For Immediate Release
September 18, 2017
Erik Molvar, Western Watersheds Project, (307) 399-7910
Secret Report: Slash 6 Monuments, Gut Environmental Protections on 10
Illegally Redirects National Monuments’ Purpose from Protection to Commercial Exploitation
WASHINGTON, D.C. – A leaked secret report from Secretary of Interior to the White House recommends that six National Monuments (Bears Ears, Grand-Staircase – Escalante, Gold Butte, Cascade-Siskiyou, and as well as the Pacific Remote Islands and Rose Atoll Marine Monuments) be reduced in size by Presidential action, and that a number of National Monuments have their proclamations modified to repurpose them to prioritize commercial exploitation.
“This is a sweeping attack on America’s National Monuments, not only by eliminating some of the lands that have been designated for protection, but by fundamentally repurposing National Monuments from protection of resources and public enjoyment to commercial exploitation and industrial development,” said Erik Molvar of Western Watersheds Project. “Only Congress has the authority to reduce the size of National Monuments or otherwise tamper with their proclaimed purpose and protections, and it is absolutely illegal for any president to do so.”
In addition to boundary reductions, the secret report recommends changing multiple National Monument proclamations, including Monuments not targeted for boundary reductions, to prioritize “traditional use” which is defined as “grazing, mining, and timber production,” commercial activities that commonly result in destruction or damage to the very objects of archaeological, historical, or scientific interest that the National Monuments were designated to protect. The secret report also attacks tribal co-management of the Bears Ears National Monument, not only by reducing the acreage potentially subject to tribal consultation but also by suggesting that only Congress can authorize tribal co-management, and that it cannot be incorporated into a presidential proclamation designating a National Monument.
More than 2.7 million people submitted comments on the National Monument “review” process, some 96 percent of them preferring that the Monuments be kept as they are today.
“The American people have voiced overwhelming support for protecting these National Monuments, but this Department of Interior has exhibited a pattern of ignoring the public interest and listening only to a handful of so-called ‘stakeholders’ who have opposed the protection of sensitive lands and resources from the outset,” said Molvar. “Redirecting National Monument management to prioritize profit-drive exploitation like logging, commercial livestock grazing, strip mining, and oil and gas drilling throws the door open to the destruction of sensitive National Monument lands and resources at the hand of the very threats that the Monuments were designated to prevent or limit.”
The consensus among legal scholars is that while Congress delegated to the president the legal authority to create new National Monuments by presidential proclamation under the Antiquities Act of 1906, it never delegated the authority for future presidents to reduce or modify the proclamations of their predecessors.
“We stand with the tribes and the American people in demanding the protection of these National Monuments, and are preparing to take legal action should the president unwisely choose to mess with Theodore Roosevelt’s conservation legacy.”