It’s Not Over: An Update on the DOI’s National Monuments Recommendations

It’s not over yet. On Sunday, a leaked copy of the Department of Interior (DOI) Secretary Zinke’s recommendations on national monuments was obtained by The Washington Post, and revealed his plan to vastly reduce the boundaries of at least four monuments. The recommendations came after Zinke received more than 2.8 million public comments, with over 99% of Americans urging for maintained protection. Zinke’s recommendations are unprecedented in American history, and could boost drilling, mining and timber harvesting in some of our nation’s most ecologically and historically important lands.

COMM DM Blog2 Image 2015 01In California, Zinke recommended eliminating large portions of the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument, which crosses the state border into Oregon, opening it up to“traditional uses” like mining, logging and drilling. However, aside from Cascade-Siskiyou, none of the six other California monuments, including Giant Sequoia National Monument, are addressed in the draft report.

This may seem worth celebrating, but the reality is it leaves these and other monuments open to future boundary and management changes. The release expressed the DOI’s intent to review management plans and alter the protective nature of the monuments, potentially impacting all of California’s national monuments. SBC continues to oppose this administration’s arbitrary review process and apparent disregard for the economic, environmental and historical value of protected public lands. There’s also the lack of transparency to consider: why weren’t the recommendations made public when they were first received on August 24th?

The monuments recommended for reduction include Bears Ears (UT), Grand Staircase (UT), Gold Butte (NV), and Cascade-Siskiyou (OR/CA). The document additionally recommends management changes for Organ Mountains (NM) that would incorporate mandatory minimums for grazing (hugely increasing the amount there of), Rio Grande (NM) that would allow uses like mining, logging, and drilling in protected areas, Katahdin (ME) that would expand commercial logging, and the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts that would allow for commercial fishing.

We can support maintaining these monuments by calling on the White House to reject Zinke’s recommendations, maintain the monuments as they stand, and support funding to utilize established management plans.

Giant Sequoia National Monument holds a great example of current management opportunities. In September of 2012 the United States Forest Service released the Giant Sequoia National Monument Management Plan to guide restoration efforts for the giant sequoia ecosystems, watersheds, habitat for old growth dependent wildlife, and protection of adjacent mountain communities through forest management including thinning and prescribed fire. Properly funded, this plan would mitigate fire risks and protect the endemic giant sequoia.

The value of public lands in attracting visitors and supporting local businesses is well documented. In the Sierra, the Giant Sequoia and Kings Canyon region attracts millions of visitors a year who stay in hotels, buy gear, eat in local restaurants and patronize local businesses. The national monuments recommended for modifications offer similar economic drivers. Stripping protection from these exquisite natural sites and leaving others open to modification risks that income along with our natural heritage.

The fight for our national monuments is not over. It’s time to let our federal political leaders know that an arbitrary review process that ignores public comment then hides its recommendations is unacceptable. It’s time to let the White House know that we reject these recommendations, support our public lands, and await real answers.