Executive Order endangers national monuments

Since the Antiquities Act was created by Congress over a century ago, eight Republican and eight Democratic presidents have used it to safeguard iconic areas including the Statue of Liberty, Muir Woods, Death Valley, Joshua Tree, and the Grand Canyon.

While Congress can act to eliminate a monument, it has done so fewer than a dozen times since the law’s creation in 1906, more often opting to convert areas to national parks. The Antiquities Act does not authorize a President to rescind or modify a national monument – only Congress has that authority.

However, Trump’s April 26, 2017 Executive Order mandates review of monuments created since 1996 which exceed 100,000 acres. More than two dozen monuments could be subject to alterations in size, purpose or ways the land is used.

Eight monuments in California are threatened by the order: Berryessa Snow Mountain, Giant Sequoia, Cascade-Siskiyou, Carrizo Plain, San Gabriel Mountains, Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains, Sand to Snow, and Mojave Trails.

The very things that make these places so special is jeopardized if
important habitat, archaeological treasures, and waterways are carved out of the monuments and left unprotected, eliminating or shrinking national monuments short-circuits the will of local residents, hunters, anglers, business owners and recreationists who campaigned, in some cases for decades, for these monument designations.

A 2016 study from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government revealed that more than 93 percent of respondents want historical sites, public lands, and national parks protected for current and future generations.

Pennie Leachman

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