Would Donald Trump erase Grand Canyon National Park?

Make no mistake: His administration’s monument review is an attack on our national parks

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s review of national monuments cuts deep into our nation’s conservation legacy, targeting the very law used to protect a majority of national parks in the American West. The secretary is expected to announce whether he’ll recommend President Trump eliminate or shrink national monuments across the country next week, on the eve of the National Park Service’s 101st birthday.

Of America’s 59 national parks, 28 were first protected or expanded as national monuments by presidents using their authority under the Antiquities Act. In the West, 68 percent of national parks were protected as national monuments using the same law.

The secretary’s efforts to eviscerate national monuments undermines the foundation of America’s protected public lands, placing a target on every single American park and monument.

The Antiquities Act of 1906, designed to protect special places threatened by looting and development, was signed into law by Theodore Roosevelt and used by both Republican and Democratic presidents to protect America’s lands and waters. Many of our most iconic places were protected as national monuments using the Antiquities Act and later turned into national parks by Congress. This includes national parks such as the Grand Canyon in Arizona, Arches in Utah, Grand Teton in Wyoming, and Denali in Alaska.

If Secretary Zinke moves to eliminate current national monuments, how will it tarnish our national parks?

Grand Canyon National Park, first protected using the Antiquities Act.

Had Secretary Zinke been completing his review of national monuments when the Grand Canyon was protected under the Antiquities Act, would he have recommended eliminating its protections? The answer is almost certainly yes (it would have been politically expedient at the time, allowing mining to proceed).

Secretary Zinke’s review of national monuments, lands protected using the same law that protected the Grand Canyon, is deeply unpopular.

In fact, only 6 percent of registered voters trust Secretary Zinke to make decisions about the status of national monuments and other federally protected lands. When Secretary Zinke asked Americans to comment on his review of national monuments, 98 percent expressed support for keeping or expanding monument designations.

At a time when national parks are more popular than ever, Americans know Secretary Zinke’s review is an attack on America’s conservation legacy. Any number of current national monuments, spectacular places in their own right, could one day become national parks. Unfortunately, if Secretary Zinke has his way, these protections will be wiped off the map.