National Monuments and Parks Under Attack, and How to Save Them

Earth Island, Shark Stewards and IMMP develop legal challenge against stripping protections of the PRI Marine National Monument

From Earth Island Institute’s Executive Director David Phillips

January 23, 2018

Donald Trump’s Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is on so radical a mission to unravel environment protections for our public lands and oceans that he’s making President Reagan’s worst-ever Interior chief James Watt look good.

Not surprisingly, nine out of twelve members of the nonpartisan National Park System Advisory Board just resigned. Zinke is putting virtually the entire US coastal zone up for offshore oil drilling. National Monuments are slated to be shrunk, drilled, fished out, and leased, and Zinke’s plan is to double fees for you to enter your National Parks.


Urge Zinke and Trump to Leave America’s Marine National Monument Boundaries and Protective Status Alone!

National Parks and Monuments are priceless treasures and our system of laws to designate and protect them is a uniquely American invention. Writer, environmentalist and historian Wallace Stegner opined:

“National parks are the best idea we ever had.”

Filmmaker Ken Burns chose this title for his magnificent film series about our National Park System: “America’s Best Idea“, including interviews with Earth Island board member Ken Brower.

Noted naturalist Terry Tempest Williams has called us all to act:

“We the people have made mistakes in how we have understood and managed the wild. We are at a crossroads. We can continue on the path that we have been on in this nation that privileges profit over people and plant or we can unite as citizens with the common cause (and protect) the health and wealth of the earth that sustains us.”

Help Prevent This Environmental Devastation by supporting our work.

Shark Stewards

Thankfully, the public, and the environmental community – including Earth Island Institute – are uniting against the Trump Administration’s attempts to give away our national treasures to the highest bidders.

More than 300 million people visit National Parks across the country every year and many are speaking out. Three million letters have flooded in over the past few months in response to the proposed gutting of National Monuments and Marine Sanctuaries.

Trump’s acceptance of Zinke’s proposal to shrink the Bears Ears National Monument in Utah by more than 85% has been a key flashpoint.

The monument is named for a pair of buttes that rise to an elevation of 8,700 feet, more than 2,000 feet above the surrounding Colorado Plateau. The area within the monument is largely undeveloped and contains a wide array of historic, cultural and natural resources. There are more than 100,000 archaeological sites protected within the original monument boundaries.

President Obama’s 2016 decision to list this incredible red rock canyon area as a protected National Monument was also the first to be put forward by America’s indigenous people.

In 2015, the Navajo, Hopi, Zuni, Ute Mountain and Ute nations joined together to present the Obama administration with a proposal to preserve and co-manage this sacred landscape. The full membership of the National Congress of American Indians supported the idea.

Its scenic beauty has not been marred by the passage of time, and the land has been public land for decades. But, if Trump has his way, the land will be threatened with oil and gas drilling, uranium mining, and other resource extraction activities.

The coalition to fight this Administration’s illegal plan is diverse and growing. Five tribes are leading the way, along with a cluster of environmental organizations, to file three lawsuits challenging Trump’s order in federal court as an abuse of executive authority. Outdoor clothing company Patagonia, led by longtime Earth Island friend Yvon Chouinard, called the Trump plan for Bears Ears: “The largest elimination of protected land in American History.”


At Earth Island, the Sacred Land Film Project (SLFP) has been standing up for the protection of sacred sites both in the US and around the world for more than 30 years. SLFP uses film, journalism and education to rekindle reverence for land, increase respect for cultural diversity, and help protect sacred lands and diverse spiritual practices. SLFP Director Toby McLeod calls the fight for Bears Ears “a turning point for our nation and our movement, and an opportunity to stand with indigenous communities to protect a sacred cultural landscape.”

Meanwhile on the marine front, Earth Island’s new legal arm EI Advocates is taking action in defense of the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument (PRI).

“Our past, our present and whatever remains of our future, absolutely depends on what we do now,” said Dr. Sylvia Earle, former science head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, ocean advocate and founder of Mission Blue, who has designated the PRI as one of the Hope Spots, special places that are critical to the health of our oceans.

First established under President George W. Bush in 2009, the PRI was expanded by President Obama to an area of 490,343 square miles to protect heritage and some of the most pristine and healthiest coral reefs in the world. It’s the second largest marine protected area in the world, an area critical for protecting endangered and threatened migratory fish, whales and seabirds.

Stripping back the boundaries would open US waters to international fisheries causing irreparable harm to stocks of fish that also serve as spawning ground for fisheries outside the boundaries.

Sea turtles and sharks

“As part of a scientific and documentary team, I have personally experienced some of the incredible biodiversity and abundance of the Pacific Remote islands Marine National Monument.” said David McGuire, Director of Shark Stewards. “Part of the Line Islands in the Pacific, Palmyra Atoll and Kingman Reef are the most top heavy in apex predators like sharks, Jacks and Tuna. These fish need room to roam and safely reproduce. Removing protective boundaries and opening to international fisheries would be disastrous to one of the few healthy and protected populations of large, wide-ranging fish in the Pacific Ocean.”

“Because these small islands and adjacent massive coral reefs are very remote in the Pacific Ocean, they still remain relatively pristine and healthy,” notes Mark J. Palmer, Associate Director of Earth Island’s International Marine Mammal Project (IMMP). “But the Trump Administration and Interior’s Zinke want to shrink the size of the monuments and open them to commercial fishing. We need to protect these important islands of biodiversity, not grind them down with nets and shark finning operations.”

Earth Island projects Shark Stewards and IMMP are stepping up to be part of a legal challenge against dismantling protections of the PRI Marine National Monument.

Sumona Majumdar, EII General Counsel, says: “President Trump does not have the legal authority to unilaterally remove or weaken these Marine National Monument designations. We will fight to keep these important protections in place.”

Your help is needed to spread the word. Check out the links below and act now to help ensure that the great idea and fantastic legacy of our National Parks and National Monuments are preserved.

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