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update: on the national monument review

Emily Degan

Over the summer, we told you about one of the biggest debates in the outdoor industry: President Trump’s request to review the designation of 27 national monuments. Opponents of the review worried that the protection and conservation of federally owned, undeveloped land was in jeopardy, while proponents saw it as an opportunity to end federal government overreach in their local communities. 

In August, Secretary of the Interior, Ryan Zinke, completed his review and recommended reducing the size of 6 national monuments. When his reduction memo leaked in September, we found out which six: Big Ears (Utah, whose late-term Obama designation was controversial), Grand Staircase-Escalante (also Utah), Gold Butte (Nevada), Cascade-Siskiyou (Oregon), and two marine monuments in the Pacific Ocean. Zinke also recommended to changes to several other sites, including New Mexico’s Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks and Rio Grande del Norte and Maine’s Katahdin Woods and Waters. 

President Trump’s request to review was based on what he saw as past presidential overreach in the use of the Antiquities Act, a claim Secretary Zinke appeared to support: “No president should use the authority under the Antiquities Act to restrict public access, prevent hunting and fishing, burden private land, or eliminate traditional land uses, uncles such action is needed to protect.” Zinke declined to comment on whether portions of reduced monuments would be opened up to drilling, mining, logging, or other industrial use. 

In December, President Trump announced his plans to follow Secretary Zinke’s recommendations and reduce size of certain national monuments, including an 80% reduction to Big Ears and a 45% reduction to Grand Staircase-Escalante. But for now, actions related to reduction appear to be on hold, as President Trump’s decision was quickly met with lawsuits from Native American tribes, conservation groups, and retailers, who claim the President doesn’t have the authority to make the proposed changes.

On 19 occasions, past presidents have reduced the size of existing national monuments, but those reductions were smaller than those proposed by Trump and were typically offset by enlargements elsewhere.

We’ll let you know if anything changes…,