Over the past week 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
Then on May 5th, Secretary Zinke made a formal annoucment of a public comment period that will
begin on May 12th. Comments
may be submitted online after May 12 <www.regulations.gov> by
entering “DOI-2017-0002” in the Search bar and clicking “Search,” or by
mail to Monument Review, MS-1530, U.S. Department of the Interior, 1849 C Street NW, Washington,
DC 20240 (read
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
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).
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
, 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
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
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
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.
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
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
, 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
* 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.
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
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
in California, proclaimed by Clinton in 2001 (204,107
acres); Craters of the Moon National
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
in California, proclaimed by Obama in 2016 (1.6 million acres); Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks
in New Mexico, proclaimed by Obama in 2014 (496,330
acres); Sand to Snow National
in California, proclaimed by Obama in 2016 (154,000 acres); and San Gabriel Mountains
in California, proclaimed by Obama in 2014 (346,177 acres).