This week, the Department of the Interior announced that it would be reviewing millions of acres of public land protected as National Monuments under a piece of legislation called the Antiquities Act. All National Monuments are at risk, but the Department of the Interior has specifically identified public lands in Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Maine for review.
The San Gabriel Mountains and Berryessa Snow Mountain National Monuments in California are critical landscapes mountain bikers had ample voice in creating, and mountain bikers have trail plans under consideration in Katahdin Woods and Waters in Maine.
The Department of the Interior has a public comment period beginning May 12. Comments on the recently designated Bears Ears National Monument will be accepted for just 15 days while comments on all other monuments will be accepted for 60 days. It is extremely important for people who love the outdoors to speak up in defense of these public lands. IMBA will be asking for more engagement from mountain bikers on the individual monuments with mountain biking opportunities during this time—be ready!
We have drafted a sample comment below, but encourage you to personalize it based on your own experience of National Monuments or public lands, especially if you have a local connection to Bears Ears or any of the National Monuments under review. Outdoor Alliance will also be delivering these comments in person to the Department of the Interior at the end of the comment period.
If there is any re-designation of these lands, it will include a public involvement process, and these lands would likely become National Parks or National Forests or BLM etc. I am a forester and have worked with the Forest Service. So obviously I am supportive of public lands in general. The issue I have with the National Monuments is that the original intention of the designation was for smaller objects and elements of the landscape — not large tracts of land. It is clear in the original act. Go read it. Therefore, I consider millions of acres being set aside as NMs is an abuse of the original intent of the law.
The intent of the law was historically change when the Grand Canyon was designated a NM. But then later, the GC was appropriately redesigned as a National Park (a designation for a special large tract of land we want to protect), but the ABUSE of the NM status had thus a precedence established. It has been frequently misused since. If the government or the people want to set aside large tracts of land for preservation or conservation (the two major concepts of our public lands management), then there are other designations available for use — for example Wilderness Areas, National Parks (both highly protected statuses — preservation in nature), or there is National Forest or BLM Land (less protected status, conservation & multi-use in nature).
The real gripe I have in the misuse of NM status is that the President can establish a large NM. I would be okay with this IF it was an object in the landscape, but if it is large tracts of land, I have severe objection to this. No one person in our country, including the president, should have the authority to set aside large tracts of land. This gives way too much power to the president. And in fact that was how all these designations were originally establish, protecting us from this power concern. If large tracts of land were to be set aside (e.g. WA, NP, NF, BLM), then it had to be done as an act of congress … … meaning as a group of elected official, not a single elected official.
NMs should be objects in the landscape only as originally intended, then it would be fine for the President to make such a designation. We’ve gotten ourselves sideways a bit, and it needs corrected … and then we, as a people, can probable preserve or conserve the amazing heritage we have as a nation.
mongwolf is spot on. NM’s have been abused. Here’s what the intent is suppose to be:
The Antiquities Act of 1906 authorizes the President to proclaim national monuments on federal lands that contain historic landmarks, historic and prehistoric structures, or other objects of historic or scientific interest. The President is to reserve “the SMALLEST area compatible with the proper care and management of the objects to be protected.”
Millions of acres is not the smallest and they don’t meet historic landmarks, historic and prehistoric structures. They need to be reviewed.
And me makes three. In studying the Antiquities Act, under which authority is given to designate NMs, it becomes clear that the statute has been abused, both in terms of the size of parcels designated, and their inherent quality not meeting the intent of what is to be designated.
That said, I’m all for preserving and protecting these parcels (those with which I’m familiar anyway). We just need to do so in a legitimate way.