Marine Protected Areas Also at Risk.

WASHINGTON—President Trump announced a plan to consider scaling back protection of 27 national monuments around the country with serious potential impacts on marine, land and cultural resources.  By signing The Executive Order on the Review of Designations Under the Antiquities Act, Trump authorizes Secretary Ryan Zinke at the Department of the Interior to review all national monument designations on federal public land since 1996 that are 100,000 acres or more in size. This Act could potentially impact over 1 billion acres of natural and cultural treasures on public lands and oceans that have been protected by presidents of both political parties.

This Review places 27 national monuments at risk including the Bears Ears national monuments in Utah to marine protection under Marine National Monuments in the Pacific and Atlantic oceans. The initiative is widely expected to trigger dramatic changes in protections or boundaries for monuments to accommodate special interests like coal, oil, gas and logging industries. National monument designations have protected many of the most iconic places in the country. Many of our nation’s most national parks were first protected as monuments, including Grand Teton, Grand Canyon, Zion, Sequoia and Olympic national parks. Currently there are 129 National Monuments in the system. 

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By expanding the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument off Hawaii in August 2016, President Obama created the largest ecologically protected area on the planet by increasing area under President George W. Bush in 2006. Using the Antiquities Act, Bush created the first Marine National Monument protecting 140,000 square miles in the Northwest Hawaiian Island Chain. Obama  582,578 square miles off northwestern Hawaii, with coral reefs that are home to more than 7,000 marine species. The first Marine Monument in the Atlantic, the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument off the coast of Cape Cod created under Obama are also at risk. Marine national monuments generally include bans on oil and gas exploration and drilling and most commercial fishing operations.

First used by President Theodore Roosevelt, monuments are created using executive powers under the 1906 Antiquities Act.  This Act is intended to protect culturally or environmentally significant lands and waters from development and exploitation and has been used 157 times under 16 presidents.  Some areas designated as National Monuments have later been converted into National Parks, or incorporated into existing National Parks. Sixteen presidents from both parties have used the Act to protect land and marine resources, including 5 by GW Bush who protected the Marianas, Pacific remote Island and Papahanumokukea Marine National Monuments.  President Obama made the widest use of the Act, establishing protection 39 times during his protection, followed by President Clinton at 13.  President Carter protected the largest area in the Alaskan Wilderness, an area under fire by opponents of federal protective status.

Under the Act, only Congress has the clear authority to reduce or nullify a monument designation, not the president.  So far, no president has attempted to withdraw Monument Status,although a few have reduced their size including Woodrow Wilson, who sharply downsized what was then called Mt. Olympus National Monument and is now part of Olympic National Park in Washington state.The order instructs Zinke to submit a preliminary review within 45 days and a final one within 120 days. Watchdog environmental groups are paying close scrutiny the review and are threatening legal challenge to any removal in area of protective status.

Add your voice to stop Trump from reducing or imperiling National Monument Status.