NPCA sent the following letter to Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke requesting more information on the monument review process.
Dear Secretary Zinke:
Since the April 26, 2017 issuance of the Executive Order (EO) targeting the Antiquities Act, we have been seeking information on the process President Trump and you have set in motion. We know the Department of Interior’s regulations.gov comment period collected over 2.7 million comments from the public that support the continued protection of the national monuments under review. On behalf of our more than 1.3 million members and supporters nationwide, the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) would appreciate more information on the process from this point forward.
Since the close of the comment period on July 10, 2017, you have formally announced the safekeeping of two of the 27 national monuments under review, Craters of the Moon and Hanford Reach. What is not clear, however, is how you are making decisions for these and other sites. It is unclear how the public comments submitted to the Department of Interior were used to inform this decision or how your evaluation of the site, as required by the EO, considered the following factors:
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 section 102(a)(7) of the Federal Land Policy and Management Act (43 U.S.C. 1701(a)(7)), 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. 82 FR 20429-20430 (May 1, 2017).
We would appreciate, as discussed below, additional clarity about the review of these factors and how you are including and judging them in your decision making process.
You indicated in public statements that other national monuments could be removed from the review list through periodic announcements or would not likely be considered for actual changes, including during a Senate Energy and Natural Resources hearing on the Department of Interior budget. We urge you to announce the removal of national monuments from the list as quickly as possible. This review is affecting communities worried about the future protection of these incredible places, and in some cases, communities are concerned about economic investments contingent on the protective designation of the areas.
Recognizing the millions of comments in support of national monuments and the terrific outpouring of public interest in this issue, it would be helpful to better understand how the comments collected by your department are being reviewed. For example—
- What is the process of review and how many staffers are working through these comments in this short window before the August 24, 2017 deadline given in the EO?
- How will your staff present this information to you? A sampling of comments, summary of statistics, or just recommendations?
- Aside from public input, what other information or recommendations are you receiving from the National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Forest Service or other relevant management agencies regarding the national monuments under review?
- Finally, do you plan to issue recommendations publicly? If so, can we anticipate explanations for your reasoning for these recommendations?
From your recent comments regarding Craters of the Moon and Hanford Reach National Monuments, it is clear you appreciate the value of these places and the law that created them. For over one hundred years, that law, the Antiquities Act, has been used as a bipartisan conservation tool to protect 157 national monuments. The law was created by Congress to allow the president to permanently protect federally owned historic landmarks, historic and prehistoric structures, and other objects of historic or scientific interest as national monuments. This includes nationally significant cultural, historical, and natural sites such as, the Grand Canyon and Acadia National Parks, Statue of Liberty and Muir Woods National Monuments. In fact, many of our nation’s most popular and iconic national parks were first protected using the Antiquities Act.
Thank you for your consideration and clarification of how your office is making decisions regarding these 27 remarkable national monuments. Your feedback regarding how the department might offer full transparency of the process, how your staff are incorporating public input from the aforementioned public comment period and how you might best reassure all Americans that these public lands and waters are being considered carefully and logically, and with parity, would be greatly appreciated. We look forward to hearing back from you.
Theresa Pierno, President & CEO
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Former Deputy Vice President, Government Affairs