Trump calling national monuments into question

Part of effort to open lands to mining, oil, gas interests

BEARS EARS, Canyons of the Ancients, Craters of the Moon, Giant Sequoia – the names alone conjure mystery, majesty, wonder, and timelessness. These are just four of the 27 national monuments that are at grave risk under a review being carried out by the Trump administration.

We need our Massachusetts congressional delegation, other elected leaders, and more of the public to join the chorus of voices from across the Bay State to say no to this latest dangerous Trump federal rollback attempt that chooses industry interests over the public interest.

The Trump administration seems blind to the fact that we rely on our natural resources for life itself.  Clean air, clean water, and our amazing and precious public lands are all under attack. The administration has revived the tired old argument that a healthy environment and a healthy economy are at odds.

We know they are inextricably linked—we can’t have one without the other.

No other president has ever called our national monuments into question. This is clearly part of a national effort to reduce federal protections for our most precious natural resources and to open critical lands to extractive industries such as mining and oil and gas production.

Since 1906, 16 presidents (eight Democrats and eight Republicans) have used their power under the Antiquities Act to create national monuments and permanently protect some of America’s most cherished natural and historic landmarks. The process for designating a national monument makes use of the best available science to document the resources in need of protection, incorporates a management strategy so multiple uses of the land can be well managed, and includes a robust public input process.

Of particular concern in New England is the review of two recently designated national monuments: the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine Monument and the Katahdin Woods and Waters.

The Canyons and Seamounts Monument is the first marine monument designated off the coast of the continental United States. Located 150 miles off Cape Cod and designated by President Obama in September 2016, it consists of unique geological features such as extinct volcanoes, underwater mountains, and canyons deeper than the Grand Canyon. The underwater treasure is home to deep-water corals, anemones, and sponges, as well as protected species including endangered Kemp’s ridley turtles and sperm, fin, and sei whales.

Our oceans are in danger from overfishing and the proposed extraction of oil, gas, and other resources.  These dangers are compounded by the impacts of climate change. The region where the monument is located is warming at a rate faster than almost any other marine area in the world.

The Katahdin Woods and Waters in Maine encompasses 87,000 acres including rivers, streams, and prime wildlife habitat. It offers residents and visitors varied opportunities for recreation including hiking, cross-country skiing, fishing, hunting, and snowmobiling. The area was designated a national monument in August 2016. The land for the monument was acquired and donated by a long-time Maine resident along with a $40 million endowment to manage and steward this priceless gift.

These beautiful and valuable public spaces are our legacy and it is our responsibility to ensure they are conserved for future generations.

The majority of the public consistently supports protecting and stewarding important natural areas and it has been demonstrated over and over again that visitors to these special areas help reinvigorate local economies. Just months after the designation of Katahdin Woods and Waters, the local newspaper reported that real estate agents and small business owners near the new monument were seeing an increase in interest and activity.

When Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke traveled to Bears Ears in Utah for four days, he spent all of one hour with the tribal coalition that worked tirelessly on the designation with the rest of his time spent listening to opponents that want to roll back hard-fought protections.

Meet the Author

Nancy Goodman

Vice president for policy, Environmental League of Massachusetts
We need members of Congress to join the effort to protect the country’s treasured monuments along with members of the Legislature and, of course, more of the public. We call on citizens that care about the environment to make their voices heard and urge Secretary Zinke to listen.

Nancy Goodman is vice president for policy at the Environmental League of Massachusetts.