Last Chance! National Monuments Review Comments
National Monuments designated under the Antiquities Act have generated considerable discussion in our nation’s capitol. First the Trump Administration released an Executive Order on April 26th that directs Interior Secretary Zinke to conduct a review of “all Presidential designations or expansions of designations under the Antiquities Act made since January 1, 1996, where the designation covers more than 100,000 acres, where the designation after expansion covers more than 100,000 acres, or where the Secretary determines that the designation or expansion was made without adequate public outreach and coordination with relevant stakeholders.” (read full text of Executive Order). The policy outlined in the Executive Order directs the review to focus on a standard to “appropriately balance” protection with energy independence and economic growth.
This action was followed by a hearing in the House Natural Resources Committee on May 2nd on the use of the Antiquities Act to establish National Monuments that included extensive testimony and discussion of Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument, Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, and Bears Ears National Monument (view testimony and watch hearing).
With the announcement by Secretary Zinke to initiate a public comment period beginning on May 12th, we have established an online comment form to deliver your comments:
Presidents from both political parties have used the Antiquities Act to provide additional protections to existing federal land. Many of the places designated as National Monuments, including Grand Teton, Grand Canyon, Olympic, and Black Canyon of the Gunnison, went on to become prized National Parks.
A review of National Monuments is not necessarily a bad thing and Congress clearly has the authority to modify National Monuments which in most cases has resulted in strengthening protections. We are concerned however that although Secretary Zinke stated that he would not “predispose what the outcome is going to be” for the review, statements by the President clearly indicate an interest in considering some unprecedented (and potentially illegal) attempts to undo National Monuments, which are designated with broad local support and collaboration. Furthermore some Members of Congress have made clear that they view this as a first step in undermining the Antiquities Act, the legislation that authorizes National Monuments and serves as an important conservation tool for our public lands.
While the Executive Order includes language that provides the Secretary of Interior with discretion to review any National Monument designated in the last 21 years (i.e. since Grand Staircase-Escalante was designated by President Clinton in 1996), the focus is on the larger National Monuments.
Monuments scheduled for review that are of interest to paddlers.
For the paddling community, the following Monuments are among those likely subject to the review that must be completed within 120 days (a preliminary report on Bears Ears is due in 45 days).
* Bears Ears National Monument in Utah, proclaimed by Obama in 2016 (1.35 million acres). One of the best family-friendly raft trips in Utah can be enjoyed on the San Juan River that forms the southern boundary of this National Monument.
* Berryessa Snow Mountain National Monument in California, proclaimed by Obama in 2015 (330,780 acres). Cache Creek flows through this National Monument.
* Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument, proclaimed by Clinton in 2000 and enlarged by Obama in 2017 (100,000 acres). The public lands surrounding the Upper Klamath River are included as part of this National Monument.
* Giant Sequoia National Monument in California, proclaimed by Clinton in 2000 (327,760 acres). A National Monument protecting 33 giant sequoia groves, the Middle Fork Tule flows through it with the Kern River to the eastern edge.
* Gold Butte National Monument in Nevada, proclaimed by Obama in 2016 (296,937 acres). Grand Canyon river runners who float to South Cove and spend their last night in Ice Box Canyon are close to this wild country held between the arms of Mead Reservoir representing the end of the Virgin and Colorado Rivers respectively.
* Grand Canyon-Parashant National Monument in Arizona, proclaimed by Clinton in 2000 (1 million acres). This National Monument north of Grand Canyon National Park extends along the Shivwits Plateau from Lava Falls down to Mead Reservoir.
* Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in Utah, proclaimed by President Clinton in 1996. (1.7 million acres). This National Monument includes the spectacular canyon country in Utah including the Escalante River that is known as an overnight trip for kayakers and pack rafters.
* Hanford Reach National Monument in Washington, proclaimed by Clinton in 2000 (194,450 acres). While not a whitewater reach, the last free-flowing stretch of the Columbia River is within this National Monument that provides opportunities for canoeing.
* Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument, proclaimed by Obama in 2016 (87,563 acres). This National Monument includes the East Branch of the Penobscot River. While this National Monument is below the 100,000 acre threshold, this Monument is being reviewed to "determine whether the designation was made without adequate public outreach."
* Rio Grande del Norte National Monument in New Mexico, proclaimed by Obama in 2013. (242,555 acres). The Wild and Scenic Rio Grande River, one of our nation’s original 8 Wild and Scenic Rivers, flows through this National Monument that includes the Taos Box run.
* Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument in Montana, proclaimed by Clinton in 2001 (377,346 acres). Although this section of the Missouri River is flatwater, it is a spectacular multi-day canoe trip and one of the few places left where one can experience a night under the stars at the same campsites Lewis and Clark used on their journey West in 1805.
* Vermilion Cliffs National Monument in Arizona, proclaimed by Clinton in 2000 (279,568 acres). The Paria River and the spectacular geology to the West of Lee’s Ferry on the Colorado River is included in this National Monument.
Other National Monuments to be Reviewed
A number of other National Monuments will be reviewed that are not known for their paddling opportunities but do include significant natural, cultural, or scientific features.
Basin and Range National Monument in Nevada, proclaimed by Obama in 2015 (703,585 acres); Canyons of the Ancients National Monument in Colorado, proclaimed by Clinton in 2000 (175,160 acres) in the southwest corner of Colorado near the Delores River; Carrizo Plain National Monument in California, proclaimed by Clinton in 2001 (204,107 acres); Craters of the Moon National Monument in Idaho, proclaimed by Coolidge in 1924 and enlarged by Clinton in 2000 (737,525); Ironwood Forest National Monument (128,917 acres) and Sonoran Desert National Monument (486,149 acres) in the Sonoran Desert west of Tucson, Arizona, proclaimed by Clinton in 2000 and 2001; Mojave Trails National Monument in California, proclaimed by Obama in 2016 (1.6 million acres); Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument in New Mexico, proclaimed by Obama in 2014 (496,330 acres); Sand to Snow National Monument in California, proclaimed by Obama in 2016 (154,000 acres); and San Gabriel Mountains National Monument in California, proclaimed by Obama in 2014 (346,177 acres).
Department of Commerce will lead the review of the Marine National Monuments in consultation with the Secretary of the Interior that include Marianas Trench Marine National Monument in the Pacific Ocean, proclaimed by Bush in 2009 (60.9 million acres); Northeast Canyons & Seamounts Marine National Monument in the Atlantic Ocean, proclaimed by Obama in 2016 (3.1 million acres); Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument in the Pacific Ocean, proclaimed by Bush in 2009 and enlarged by Obama in 2014. (55.6 million acres); Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument in the Pacific Ocean, proclaimed by President George W. Bush in 2006 and expanded by President Barack Obama in 2016, (89.6 million acres); and Rose Atoll Marine National Monument in American Samoa, proclaimed by Bush in 2009 (8.6 million acres).
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