The Senate has released its budget plan for 2018, which proposes opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling to help pay for the $1.5 trillion in tax cuts. For congressional leaders wishing to drill in the Arctic, the budget process is the vehicle of choice as it only requires 51 votes to pass and cannot be filibustered. Any other effort to approve Arctic drilling would require 60 votes, a feat proven impossible for more than three decades. So, with 52 Republican seats in the Senate, and the tie-breaking vote in the hands of Vice President Mike Pence, the Arctic faces its greatest threat to date. Ninety Conservation Alliance members and recreation organizations have joined us in a letter asking Congress to keep the Arctic Refuge out of the 2018 budget process.
Utah Congressman Rob Bishop, Chair of the House Committee on Natural Resources, introduced legislation yesterday that would eviscerate the Antiquities Act. Bishop’s bill, the National Monument Creation and Protection Act (HR 3990), would: impose size restrictions on National Monuments; eliminate natural or geologic features as objects that qualify for protection; require county and state approval for any National Monument over 10,000 acres; and give the President unprecedented authority to shrink existing National Monuments. If it passes, HR 3990 will invalidate the Antiquities Act as an important tool for conservation, and put all existing National Monuments at risk.
The House Natural Resource Committee will vote on HR 3990 tomorrow, Wednesday, October 11th at 4 PM EST. Please call your representative in the House at 202.224.3121 and let them know that you oppose HR 3990. Tomorrow’s vote is only the first of many steps required to pass this bill, but it is important that we send a message to our members of Congress that we oppose this misguided proposal.
For more than a century, the Antiquities Act has given presidents the authority to preserve special places for their cultural, archaeological, biological, and scientific values. Grand Canyon, Joshua Tree, Arches, Capitol Reef, Grand Teton, and Zion National Parks were all first protected as National Monuments, an later upgraded to park status. Since President Theodore Roosevelt signed it into law in 1906, 16 presidents from both parties have used the Antiquities Act to designate National Monuments, which have become some of our most important landscapes for outdoor recreation and wildlife habitat. Chairman Bishop’s proposal would halt this 100-year history of bipartisan work to preserve America’s natural and cultural heritage.
By including language to give presidents the authority to change the boundaries of existing National Monuments, Bishop’s bill concedes that President Trump does currently have that power. Earlier this year, Trump ordered Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to review 27 National Monuments to determine whether some of their boundaries should change. Trump is expected to attempt to shrink four National Monuments, including two in Bishop’s home state of Utah. Any attempt by Trump to reduce the size of monuments will immediately be challenged in court, and a group of 121 leading conservation law experts agree that he will lose. During that monument review, 2.8 million Americans submitted comments, and 99 percent of those comments urged Trump to leave our National Monuments alone. Bishop’s bill ignores the fact that the vast majority of Americans love their National Monuments, want them unchanged, and want future presidents to have the same authority to protect more lands and waters for future generations.
Bishop’s bill is the latest in what we expect to be a steady stream of attacks on our conservation laws and our public lands system. If you care about public lands and outdoor recreation, we ask that you call your House representative at 202.224.3121 and let them know you oppose HR 3990, and any other effort to undermine the Antiquities Act.
Last week, the US Senate released its budget plan for 2018, which proposes opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling to help pay for $1.5 trillion in tax cuts. Senate Republicans, who have long sought to open America’s most pristine wilderness to oil rigs, are cynically using the budget process to win approval for Arctic drilling, which would never pass through normal order. Why? Because according to the Senate’s terribly confusing rules, a budget bill requires only 51 votes to pass, and cannot be filibustered. (Filibuster: an action such as a prolonged speech that obstructs progress in a legislative assembly.) Any other effort to approve drilling in the Arctic would require 60 votes, which has proven impossible for over three decades. So, with 52 Republican seats in the Senate, and the tie-breaking vote in the hands of Vice President Mike Pence, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge has never been more threatened. The House of Representatives’ version of the budget also includes Arctic drilling.
We can stop this assault on our most remote and wild natural landscape – but we need to act quickly.
Senate Democrats overwhelmingly oppose Arctic drilling, and a small number of moderate Republicans are either undecided or think the budget process is an inappropriate venue to decide whether to despoil America’s great wildlife refuge.
We have two opportunities to protect the Arctic Refuge from oil rigs: 1) Ask our Senators to strike Arctic drilling from the budget bill, and 2) If #1 fails, ask our Senators to vote down the entire budget bill.
1. Convince the Senate to strike the drilling provision from the budget bill.
PHONE CALLS! Please make eight important phone calls, TODAY.
As early as the week of October 16th, the Senate will consider amendments to the budget bill that would remove the Arctic drilling provision. Between now and then, we need to do everything we can to ensure Senate Democrats support that provision, and we need to convince three Senate Republicans to join them.
Please call your own Senators with this message (202.224.3121): I was incredibly disappointed to hear that the Senate intends to use the budget process to try and open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling. I oppose any bill that would open the Arctic Refuge to oil drilling. Specifically, please keep drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge out of the budget process.
Most importantly, give these Republicans a call with the same message:
Susan Collins, Maine – (202) 224-2523
John McCain, Arizona – (202) 224-2235
Lindsay Graham, South Carolina – (202) 224-5972
Cory Gardner, Colorado – (202) 224-5941
Jeff Flake, Arizona – (202) 224-4521
Dean Heller, Nevada – (202) 224-6244
SOCIAL MEDIA! Join us in a social media day of action for the Arctic on Thursday, October 12th.
If you haven’t already, sign-up for Promoboxx – it’s a wonderful tool that allows Conservation Alliance members to share curated content from us, with a single click of a button. Signing up is simple, just visit conservationalliancecontent.com. Promoboxx is home to a complete Arctic Refuge social media toolkit. We are encouraging our community to join us in a social media day of action for the Arctic on Thursday, October 12th.
Not on Promoboxx but want the Arctic content? Email Kirsten at firstname.lastname@example.org
2. If we can’t get it out of the budget, convince 51 members of the Senate to vote against the entire budget bill.
If the amendments fail, we will have one final chance to protect the Arctic Refuge from oil drilling. That would require that 51 Senators vote no on the budget. The same moderate Republicans will be the targets under this scenario, with the addition of Bob Corker (Tennessee), Lamar Alexander (Tennessee), and Rob Portman (Ohio). (If you want to include Corker, Alexander, and Portman in your calls right away, you get extra credit. We just thought it was a lot to ask people to make 11 phone calls).
You will hear from us several times as this process unfolds. The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge has been in the crosshairs for nearly 40 years, and this is the greatest threat it has faced to date. Drilling proponents came close to opening the Refuge to drilling in 2005, but our community of outdoor enthusiasts, businesses, and conservation groups succeeded in fending off that threat. To succeed again, we need everyone to step up like never before.
Thank you for your participation in this important effort.
We are proud to report that to date, 90 of our members and recreation organization friends have joined us in a letter to Leader Mitch McConnell and Speaker Paul Ryan, asking them to keep the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge out of the budget. Don’t see your name? Add your voice here: https://goo.gl/forms/AeQglhJicRVqmfTD2
The Conservation Alliance awarded the Pacific Crest Trail Association a $50,000 grant in September 2016 to support their Pacific Crest Trail-Trinity Divide land acquisition project. This purchase, in partnership with the landowner, will permanently protect 10,600 acres, the headwaters of four rivers, 17 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), nine alpine lakes, and numerous mountain meadows and springs. Megan Wargo, the Director of Land Protection for the Pacific Crest Trail Association, explains why conservation of this area is so crucial and how you can support this effort and other public land acquisition projects funded by the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF).
For most of the 2,650 miles of the PCT from Mexico to Canada, you can experience some of the most sublime outdoor scenery in the world. But in far too many spots along the way, this experience is being threatened by development, clear cuts, inappropriate barriers and unsafe road walks. Nearly 50 years after the 1968 Congressional designation of the PCT as one of the first National Scenic Trails, it is still not completely protected. Approximately 10 percent of the trail remains on private land with little in place to help protect the trail experience for future generations.
In most cases, there are trail easements on these private parcels that grant hikers and equestrians the right to pass through. However, many of these easements are less than 30 feet wide and do not protect the larger landscapes surrounding the trail. New construction and development could happen at any time on private property along the PCT. If it does, it could forever alter the trail experience.
Trinity Divide—Many Public Benefits
The Pacific Crest Trail Association (PCTA), The Trust for Public Land, the Michigan-California Timber Company and the U.S. Forest Service are spearheading the effort to protect this northern California timber property that includes 17 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail, and we’ve secured funding for the first of three phases for this important project.
The Michigan-California Timber Company (MCTC) is seeking to sell and protect its Trinity Divide property just west of Mount Shasta, where today, the PCT threads a narrow 10-foot-wide private easement along a scenic ridge with expansive views of mountains, lakes and forests.
You might not know it if you were out there, but starting just north of the Gumboot trailhead and continuing for nearly 30 miles to the Scott Mountain trailhead, PCT users pass through a checkerboard of public and private land.
The checkerboard ownership pattern is the legacy of the 1862 railroad land grants, which gave every other section of federal land along a proposed rail corridor to the railroad companies. It was a way of opening the West to settlement and development as well as increasing the value of the remaining public land in a bygone era. In more modern times, this public-private land pattern has created problems for public access and ecological management across the western United States, and is the leading cause for private inholdings within national forest boundaries.
The Trinity Divide is a key property for the protection of the PCT that includes many public benefits:
Acquire 10,600 acres—more than 16 square miles—for hiking, fishing, horseback riding, hunting, camping and exploration. The land would be added to the Klamath and Shasta-Trinity national forests.
Secure a protected corridor for the PCT along 30 miles of the trail, 17 of which cross private property on a narrow right-of-way easement.
Conserve wildlife habitat of renowned biological diversity, including: meadows, lush valleys, low marshes and cold water springs.
Protect waters for four river systems, including salmon and steelhead habitats in the Trinity and Klamath river basins.
Open new public access to 10 alpine lakes that are on private property.
Enhance access to existing public lands through the potential to develop new loop hikes using the Sisson-Callahan Trail, which crosses these private lands.
Land and Water Conservation Fund – First Phase Secured
An acquisition project of this size is generally accomplished over many years and purchased in phases. We are excited to tell you that we’ve secured $4.5 million in federal funding for the first phase of the project through the Land and Water Conservation Fund. The PCTA, The Trust for Public Land and MCTC worked with the Forest Service to submit a request for LWCF dollars for the 2017 federal Fiscal Year. It’s the largest appropriation the PCT has ever received in a single year and the largest appropriation for a Forest Service project this year.
The LWCF sets aside a small percentage of the royalties from offshore energy production for state and federal conservation programs. Think of it as a mitigation program. Oil and gas explorers pay the American people for the rights to extract energy with the realistic expectation of environmental impacts, and then a small portion of what they pay is set aside to preserve land elsewhere that might otherwise be developed or exploited. For more than 50 years, the LWCF has protected parks, forests, wildlife refuges, public lands and other community spaces through locally driven conservation efforts. Without spending any tax dollars, this program supports water quality enhancement, protection of fish and wildlife habitat, agriculture and forestry on private lands and access to public land for recreation.
The LWCF is an overwhelmingly popular program with the American people and has maintained bipartisan support in Congress. The omnibus appropriations bill for Fiscal Year 2017, which Congress passed in April, included $400 million for LWCF.
Fiscal Year 2018 Land and Water Conservation Fund—What Can You Do to Help?
The LWCF will be a crucial part of the funding needed to complete the Trinity Divide protection project. While we continue to move forward on the first phase of the acquisition, efforts are already underway to try and secure LWCF funding for our second phase of the project. This acquisition remains a high priority nationally for the U.S. Forest Service, however, federal land acquisition is not a priority for the current administration.
The president’s Fiscal Year 2018 budget proposal calls for drastic cuts for federal land acquisition programs. The president’s budget would gut the LWCF by 84 percent. This funding level would cover administrative costs only, no new land acquisitions. Failure to fund the LWCF in Fiscal Year 2018 and provide continued funding to the Trinity Divide project, could mean a lost opportunity to acquire and protect this property forever.
The House has approved a FY2018 Interior Appropriations bill that would fund LWCF at $275 million, far below the $900 million allowed under the program. While the House vote is a welcome rejection of the administration’s proposal, it would still cut LWCF by 32% over FY2017 levels. The Senate Appropriations process is still underway. Senate Interior Appropriations Committees are working with agency leaders now to prepare the FY2018 Interior Appropriations Bill, which includes the LWCF. Your congressional representatives need to hear from you. Tell them that the LWCF and the legacy of the Pacific Crest Trail and our public lands are important to you. Here’s a searchable website that will help you find contact information for your senators and Congress members.
Please contact your representatives in the House and the Senate to insist on:
—At least $400 million in overall funding for LWCF consistent with Fiscal Year 2017 funding levels.
—$54.8 million allocated for 72 projects along national scenic and historic trails, including the Pacific Crest Trail Trinity Divide Project in Siskiyou and Trinity counties in California.
—Permanent reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund: H.R. 502 and S. 569 amend the Land and Water Conservation Fund Act of 1965 to permanently reauthorize the LWCF.
President Trump’s unprecedented review of National Monuments has dominated our communications this year, and for good reason. We invested a lot of our members’ funds in efforts to secure many of these monument designations. But, preserving our existing National Monuments is only part of our conservation agenda. We take a defensive stance when necessary, but our top priority has always been to secure new protections for special wild places. And that’s exactly what we’re doing concurrently with our defensive efforts on National Monuments. Here’s a snapshot of what we’ll be working on for the remainder of 2017 and into 2018.
Conservation Legislation: Members of Congress have introduced 11 separate bills that would secure new Wilderness, National Monument, and Wild and Scenic River designations, and put special places off limits to any mining activity. These bills would permanently protect special wildlands in Washington, Oregon, Montana, New Mexico, Tennessee, California, Arizona, and Alaska. We expect additional legislation to be introduced this year that would preserve Wilderness and rivers in Colorado, Idaho, and California. We are excited to see that two of these bills – protecting 20,000 acres of Wilderness in Tennessee and 100,000 acres of steelhead habitat in Oregon – are included in a bipartisan Energy and Natural Resources bill, which has already had a hearing in the Senate.
Land and Water Conservation Fund: That same package of Energy and Natural Resources bills includes a provision that would permanently reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which is set to expire in 2018.
Federal Land Management Planning: Despite the chaos in Washington, DC, our land managing agencies – the Forest Service and BLM – continue to develop new plans for the lands under their management. This management planning is open to the public, and provides an opportunity for our grantees and their supporters to influence how those lands are managed for the life of that plan, usually 20-25 years. Our funding is supporting organizations working to secure new protections through management plans in North Carolina, New Mexico, Colorado, Oregon, Maine, Montana, and California.
Private Land Acquisition: With dysfunction in Congress and a White House hostile to conservation, we have invested more of our funding in private land acquisitions. These projects generally do not rely on action from Congress or the White House, and give us the opportunity to support meaningful conservation until the politics for conservation improve. We are monitoring acquisition efforts nationwide. Please check out our grants page for a summary of these exciting efforts.
Oh Canada!: The Conservation Alliance funds projects throughout North America, which gives us the latitude to support exciting conservation work in Canada where there is less political resistance to protecting land and waters. Our grants are at work to protect the Peel River Watershed in the Yukon Territories (14 million acres), Thaidene Nene in Northwest Territories (7.4 million acres), the Magpie River Watershed in Quebec (400,000 acres), the Bay of Fundy in New Brunswick, and the Bighorn Wildland in Alberta (2.7 million acres), and the Flathead Valley in British Columbia (100,000 acres). The landscape-scale protection opportunities in Canada are huge, and we are excited to help these projects cross the finish line.
Arctic National Wildlife Refuge: Our new National Monuments are not the only places that are under attack from Congress and a willing Trump Administration. The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is once again in the crosshairs as members of Congress seek to open the Refuge’s embattled Coastal Plain to oil drilling. Before the end of 2017, we expect Congress to include Arctic drilling in the complicated budgeting process, which requires only 51 Senate votes to pass. We will work with our member companies to urge Congress to keep the Arctic drilling proposal out of the budgeting process.
As you can see, we are busy on many fronts, challenging efforts to remove protections for special wild places, while supporting efforts to secure new protections. As always, we thank all of our members for participating in these efforts. Together, we are committed to Keeping it Wild!
Many people ask themselves if signing a petition or going to a protest can actually make a difference. We saw proof of this recently. Yes! It can make a real difference – and what’s more, at an unbelievable speed!
The Quebec section of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (aka CPAWS Quebec) has been working hard for more than ten years to protect the Magpie River, a pristine river in the heart of the Canadian boreal forest. It is located on the ancestral land of the Innu First Nation. These people have known the river, which they call Mutehekau Shipu, for centuries. The Magpie River is ranked among the best rivers in the world for whitewater expeditions by many magazines, including the prestigious National Geographic. I sometimes call it our Canadian “Colorado River”.
A Tale of Patience and Perseverance
Unfortunately, as is the case for many whitewater destinations, there were plans to dam the river. However, we have always thought of the Magpie River as a sustainable and long term recreational project which will diversify the economy of northern regions – too often dependent upon temporary resource extraction.
The list of actions taken to protect the Magpie River, with the help of partners such as Conservation Alliance, is impressive: participation in public hearings, launch of a petition, organized trips on the river with the media and important stakeholders, numerous meetings with politicians, public conferences and promotional campaigns, reports, studies and press releases, etc. Some people say it takes a lot of patience to work on files concerning protected areas. I could not agree more. A government official once told me that the average time to create a protected area in Quebec is ten years!
An Unexpected Ending
Two weeks ago, we decided that we needed to increase the pressure and send a clear message that damming a world class river is not an option. Since we believe that a message is more likely to be heard when it is positive and original, we decided to plan a “flash mob” in front of the state energy company, Hydro Quebec. We brought a rafting boat, paddlers, a symbolic giant river, a drum troop and a foam machine along with us. We brought the river and its voice with us.
We were heard! My speech was interrupted by one of my colleagues announcing to me that Hydro-Quebec came down to tell us they were not planning to dam the Magpie River anymore. At first I thought it was a joke, but an official from the state company was offered the microphone and said exactly that, in front of the cameras and the cheering crowd.
So yes, taking to the streets can make a difference. In our case, it was incredibly fast. The fight for the Magpie River is not over until it is fully and legally protected. But this is a giant step and the main obstacle to protecting the river has now been removed. It is up to us to tell the Quebec government that they have all the arguments they need to protect the river once and for all.
Last week I had the great pleasure of visiting Peak Design, an uber cool design and carry brand based in the heart of San Francisco, and a proud Conservation Alliance member. I showed up on a sunny Thursday morning to deliver a Public Lands 101 presentation and left completely blown away by the positive change these guys are making.
First of all the brand’s story is amazing.
Peak Design was catalyzed when a nice Midwestern guy named Peter Dering took his DLSR camera on a four month trip around the world. Peter returned home to San Francisco, quit his job, designed a revolutionary camera clip for 10 months, then put it on Kickstarter. It exploded, Peak Design was crowdfunded.
Six Kickstarter campaigns later, Peak Design has become the world’s most crowdfunded active company ($14M raised!). Peak Design has over 50 amazing products, 25 rad employees in San Francisco’s Dogpatch neighborhood and hundreds of manufacturers around the world.
While the growth story is impressive, the values that carry Peak Design and its family forward, blew me away. Their website states: the purpose of Peak Design is to create happy, meaningful lives for the people that work there. This purpose breeds an incredible culture. They often share breakfast together – like we did the morning I was there (from the delicious Neighbor Bakerhouse next door). Among other cool things, a small climbing wall and hang board duo offer productive work breaks.
I learned their mission from Peter, their founder. It has six parts:
Make the best things.
Succeed at the expense of nobody.
Treat our customers as peers.
Offset our environmental impact.
Use our voice to inspire positive change.
Prioritize happiness over growth.
At the Conservation Alliance, we are especially excited about and grateful for their Give A Shot platform – which connects photographers with nonprofit organizations in need of stunning photography. Many Conservation Alliance grantees have benefited from the platform. Check it out if your organization is in need of some lovely photography!
As an added bonus, my visit overlapped with their annual SUMM1T event – which was instigated by their 1% for the Planet partnership and has morphed into a night of celebration, inspiration, and collaboration between creatives, businesses, and environmentalists. This year served as an opportunity to highlight the formal launch Give A Shot.
A few hundred passionate folks filled a venue with an impressive gallery of photos. All were captivated by Xiuhtezcatl Martinez – the 17 year-old climate activist, hip hop artist, director of Earth Guardians, author and overall incredible human being. He prompted us to think of climate change as a people issue.
We couldn’t be more proud to have Peak Design in the family, or more inspired by their values.
The Conservation Alliance awarded The Nature Conservancy in North Carolina a $40,000 grant in April 2017 to support the protection and restoration of old-growth bald cypress swamps and mature bottomland hardwoods along the Black River. The update is by Avery Lennard, Philanthropy and Communications Liaison at The Nature Conservancy.
In 1985, Dr. David Stahle from the University of Arkansas published a paper in Science with results of his dendrochronology work in the southeast United States. He sought out and cored old, solid cypress trees to study past climate patterns. His work helped him discover the oldest known tree in eastern North America – a cypress on the Black River that dates to before 364 A.D. Although they cannot be cored, researchers suspect there are hollowed trees on the river more than 2,000 years old.
Defying the Odds
The old-growth forest is incredible, perhaps most so because of its location. Much of southeastern United States was systematically logged in the 19th century, and yet somehow the Black River cypress remain standing. It may have been the difficulty of extracting trees from swampy areas along the river that deterred the logging companies.
Unfortunately, today’s shovel logging techniques can get into places formerly inaccessible. There is renewed danger that unprotected trees that have stood the test of time along the Black River and nearby streams could now fall victim to shovel logging.
Standing for Nature and People
The importance of the ancient cypress surpasses their age. The Black River is designated as an Outstanding Resource Water (ORW), the state’s highest water classification. The river offers exceptional and varied habitats, is home to a diverse array of aquatic life, and has excellent water quality. The lower stretch of the river is home to 5 rare mussel species tracked by the Natural Heritage Program, Atlantic Pigtoe (Fusconaia masoni), Cape Fear Spike (Elliptio marsupiobesa), Pod Lance (E. folliculata), Eastern Lampmussel (Lampsilis radiata) and Yellow Lampmussel (L. cariosa). The ancient cypress are part of the forest system that buffers the river, limiting nutrients and other pollutants from flowing into the water. This has become increasingly more important as large agricultural operations have moved into the area.
The trees also provide a source of income for nearby businesses. Not surprisingly, the Black River has become a well-known place for recreational boating, especially the lower portion where the old-growth cypress are concentrated. Paddlers from near and far regularly visit this stretch of river to witness the beauty of these forests and the wildlife they support. These visitors help build the local economy.
Protecting the Ancient
Recognizing the uniqueness of the old-growth forest and a need for action, The Nature Conservancy has been protecting land along the Black River since the early 1990s. The North Carolina Chapter has purchased more than 8,000 acres of land along the Black River and more than 8,000 acres of land on its tributaries, totaling more than 150 miles of stream frontage within the basin.
The Conservancy actively manages 2,835 acres of land along the river, known as the Black River Preserve. With the support of the Conservation Alliance, the Conservancy recently added 410 acres of land to the preserve. This land has a river access point known as Sparkleberry Landing. Having an access point on the river is a critical step towards opening the conserved land for public enjoyment.
The protection of this tract marks the latest success in protecting almost all the old growth in a 13-mile stretch of the Black River and conserves more than 410 acres of old growth cypress swamp and bottomland hardwood forests, protects 9,750 feet of river footage, and supports a combination of riverfront and adjacent upland habitat for rare species. The Conservancy is restoring the upland portions of the property by planting longleaf pines and other naturally appropriate trees where needed and implementing a controlled burn program.
Local legislators recently recognized the importance of the Black River, introducing legislation to authorize the creation of Black River State Park. A feasibility study is currently underway to determine if it is possible and desirable to do so. The park would highlight the river’s ecology, history, conservation areas and paddle trail opportunities.
The Conservancy supports the creation of Black River State Park and anticipates transferring key pieces of restored property to the state if plans move forward. After all, paddling among ancient trees is an experience unlike any other in the world.
The Washington Post reported this week that it had received a copy of Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s report to President Trump in which he recommends diminishing the protections for ten National Monuments, including shrinking the boundaries of six of those places. The report is the product of an unprecedented four-month review of 27 National Monuments — ordered by President Trump in April — to determine whether some of their boundaries should be changed. Zinke submitted his recommendations to Trump on August 24th, but did not make the report public.
In the report, Zinke makes the case that the boundaries of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase Escalante National Monuments in Utah, Cascade-Siskiyou in Oregon, and Gold Butte in Nevada be reduced. He also recommends shrinking two marine National Monuments – Pacific Remote Islands and Rose Atoll – both in the Pacific Ocean near Hawaii. Zinke does not specify whether those changes should be made by the President or by Congress, and the report does not identify exactly how the monument boundaries should be changed.
In addition to the boundary changes, the report recommends that the management of all ten monuments permit activities that are currently restricted. Such activities would loosen constraints on logging, grazing, and commercial fishing in the protected areas. These management changes would impact the monuments recommended for size reductions as well as Organ Mountains Desert Peaks and Rio Grande del Norte National Monuments in New Mexico, Katahdin Woods and Waters in Maine, and Northeast Canyons and Seamounts off the coast of New England.
President Trump has yet to take any action on the recommendations, so nothing has changed since Zinke first submitted the report to the President on August 24th. We stated then that any attempt to change National Monument boundaries by executive action would be an unprecedented assault on the crown jewels of our public lands system.
After reviewing the full report, it is clear that Secretary Zinke is giving his boss bad advice. Changes to these ten monuments would not only undermine our national conservation legacy, but impact local communities that rely on these protected places to drive tourism and outdoor recreation. We are prepared to use our grant program to fund litigation challenging boundary changes made by executive action; we will support grassroots conservation groups that work to organize opposition to legislative efforts to shrink monuments; and we will continue to organize our member companies and their employees and customers to speak out forcefully in support of our public lands.
The report notably depends on inaccuracies and falsehoods as it makes the case for shrinking or changing the management of National Monuments. Those fictions are well-documented in a good OutsideOnline article published this week. News outlets have started to pick up on Zinke’s shaky relationship with the truth, including this editorial from the Medford Mail Tribune, the largest newspaper near the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument.
Now that the report is public, we wait until President Trump takes action on the recommendations. At that point, he will either take executive action to change the monuments in question, or punt the whole thing to Congress, or do a little of both. We will continue to update our members as the National Monument situation evolves.
The Conservation Alliance is pleased to fund the following organizations to support their efforts to protect wild lands and waterways for their habitat and recreation values. These grants are made possible by more than 210 businesses who care passionately about protecting wild places for future generations. Each of these businesses is a member of The Conservation Alliance, and plays a critical role in determining which organizations receive funding. Thank you to all of our members for protecting wild places across North America.