The wholesale dismantling of everything your predecessor did does not constitute good governance. That is, however, precisely what is underway right now in the United States. No one should be surprised. On the campaign trail our notorious president did offer a vision of what he intended to do. That vision was the complete destruction of our country and everything it symbolized for over a century. The assaults come daily and with broad, swashbuckling pen strokes.
On April 26th the president’s Executive Order 13792 took aim at the Antiquities Act and the places it has been used to protect. Specifically, he instructed the Department of Interior (DOI) to review sites designated since January 1, 1996 that are more than 100,000 acres or where Interior Secretary Zinke determines the designation or expansion was made without “adequate public outreach and coordination with relevant stakeholders.”
On May 5th DOI released a list of 27 national monuments, designated under the Antiquities Act, that are now subject to public review. The result of this review could mean downsizing sites, or even outright rescinding them. The following is the commentary which I just submitted to Regulations.gov.
Having just returned from a five-day exploration of the Bears Ears National Monument (BENM), I have only scratched the surface of this vast treasure trove of geological and anthropological history. I am dismayed at attempts to shrink the size of this national treasure, after it was established through a lengthy collaborative process which examined the land, its relationship to the people who live on and near it, its natural resources, and its socio-cultural importance to the earliest history of our nation. This is an integrated and contiguous natural and cultural landscape that does, indeed, constitute “the smallest area compatible.” (Section 1: i) We are still learning about the intricacies of the soils and the life they support. And ongoing discoveries of prehistoric cultural sites continues to add to our body of knowledge about the people who lived here before us.
A broad array of stakeholders worked together to find common ground, to negotiate and compromise and ultimately satisfy interested parties, including the five tribes whose hearts and souls reside in the sacred lands of their—and our—ancestors. The input of those closest to the land, resulted in specific protections for traditional activities such as hunting, fishing, wood and seed gathering as noted in the proclamation. “The Secretaries shall, to the maximum extent permitted by law and in consultation with Indian tribes, ensure the protection of Indian sacred sites and traditional cultural properties in the monument and provide access by members of Indian tribes for traditional cultural and customary uses.”
Protections afforded through the national monument designation strengthen existing protections against looting of significant cultural resources and preserves the iconic canyon landscape. It also offers protection from ongoing threats of mining, oil and gas extraction, and other industrial uses which can and do significantly harm both “historic landmarks, historic and prehistoric structures, [or] other objects of historic or scientific interest (Section 1: ii)”
BENM and other monuments like it, belong to the people of the United States. It is up to us to preserve them as faithfully as possible for the enjoyment, education, and sacred values of generations of Americans to come. This vast, arid ecosystem is unique to the American West and cannot survive being carved into tiny parks between a patchwork of private holdings, fences, and roads, as has happened to land on the east coast.
Executive Order 13792 of April 26th targets the Antiquities Act and the places it has been used to protect. Any national park site created using the Antiquities Act after January 1, 1996 could be on the chopping block. An attack on one of America’s national monuments is an attack on all of them, and the history these places represent. In the interest of this great country, the Department of Interior must weigh all public commentary equally. This land is our land first. It happens to be located in Utah, but that does not mean that federal and state officials have a greater voice than the voices of the people!
I encourage all my American friends to visit Regulations.gov which lists all the areas this Executive Order endangers. Feel free to copy any of my text that might apply to your own interests. The comment period ends on July 10th, 2017. You may have commented in the past on an activist web portal, but we find that all of those comments have historically been tracked as one comment. If 500 people used the same web portal to write 500 different comments, they are credited as one comment. That sucks, eh? Send your comments directly through the above link.
Now I’m off to craft another comment that relates specifically to the Craters of the Moon National Monument in Idaho.