Trump orders review of monuments
— Power returning to states with report due in 120 days
“Today I’m signing a new executive order to end another egregious abuse of federal power and to give that power back to the states and to the people, where it belongs.”
These were the words of President Donald Trump on April 26 as he prepared to sign the “Presidential executive order on the review of designations under the Antiquities Act.” Flanked by Vice
President Mike Pence and Secretary of Interior Ryan Zinke, he made his remarks before a gathering of senators, representatives and governors representing rural America.
“The previous administration used a 100-year-old law known as the Antiquities Act to unilaterally put millions of acres of land and water under strict federal control—have you heard about that?—eliminating the ability of the people who actually live in those states to decide how best to use that land,” Trump continued.
“Today, we are putting the states back in charge. It’s a big thing.”
He specifically mentioned former President Barack Obama’s designation of the Bear Ears National Monument in December of last year. That 1.35-millionacre designation was done in spite of “the profound objections of the citizens of Utah,” Trump said.
The executive order consists of two sections. Section 1 explains that “designations that result from a lack of public outreach and proper coordination with state, tribal, and local officials and other relevant stakeholders” can “create barriers to achieving energy independence, restrict public access to and use of federal lands, burden state, tribal, and local governments, and otherwise curtail economic growth.”
“Designations should be made in accordance with the requirements and original objectives of the Act,” it states, “and appropriately balance the protection of landmarks, structures, and objects against the appropriate use of federal lands and the effects on surrounding lands and communities.”
Section 2 calls upon Zinke to perform a review of every monument designated since 1996 that covers more than 100,000 acres or that was made or expanded “without adequate public outreach and coordination with relevant stakeholders…” The order directs the secretary to consider the following points:
• The requirements and original objectives of the Act, including the Act’s requirement that reservations of land not exceed “the smallest area compatible with the proper care and management of the objects to be protected;”
• Whether designated lands are appropriately classified under the Act as “historic landmarks, historic and prehistoric structures, [or] other objects of historic or scientific interest;”
• The effects of a designation on the available uses of designated federal lands, including consideration of the multiple-use policy of … the Federal Land Policy and Management Act …, as well as the effects on the available uses of federal lands beyond the monument boundaries;
• The effects of a designation on the use and enjoyment of non-federal lands within or beyond monument boundaries;
• Concerns of state, tribal, and local governments affected by a designation including the economic development and fiscal condition of affected states, tribes, and localities;
• The availability of federal resources to properly manage designated areas; and
• Such other factors as the secretary deems appropriate.
The order goes on to direct Zinke to consult and coordinate with the governors and local officials of the affected states and localities.
Within 120 days of the order (late August), Zinke is to provide the president a final report summarizing the findings of his review. The report is to include “recommendations for such presidential actions, legislative proposals, or other actions consistent with law as the secretary may consider appropriate...”
An “interim report” will be provided to the president within 45 days, or in mid- June.
Livestock industry support
The order has been hailed by groups such as PLC (Public Lands Council) and NCBA (National Cattlemen’s Beef Association), which issued a press release stating that the Obama administration alone “[locked] up 256 million acres of land and water in 30 separate designations.”
The groups pointed to two specific monuments that could be affected by the order. One was the 1.9-millionacre Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in Utah, designated by President Bill Clinton in 1996. Livestock grazing on the monument has since been reduced from 106,000 Animal Unit Months (AUMs) to just 35,000 AUMs, according to PLC and NCBA.
The groups also mentioned the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument, located in Oregon and Northern California. It was initially created by Clinton and amounted to 53,000 acres—until Obama expanded it by another 48,000 acres in his final weeks in office.
“This expansion will effectively prohibit logging on approximately 35,000 acres, adding to the risk of wildfire as fuel loads increase, and negatively affecting the economy of multiple counties within the monument,” the groups asserted. It has also had negative impacts on grazing.
PLC and NCBA added that, while the order is an important first step, Congress must act to bring the Antiquities Act back to its original intent. They pointed specifically to a bill introduced by Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), S. 33, the Improved National Monument Designation Process Act. It would require congressional approval of new designations.
Words from Zinke
Zinke issued a press release following the President’s signing.
“Part of being a good steward is being a good neighbor and being a good listener,” he said. “In the Trump administration, we listen and then we act. For years, the people of Utah and other rural communities have voiced concern and opposition to some monument designations. But too often in recent history, exiting presidents make designations despite those concerns.”
Under Trump’s leadership, Zinke promised, he will work with local, state and tribal governments to review monument designations made over the past 20 years and “make sure they work for the local communities.” — Theodora Johnson, WLJ Correspondent