Washington D.C. - This National Park Week, 122 organizations from a broad cross-section of communities sent a letter urging Congress to recognize how national monuments help tell a more inclusive story of our nation and reject attacks on these special places and other public lands, including attempts to gut the Antiquities Act.
“In addition to protecting majestic places, sustaining wildlife, and benefiting local economies and communities, national monuments promote diversity and inclusivity in our system of public lands,” reads the letter. The 122 signers include the League of Conservation Voters (LCV), National Parks Conservation Association, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Human Rights Campaign, National Immigration Law Center, Public Citizen, Service Employees International Union, Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund, and several other community groups.
The letter comes in the wake of the Trump administration’s unprecedented move to cut Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments by two million acres – the single largest rollback of protections for public lands in our nation’s history – and as Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke faces scrutiny for dismissing the value of racial diversity, making racially insensitive remarks during a congressional hearing, and potentially violating federal anti-discrimination laws with staff reassignments.
“The Trump administration’s continued assault on our national monuments hurts every community that enjoys these shared treasures” said Jennifer Allen, LCV Senior Vice President of Community & Civic Engagement. “Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s actions have made it clear that he doesn’t value racial diversity and inclusivity in his own department or on our public lands. That is why LCV is proud to stand with a cross-section of community groups to call on Congress to defend national monuments and recognize how they reflect the stories of diverse communities across the country.”
Full text of the letter and a complete list of signers can be found here.
“National park sites tell the stories of America,” said Theresa Pierno, President and CEO for National Parks Conservation Association. “From the struggle for women’s right to vote, told at Belmont-Paul Women’s Equality National Monument in D.C., to the rights of African American workers at Pullman National Monument in Chicago, these stories helped define who we are as a nation. They tell our struggles and they tell our triumphs. And they deserve to be protected and retold now, and for generations to come. As history continues to be made, national park sites should continue to be created, including through the Antiquities Act, to honor and reflect our diverse people and places.”
“The Next 100 Coalition is driven in part by the recognition that our nation’s public lands must reflect the histories and experiences of all our nation’s people,” said Kevin Bryan, Coalition Coordinator for the Next 100 Coalition. “We envision the establishment of public lands that reflect the diverse culture and experiences of our people, and respect and uplift our collective experience in America. Sites such as Birmingham Civil Rights National Monument, Bears Ears National Monument, and Cesar E. Chavez National Monument represent the historical and cultural fabric that connects our diverse communities as a united people.”
“Our sacred sites tell our stories, heal our people, provide resting places for our ancestors, and bring all people together” said Jefferson Keel, President of the National Congress of American Indians. “Importantly, these places are where Native people practice their free exercise of religion. The Antiquities Act delegated to the President the limited authority to set aside and protect these lands because of their historical significance to this Nation as a whole, and – for this reason – NCAI will continue to stand by the five tribes of the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition in their fight to protect their sacred places, as well as other tribes impacted by the unlawful and effective revocation of other Monuments.”
“The National Center for Transgender Equality is proud to stand in support of our national monuments” said Mara Keisling, Executive Director of the National Center for Transgender Equality. “The Antiquities Act has allowed this country to honor and preserve the legacy of civil rights advocates, such as the monument that now acknowledges The Stonewall Inn as the symbolic birthplace of the modern LGBT rights movement. Any attempt to limit the Antiquities Act is a dereliction of our nation’s duty to commemorate those who fought and continue to fight for its future.”
“The Antiquities Act has successfully protected important sites in our nation’s labor history and help tell the story of workers in national parks and monuments,” said J. David Cox, President of the American Federation of Government Employees. “Through protected places like César E. Chávez National Monument and Pullman National Monument, we continue to educate the public about their important legacies and about ongoing efforts for workers’ rights across the country. We’re proud of the work that communities have done to protect these special places and honor the legacy of working people.”
“America is a nation built by Native Americans, slaves and immigrants—people of color who are part of the fabric of this country,” said John C. Yang, President and Executive Director of Asian Americans Advancing Justice | AAJC. “As our country continues to strive to live up to the ideals of valuing diversity, inclusion, and equal opportunity, we reject any attempt to diminish the national monuments that honor the struggles and achievements within communities of color, within our America.”
“Our national monuments are more than just acres of land, they are chapters in the great American story. Many of these places were established to represent or celebrate the diverse heritage and cultures that make up this country,” said Maite Arce, President and CEO of the Hispanic Access Foundation. “We all share the moral obligation to protect our outdoor heritage, to protect these special places and preserve them as a legacy for future generations.”
“With more than 100,000 archaeological sites, the Bears Ears cultural landscape is exactly the kind of place the Antiquities Act was designed to protect,” said Josh Ewing, Executive Director of Friends of Cedar Mesa. “Congress failed to protect this unquestionably deserving landscape for more than a century, despite ongoing threats like looting and vandalism of sacred sites. Instead of undermining the important role the Antiquities Act has played in preserving our nation’s history, lawmakers would better serve our public lands by doing the hard work of bringing stakeholders together to solve on-the-ground problems and find common ground.”