Maite Arce, President and CEO of the Hispanic Access Foundation, released the following statement in response to today’s Executive Order from President Trump that calls for a review of all national monuments that have been designated since 1996:
“Today, President Trump launched his assault on our nation’s public lands and his actions threaten the cultural heritage our national monuments represent. These lands help define who we are as a nation and tell a more complete history of the diverse communities that are part of it. These national monuments weave a rich tapestry of diversity and culture, but this executive order seeks to tear it apart thread by thread.
“This action is a setup to undermine the Antiquities Act – one of the nation’s most important conservation tools that has been responsible for protecting some of America’s most cherished and iconic locations like the Grand Canyon and the Statue of Liberty. It also has been responsible in providing equity to representation of the Latino narrative in America through the protection of places like Cesar Chavez National Monument and Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument, as well as providing Latino populations with access to the outdoors and natural heritage through monuments like those in the California desert and San Gabriel Mountains.
“The order shows extreme contempt for the decades of work local communities have invested to protect these places for future generations. These monuments were not created in a vacuum or on a Presidential whim, each one was the result of significant community engagement – agency-held public meetings, phone calls, letters and the input of tens of thousands of Americans who voiced their support. A 120-day or less review of these monuments makes a mockery of the transparent, civil process taken to engage the public in these decisions.
“Our public lands are what help make America great. We need to continue the protection of these lands and landmarks, which are important to diverse Latino communities, not threaten their existence. We stand in solidarity with other minority groups like African Americans, Native Americans, and Native Hawaiians, and others in calling for our histories to be told and not made less grand.”
The Antiquities Act was signed by President Teddy Roosevelt in 1906 to preserve U.S. public lands and cultural and historical sites for all Americans to enjoy. Sixteen presidents – eight Republicans and eight Democrats - have used this authority to protect places that provide opportunities for outdoor recreation, connection to natural and cultural heritage, and are sources of clean air and water for all communities. No president has ever attempted to revoke a predecessor’s monument designation, even where some initial public disagreement over the designation existed.
The public overwhelmingly opposes attacks on national parks, public lands and waters as evidenced through numerous public opinion polls. In the 2017 Conservation in the West poll conducted by Colorado College, 80% of western voters supported keeping protections for existing monuments in place, while only 13% of western voters supported removing protections for existing monuments. A 2016 poll by New America Media, stated that 93% of Minority Voters believed it is important for the next president [now President Trump] to continue to show a commitment to protecting national public lands and the histories they represent.