More changes for monuments?

Interior Secretary Zinke recommends additional changes for national monuments

Report outlines actions that would have far-reaching consequences for hunters and anglers

WASHINGTON D.C. — In a final report released to the public today, Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke recommended to President Trump that additional national monuments – those public lands managed to protect objects of scientific and historic interest while allowing traditional uses such as fishing, hunting and livestock grazing to continue – be modified.

While short on specifics, the report comes on the heels of yesterday’s announcement by the Trump Administration to reduce Utah’s Bears Ears National Monument by 85 percent and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument by 50 percent.

If implemented, the additional recommendations would have far-reaching consequences for America’s public lands and the hunters and anglers who value these special places.

“The report offers few specifics so we need to see what ‘boundary modifications’ follow. That said, it remains of concern for anglers who love to fish places such the Cascade-Siskiyou, Rio Grande del Norte, and Katahdin monuments,” said Chris Wood, President and CEO of Trout Unlimited. “The recommendations could also open the door for additional development activities that could potentially harm cold water fisheries. We are almost a year into this Administration and we have yet to see a discernible positive conservation agenda for the nation. Not only are we seeing attempts to erode protections for national monuments, but also efforts to expedite oil and gas development, weaken water quality rules, cut conservation science and funding, and degrade incredible landscapes such as Alaska’s Bristol Bay. Sportsmen and women are in this for the long haul and will continue to stand up for our hunting and fishing legacy.”

Secretary Zinke’s report was in response to an Executive Order issued on April 26, 2017 that initiated a review of twenty-seven national monument designations. Among the recommendations and next steps, the Secretary’s report included:

  • Modifying the boundaries of Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument in Oregon and Gold Butte in Nevada; specific acreages and locations were not provided. This is in addition to proclamations eliminating two million acres that were previously included in Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments in Utah.

  • Working with Congress to develop legislative changes that could weaken the Antiquities Act.

  • Amending proclamations to prioritize certain uses. Monuments targeted for this recommendation include the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument, Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks in New Mexico and Katahdin Woods and Waters in Maine.

  • Potentially creating three additional monuments, including Badger-Two Medicine in Montana, an area that Congress has already protected from future oil and gas leasing.

  • Continued review of management plans for additional national monuments.

“Some recommendations, such as prioritizing maintenance and repair, could be beneficial, but any attempt by the Administration to diminish national monuments is legally suspect and jeopardizes places revered by sportsmen and women,” said Corey Fisher, senior policy director for Trout Unlimited’s Sportsmen’s Conservation Project. “Recommendations to erode measures that conserve fish and wildlife habitat are troubling, especially after President Trump already cut protections for two million acres of public lands. Hunters and anglers know that places like Cascade-Siskiyou and Rio Grande del Norte National Monument offer great hunting and fishing and as long as they are national monuments, it’ll stay that way.

The Antiquities Act of 1906 is a law that has been used by presidents from both parties to protect some of America’s most iconic landscapes and best remaining public land hunting and fishing opportunities. Historically, the Antiquities Act has been a bipartisan tool for conservation and used to protect natural wonders and important fish and wildlife habitat on public lands across the country.

“When Congress has been unwilling or unable to enact conservation legislation, the Antiquities Act has provided a path to protect public land in the form of national monuments,” continued Wood. “The Antiquities Act is a powerful tool for conservation. Like any tool, it must be used appropriately, but it is important to keep it available for those times and places it is needed. Sportsmen and women will continue to engage the Administration and Congress in defense of our public lands and measures like the Antiquities Act that support conservation and our hunting and fishing heritage.”  

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By Shauna Stephenson. Shauna Stephenson has been a writer, photographer, communicator and conservationist for nearly two decades, the past decade being spent at Trout Unlimited, working on projects…