in conserving the resources only if they are to be allowed to exploit them for their benefit. That is one of the fundamental reasons why the special interests should be driven out of politics. Of all the questions which can come before this nation, short of the actual preservation of its existence in a great war, there is none which compares in importance with the great central task of leaving this land even a better land for our descendants than it is for us, and training them into a better race to inhabit the land and pass it on. Conservation is a great moral issue, for it involves the patriotic duty of insuring the safety and continuance of the nation. Let me add that the health and vitality of our people are at least as well worth conserving as their forests, waters, lands, and minerals, and in this great work the national government must bear a most important part.