President Trump is expected to order “review” of numerous national monuments and the law that protected them – a move towards reducing protection for many iconic American landscapes. Several other media outlets have reported that Trump appears to be acceding to the demands of extreme members of Congress who oppose protections for our parks, national monuments, and public lands with the intent to shrink their boundaries and reduce protection.

This means that dozens of areas encompassing might sequoia forests, historic military sites, rare fossil beds and ancient Ancestral Puebloan ruins, among many others, are now under attack by the White House.

Take Utah’s Bears Ears, a textbook case for monument designation, whose wealth of ancient ruins, petroglyphs and other cultural sites was damaged by looting, vandalism and even grave-robbing before President Obama moved to protect it in 2016.

Prehistoric Granary overlooks Cedar Mesa.

Bears Ears. Photo: Josh Ewing

This move will also make it much harder to use the Antiquities Act, originally signed into law by Theodore Roosevelt in 1906 to authorize presidents to protect important archaeological, historic and scientific resources on public lands. The Antiquities Act has been used on a bipartisan basis by almost every president, a method supported by some 90 percent of voters that forms the backbone of our National Park System.

Trump’s executive order symbolizes a profound break with America’s conservation legacy. In contrast, President Obama broke the record with the number of national monument proclamations he issued and the millions of acres of public lands he locked up for such monuments.

Grand Staircase-Escalante

Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument Photo: Metate Arch via Wikimedia Commons

Among the monuments that would be under review:

  • Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument (Utah): Per a report published by the Utah Geological Association, “Nowhere else in the world are the rocks and geologic features so well exposed, so brilliantly colored, and so excitingly displayed.”
  • César E. Chávez National Monument (California): Encompasses the property that was home and eventually final resting place for the iconic namesake civil rights leader.
  • Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument (Oregon): The first monument whose protection was motivated specifically by the need to preserve biodiversity
  • Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument: Protects teeming communities of marine life including habitat for whales, sea turtles and tropical fish
  • Browns Canyon National Monument (Colorado): An outdoor recreation hotspot that is well known for its whitewater rafting, fishing and hiking.
  • Rio Grande del Norte National Monument (New Mexico): protects some of the most ecologically significant lands in northern New Mexico, including habitat for elk, bald eagle, peregrine falcon and great horned owl.
  • Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument (Maine): includes vital habitat and migration corridors for moose, bear, lynx and Atlantic salmon as well as beloved outdoor recreation spots.
  • Bears Ears National Monument (Utah): Perhaps nowhere in the world are so many well-preserved cultural resources—from ancient ruins to petroglyphs—found within such a striking and relatively undeveloped landscape.

Find out more on Wilderness Society website.

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