Interior Secretary Zinke Recommends Eliminating Portions of America’s National Monuments

For Immediate Release

“The unwise and unpopular choice to stop protecting these lands and waters will ravage pristine places, put wildlife in danger and jeopardize scientific and archeological history, including sacred Native American sites.”

If U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s recommendations to eliminate parts of national monuments are accepted, some of our pristine lands and waters will lose protection from mining, drilling and overfishing. This not only will lead to destruction of America’s treasured lands and marine ecosystems, it defies public opinion. Ninety-eight percent of the record-breaking 2.8 million public comments to the Interior Department asked the federal government to maintain or expand lands under protection.

“Millions of Americans have enjoyed majestic vistas, camped under starlit skies, viewed abundant wildlife or just gone for a walk or a boat ride in our national monuments and parks,” said Christy Leavitt from Environment America. “The unwise and unpopular choice to stop protecting these lands and waters will ravage pristine places, put wildlife in danger and jeopardize scientific and archeological history, including sacred Native American sites.”

The last reason explains why most national monuments have been created under the Antiquities Act, signed into law by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1906.

According to the National Park Service:

The Antiquities Act is the first law to establish that archeological sites on public lands are important public resources. It obligates federal agencies that manage the public lands to preserve for present and future generations the historic, scientific, commemorative, and cultural values of the archaeological and historic sites and structures on these lands.

From Roosevelt to Barack Obama, 16 American presidents, democrats and republicans, have used the Antiquities Act to protect more than 150 special places as national monuments. National monuments aren’t statues -- they are federally owned lands and waters that have historic or scientific significance.

President Donald Trump ordered Secretary Zinke in April to review 27 of these national treasures. Legal scholars agree that the president does not have authority under the Antiquities Act to significantly alter a national monument. The Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976 affirmed that only Congress can modify national monuments.

“Secretary Zinke’s recommendation foolishly elevates the fleeting value derived from extracting a little more oil or coal or timber from these lands and waters, over the timeless value gained by preserving America's most precious places for our children, our grandchildren and generations to come,” said Leavitt. “We will continue to fight to protect these natural wonders and important ecosystems.”

Read more about the national monuments at risk: www.standwithourlands.org