There may be no more polarizing debate within the outdoor industry than that surrounding national monuments. This discussion has taken on a national flavor, as President Trump recently asked for a review of 21 designated national monuments. Today we dig into why stakeholders either enthusiastically support or defend the review, as well as the designation of monuments themselves.
First off: what is a national monument? Under the Antiquities Act of 1906, a president can make any federally owned land a protected area to be managed by an agency like National Park Service or the United States Forest Service by designating it a “national monument.” Note that this is not the same as a national park. While presidents are able to designate national monuments, only congress can create national parks.
In 1908, President Theodore Roosevelt used this act to establish the Grand Canyon as a national monument. The act was used as recently as December 2016 by President Obama to designate almost 1.4 million acres in Utah as a national monument called Big Ears.
Many see President Trump’s request to review 21 existing national monuments as a reaction to President Obama’s late-term designation of Big Ears, which was controversial at the time. But what the review could mean for the monuments’ future is unclear. Past attorneys general have stated that while presidents are able to designate national monuments, they do not have the legal authority to abolish them. In any event, below are some stakeholders’ motivation for speaking out.
- National monument proponents think that their designation is important for conservation and protection, and could also drive eco-tourism dollars to their states
- Conservation includes not just wildlife, but also cultural conservation; in the case of Big Ears, the designated land contains archeological and tribal sites of historic significance
- National monument opponents think that the federal government is exercising overreaching power at the detriment of local communities, particularly in poor, rural areas
- They argue that federal land should be turned over to the states or sold off for commercial development
- Conservation organizations like the Wild Sheep Foundation also argue that designation limits land access, inhibiting scientific research, wildlife management, and outdoor recreation
What’s clear is that this issue has huge consequences at the local level. After Utah politicians voiced support for the Trump review and advocated for the abolishment of Big Ears, the Outdoor Industry Association pulled its semi-annual conference from Salt Lake City, costing Utah an estimated $45 million. So, no matter where you stand on this issue, it’s important to be informed as there could be real impacts to your local community.