Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke visiting Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument (Oregon), which he recently recommended for reduced protection.
Credit: Maria Thi Mai (BLM), flickr.
The Trump administration followed up the single biggest attack on public lands in American history in a fashion befitting the holiday season: by sharing a complete wish list of national monuments it wants to carve up for drilling and development.
Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke told reporters on Dec. 5 that along with Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments, he has recommended significantly altering Cascade-Siskiyou in Oregon and Gold Butte in Nevada.
Zinke also recommended major management changes for Katahdin Woods & Waters in Maine, Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks and Rio Grande del Norte in New Mexico, and marine monuments in both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.
Gold Butte National Monument (Nevada). Photo: Mason Cummings (TWS).
President Trump, an unconventional Santa, already delivered two huge gifts to mining and other interests earlier this week by acting on Zinke's recommendations and decimating Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments. He effectively eliminated Bears Ears and divided Grand Staircase-Escalante into three small parcels totaling about half its original acreage. The new, complete list is a good indication of where his presidential sleigh will alight next.
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With these recommendations filed, President Trump may now take action again and make unilateral, unlawful cuts to other monuments on the list. Otherwise, anti-public lands lawmakers in Congress will probably try to introduce legislation to the same end. Either way, the American people, who largely opposed the Trump administration's review of monuments, can expect a big lump of coal in their stockings.
Inconsistent holiday analogies aside, this is a staggering onslaught aimed at the heart of American public lands, and acts as a call to arms for those of us who love them.
The Wilderness Society has already filed a lawsuit challenging the Trump administration’s efforts to gut Grand Staircase-Escalante; we will be suing to defend Bears Ears shortly. You can expect challenges to future monument cuts as well.
Monuments Zinke recommended reducing:
Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument (Oregon). The first site protected under the Antiquities Act specifically to preserve biodiversity, Cascade-Siskiyou contains several distinct types of terrain, ranging from grassland to mixed conifer and white fir forests, harboring elk, bobcats, black bears and a dizzying array of birds. It has been targeted by the timber industry for years.
Gold Butte National Monument (Nevada). In recent years, Gold Butte has suffered from extensive vandalism of historic and cultural sites and reckless off-road vehicle use. National monument status was conferred to help preserve these resources, which include thousands of Native American petroglyphs. The monument also contains habitat for rare and threatened wildlife such as the Mojave desert tortoise and desert bighorn sheep. All this is at risk with changes in Gold Butte's protected status.
Monuments for which Zinke recommended management changes:
Katahdin Woods and Waters National Moument (Maine). Katahdin is one of the largest tracts of undeveloped wildlands in the eastern U.S. It provides a vital and vast habitat for moose, lynx, bears and Atlantic salmon, and is a beautiful place to go hiking, hunting and fishing, as well as skiing and snowmobiling. Politicians aligned with Trump have suggested they would use the land for commercial timber harvesting if monument protections were relaxed.
Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument (New Mexico). Covers an array of dramatic wildlands ranging from juniper-dotted volcanic mountains to rugged box canyons. Home to mountain lions, mule deer, golden eagles and rare desert plants. Prized by hunters, hikers, climbers and other outdoor enthusiasts. Threats like road construction and irresponsible off-road vehicle use loom with protections reduced.
Rio Grande del Norte (New Mexico). This monument in Northern New Mexico boasts the stunning Rio Grande Gorge, a spectacle that plunges 800 feet from sage covered mesas down to the Rio Grande River. The monument ensures outstanding rafting and fishing in northern New Mexico.
Pacific Remote Islands National Monument. Nearly 1,000 miles southwest of Hawaii, Pacific Remote Islands National Monument and the surrounding waters are home to a large population of sharks, rays and other predatory fish, the depletion of which threatens ocean ecosystems across the planet. This lesser-known paradise teems with atolls and reefs hosting a diverse array of life
Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument. Encompasses a series of underwater canyons and seamounts (inactive, submerged volcanoes jutting from the ocean floor) near where the continental shelf plummets into the depths of the Atlantic Ocean, this area benefits from oxygen- and nutrient-rich cold sea water as well as the fact that much of it has been spared from human disruption, making it a priceless place for scientific study and preservation of rare species.
Rose Atoll Marine National Monument. Established by President George W. Bush near the end of his time in office, Rose Atoll Marine National Monument encompasses the Rose Atoll National Wildlife Refuge, and is a nesting site for rare species of petrels, shearwaters and terns.