WASHINGTON — Twenty-seven of America’s national monuments spanning over more than 11 million acres of land and about 760 million acres of ocean are threatened by a pair of executive orders signed by President Donald Trump last week.
As Trump laid out in his remarks April 26, he’s looking to end “another egregious abuse of federal power,” put “states back in charge” and open up now-protected areas to “tremendously positive things” — whatever that means.
On Friday, the Interior Department — one of two agencies tasked with reviewing monument designations and expansions made under the Antiquities Act of 1906 — released a final list of the areas that will receive a second look.
The agency also applauded itself for its decision to allow public participation.
“A public comment period is not required for monument designations under the Antiquities Act; however, Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke and President Trump both strongly believe that local input is a critical component of federal land management,” the agency said in a press release.
The administration’s implication is that the public wasn’t involved in the initial designation process — something stakeholders of numerous monuments dispute.
Take, for example, Katahdin Woods and Waters, an 87,000-acre national monument in Maine. It is the only monument on the Interior’s list that does not meet the executive order’s initial criteria for review — which states that a monument be 100,000 acres or larger and established after Jan. 1, 1996.
In a category all its own, Katahdin is being reviewed specifically to determine whether the designation “was made without adequate public outreach and coordination with relevant stakeholders,” the Interior said.
Lucas St. Clair, whose family donated the land that is now Katahdin, told WABI TV5 that the designation came “after more than four years of public outreach and community input, including countless one-on-one meetings, community forums, debates and town halls.”
“More than 72 percent of Mainers say they support the monument,” he said in a statement. “I’m confident that a fair review will demonstrate how important public input was to helping improve the monument idea.”
The Interior Department’s public comment period will kick off later this month. Comments relating to Bears Ears National Monument, a controversial 1.35 million-acre area in Utah, will be required to be submitted within 15 days of a public notice. Comments relating to all other monuments must be submitted within 60 days of that notice.
Zinke said in statement that his agency is “the steward of America’s greatest treasures,” and part of that job is “being a good neighbor and listening to the American people who we represent.” The public comment process, he added, “finally gives a voice to local communities and states when it comes to Antiquities Act monument designations.”
Several of the monuments on the list, including Bears Ears and Gold Butte, were designated by former President Barack Obama. During his presidency, Obama also greatly expanded two marine national monuments, Papahanaumokuakea and Pacific Remote Islands. The acreages listed by Interior in its release for those two marine monuments do not account for those Obama-era expansions.
Here’s a peek at the 27 national monuments under the Trump administration’s review: