Our national monuments are under attack from Washington politicians

Congress is asking President Trump to undermine America’s greatest legacy

Aaron Weiss
Apr 3, 2017 · 4 min read

For a hundred years, our presidents have designated national monuments to honor America. But today, members of Congress want to undermine our national monuments law and even wipe some national monuments off the map.

That’s why the Center for Western Priorities is launching a new nationwide campaign, Monuments to America. This ad started running today in Washington, D.C., and will expand to local markets from Nevada to South Carolina in the coming weeks:

“As extremist opponents of public lands attempt to gut protections and weaken the Antiquities Act, we thought it was important for the American people to learn about the history of the law that protected some of our most treasured national parks and landscapes,” said Jennifer Rokala, executive director at the Center for Western Priorities. “Without the Antiquities Act, the Grand Canyon would likely be the site of open-pit mines today.”

Since being passed by a Republican-led Congress and signed by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1906, Republican and Democratic presidents alike have used the Antiquities Act 231 times to protect and commemorate our unique history. Some of our most iconic landscapes, from Arches National Park to the Grand Canyon, were initially protected as national monuments.

Northeast Canyons and Seamounts

In recent years, President Obama moved to recognize our monumental legacy by designating or expanding 34 national monuments. From civil rights landmarks in Alabama to Maine’s vast North Woods, or the home of Cesar Chavez to the wild seamounts and canyons off the New England coast, these monuments highlight our extraordinary natural and cultural heritage.

However, some politicians and their allies want to dismantle our national monuments law. Proposals include eliminating the Antiquities Act altogether, blocking future national monuments, and eliminating or shrinking certain existing national monuments. Representative Rob Bishop of Utah, chairman of the House committee overseeing our public lands, has led the charge to dismantle our national monuments, calling the Antiquities Act “the most evil act ever invented.”

In Maine, Governor Paul LePage has asked President Trump to eliminate the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument, previously private land that was donated specifically to create a publicly-accessible park. In Utah, Governor Gary Herbert signed a resolution urging the elimination of Bears Ears National Monument, an area sacred to Native American tribes with thousands of artifacts threatened by looting and vandalism.

No president has ever attempted to eliminate a monument, and legal scholars agree that this would likely be an illegal action.

Our national monuments not only commemorate our history, they preserve some of our most iconic destinations for generations to come and boost economic activity in surrounding communities. Undermining the Antiquities Act and eliminating national monuments does nothing more than scratch away America’s natural and cultural legacy.

“Polls consistently show that Americans value their parks and public lands and waters, yet some members of Congress are determined to take away the protections that ensure our monuments will be there for future generations to enjoy,” said Rokala, the Center for Western Priorities’ executive director. “We hope this campaign is a wake-up call to anyone who is not aware of the imminent threats our monuments face today from politicians in Washington.”

Explore America’s national monuments

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Interactive map: MonumentstoAmerica.org

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