“Sec. Zinke’s recommendations that national monuments should be reduced in size is in direct contrast to why these monuments were established in the first place. Hundreds of thousands of local residents spent years uniting as a diverse coalition of supporters and worked together to encourage presidents to take action.
“Not only is this recommendation unpopular – more than 2.8 million public comments were submitted during the comment period in support of maintaining or expanding national monuments – but it also fails to embrace the will of those closest to these sites. For example, diverse communities – such as Native Americans around Bears Ears and Latinos around Gold Butte and Organ Mountains -- were adamant supporters and actively worked to preserve these places. Through community trips, participating in public meetings, and jointly asking President Obama to protect these public lands for present and future generations, local, diverse stakeholders were at the forefront of these efforts.
“These monuments were established to represent and celebrate amazing natural and historic resources, including unique wildlife, Native American sacred sites, unsurpassed scenery and geologic wonders, and many diverse recreation opportunities. We need to be good stewards to protect these special places and our cherished outdoor heritage. These places are more than just acres of land, they are chapters in the great American story.
“We have a moral obligation to protect our outdoor heritage, to protect these special places and preserve them as a legacy for future generations. Reducing America’s national monuments in any way leads to the destruction of Native American archaeological sites, lost access for hunting and fishing, and economic harm to local businesses. These recommendations disrespect the work and support of communities throughout the nation that have invested in protecting these locations so that our children’s children may experience and learn from them as we do today.”
According to the Washington Post, Sec. Zinke is recommending that Bears Ears, Grand Staircase-Escalante, Gold Butte and Cascade-Siskiyou National Monuments should be reduced in size. Additionally, the report recommends opening up Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks, Rio Grande del Norte, and Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monuments to allow protected portions to be opened up for uses like mining, logging and drilling. Native American sacred sites, natural wonders, and places that are currently open for hunting, fishing, hiking and outdoor recreation are at risk of being permanently lost to energy extraction, mining, and private development.