National Monuments Review: Public Comments

National Monuments Review: Public Comments

Voice your support for our National Monuments during the formal public comment period opening after May 12.

UPDATE 5/12: Direct link to comment on the review.

As many people are aware, on April 26th, 2017, President Trump issued an executive order directing the Secretary of the Interior to review National Monuments designated under the Antiquities Act of 1906.  Monuments going back 21 years are under review, including the recent designations of Bears Ears and Katahdin Woods & Waters, putting into question the future of those monuments as they stand now.  As part of that review process, starting after May 12th, the Interior Department is opening up a formal public comment period, allowing citizens to voice their concerns about the National Monuments that are under review.

If that is all the motivation you need, feel free to stop reading now and head to www.regulations.gov and enter "DOI-2017-0002" in the search to submit your comments starting after May 12th.  Public comments for Bears Ears National Monument are under a tighter timeline than the rest, just 15 days, so the clock is ticking.  I encourage anyone reading this to voice your support in favor of maintaining the monuments as they stand today, ensuring their protection for future generations.

The Review Criteria

The review specifically targets designations made since January 1st, 1996 that meet certain criteria.  Monuments that cover more than 100,000 acres, either initially or having since been expanded above that threshold, are all included.  Additional monuments may be included if the Interior Secretary "determines that the designation or expansion was made without adequate public outreach and coordination with relevant stakeholders."  Seven factors are required to be considered, including whether the designations conform to "the requirements and original objectives of the [Antiquities] Act," whether the monuments are classified correctly, the effects the designation has on use of the land, and other factors "the Secretary deems appropriate."

The Monuments Under Review

There are 21 monuments being reviewed initially in accordance with all the criteria laid out in the executive order, including Bears Ears.  That designation has also been singled out with a shorter window for public comments; 15 days instead of the 60 days given to the rest of the monuments.  A full list can be found in the Interior Department press release concerning the public comment period (see links at the bottom).

Additionally, Katahdin Woods & Waters is being included in the review under the sole factor of "whether the designation...was made without adequate public outreach."

In relation to a different executive order, "Implementing An America-First Offshore Energy Strategy," five Marine National Monuments are also up for review and open to comments.

With so many monuments under review, it would be difficult here to give in depth information on each one, so I encourage you all the seek out information through the web and the various agencies that manage them.  I'll include some links at the bottom to get you started.

What's at Stake

The Antiquities Act of 1906 gives the president the authority to designate National Monuments out of federal lands, with the aim to protect "objects of historic or scientific interest."  It creates a more direct route for the protection of land, avoiding the lengthier process of creating a national park, which requires an act of Congress.  Presidents have used the powers afforded in the Antiquities Act numerous times over the last century.  Two of the most recent designations, Bears Ears and Katahdin Woods & Waters, created under President Obama, have raised some controversy and appear to be the main targets of the review process.

While the Antiquities Act gives the president power to designate national monuments, it does not include the power to rescind those designations.  Monuments have been altered in the past (usually in a minor way), but no current president has ever attempted to revoke a designation made by a past president.  This issue has never been challenged in court, but that might be about to change.

The danger in allowing a current president the ability to simply reverse a past president's designations should be obvious.  National Monuments protect significant cultural, scientific, and historic lands, and their existence should not come under question based on the political whims of a new president.  It would put in danger the very things the Antiquities Act was meant to protect.

Please take the time to let the Interior Secretary and the President know that the national monuments should be respected and remain protected for generations to come.

Links:

UPDATE 5/12: Direct Link to comment

Public Comments - Search "DOI-2017-0002"

Interior Department Press Release

Friends of Cedar Mesa

Department of the Interior

National Park Service

Bureau of Land Management

U.S. Forest Service

U.S. Fish and Wildlife

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