Our National Monuments — Our Heritage at Risk

Last Friday, the Interior Department released a list of 22 monuments Secretary Zinke will review under Trump’s executive order from late April.

The executive order and this effort is actually an attack on America’s national parks, public lands and oceans. Although crafted in well-meaning language, this action undermines one of America’s most important tools for environmental conservation — in favor of large corporations that want to mine and develop these public lands; overriding local community support for these Monuments; and endangering our local economies.

The overall action is part of a larger effort to sell off America’s public lands and waters for fossil fuel development. A number of the national monuments targeted by the review hold resource potential that the oil & gas industry wants to access. Lobbying groups like the American Petroleum Institute have made clear they see the Antiquities Act as a threat to oil & gas development. And, in the case of Bears Ears in Utah, the Western Energy Alliance has confirmed industry’s interest in drilling. Beyond threatening cultural and natural resources that could never be replaced, this action also opens up a dangerous precedent for other monuments in the US to be “undone”.

The Trump administration’s language also seeks to override the voices of the local communities, and their decades of work invested to protect these places for future generations. The San Gabriel Mountains National Monument was the product of over 20 years of effort by local citizens. Behind this, and each national monument, are well-documented and thoroughly vetted facts about the cultural and natural resources under the its protection — vetted by actually engaging with the citizens in the area; the real public, not lobbyists.

National parks, public lands and waters are also a critical part of the our economy — Outdoor recreation alone generates $887 billion and 7.6 million jobs every year. And this is no different for the California monuments that are currently threatened. The local communities benefit from the tourism, outdoor recreation and quality of life associated with healthy public lands.

California, and our nation, needs your help. Zinke claimed that “there is no pre-determined outcome on any monument,” and that he “look[s] forward to hearing from and engaging with local communities and stakeholders as this process continues.”

Let’s not let this opportunity pass by — speak truth to power, and let our voices be heard. Send in your comments in support of our National Monuments online at http://www.regulations.gov. (Search for “DOI-2017–0002”) Send in your overall support for these Monuments; your personal stories and how they have impacted you, your business, and your community: How the recent super blooms at Carrizo Plain excited your children; How your son learned wilderness survival in the San Gabriel Mountains with his Boy Scout troop; How you gazed up at the Sequoia trees, and wondered about divine powers.

Our democracy is based on the ethic of citizens caring about other citizens. It is your active visits and support for these sites that will help sustain these precious National Monuments for your grandkids, and beyond.