As Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke wraps up his “review” of national monuments — which could drastically shrink, or even eliminate, some of America’s most recent national monuments — public support for protected public lands is at an all time high.
Nowhere is this more evident than in Western communities, where local leaders are standing up and raising their voices to celebrate nearby monuments. When we pulled up in Grand Junction, Colorado — our first stop on the Center for Western Priorities’ Monuments to America road trip — we hoped the support would resounding, but we had no idea it would be so powerful. First in Grand Junction, and then in Albuquerque, New Mexico, we heard from small business owners, local mayors, members of Congress, and community leaders and the result was unanimous: national monuments are good for Western communities, they preserve culture, protect natural wonders, and energize local economies.
Here are their words, so you can hear for yourself:
Mayor Lori Buck, Fruita:
“We know the benefits of protected public lands firsthand here in Fruita. I have heard from several local businesses that 2017 was a record breaking spring. The outdoor industry, related to public land access, has changed our economy.”
Sarah Shrader, founder of the Outdoor Recreation Coalition of the Grand Valley, owner of Bonsai Design:
“Being a west-sloper means that we have great pride in our outdoor recreation assets on public lands like the Colorado National Monument, the Grand Mesa, the BLM land that provide us trails, and of course our two storied rivers that provide the name of our great city. Access to public lands galvanizes our community brand and makes up a significant part of our way of life and economy in grand valley — essentially, these lands are who we are.”
Senator Tom Udall:
“These lands are part and parcel for our American soul and spirit and deserve protection now and for the future. There is no authority in the Antiquities Act for a president to diminish or repeal these designations…. So let us recommit to preserve these special places for today and tomorrow. I will continue to fight in Congress to preserve America’s most exceptional lands and I believe our voices together will make the difference.”
Gabe Vasquez, southern New Mexico coordinator for the New Mexico Wildlife Federation and New Mexico coordinator for Latino Outdoors:
“For me, Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument is not a place to visit once a lifetime, it’s my home. It’s the place that holds the sacred history of our past, as Hispanic people and as New Mexicans…. Our monument tells a unique American story that you cannot find anywhere else. To think of rolling back protections to this place, which protects such an important part of our history, is to me and my community, frankly, insulting. Our families camp, hike, and hunt hunt here, our youth find their sense of place in the jagged, sun-kissed peaks of the Organ Mountains, and it’s here that we find a reprieve from the turmoil of our daily lives…. I surely hope that Secretary Zinke and the Trump administration truly value the local input that they seek to gather, and agree with the local residents… that every acre in Organ Mountains belongs to us as Americans… and should be protected.”