Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has announced the shrinking of two Utah national monuments, with eyes towards shrinking more, including the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument. These moves have become a massive controversy in the outdoor world, with many people worried the land that isn’t protected by federal will eventually be sold to private companies, putting the wildlife recreation areas at risk.
If you aren’t familiar with the Cascade-Siskiyou, it sits just north of the Oregon border and is a beautiful 87,000 acre playground for nature and outdoor enthusiasts alike. The Pacific Crest Trail runs through the monument and on the lookout tower at the top of Soda Mountain you can see Mt. Shasta, Mt. Ashland, Mt. McLoughlin and Crater Lake.
On January 12, 2017, President Barack Obama expanded the monument by 48,000 acres. The expansion contains 5,000 acres in Northern California, in addition to 43,000 acres in Oregon. The land is managed by the Bureau of Land Management.
Wo why does the government want to shrink this area? Let’s dive in:
In an op-ed written by Zinke and published by CNN makes the argument that these moves are the best way to save these public lands from the federal government. He argues that the past administration overreached by naming large areas of land national monuments, thus limiting the use of the area. Here is an excerpt from the article:
“In recent years, however, presidents have abused the Antiquities Act to lock up vast swaths of public land. The “smallest area compatible” requirement has become the exception, rather than the rule, as public access, hunting and fishing, and use of private property are restricted.
The Antiquities Act is not a weapon for presidents to arbitrarily restrict the uses of hundreds of thousands of acres of land to prevent uses like timber harvesting and cattle grazing — ways of life for many American families and the lifeblood of many local economies. It is also not a tool for presidents to use to restrict access for outdoor recreation on land that belongs to all of us.”
In a nutshell, Zinke argues that these lands are wasted by being protected, rather than being used to their full potential. He is saying that shrinking these national monuments is a common-sense compromise between conservationists and industry, and that harvesting timber in the region will help pay for the conservation.
— Patagonia (@patagonia) December 4, 2017
The major outdoor companies are letting the world know their stance on the subject.
If you were to go to Patagonia’s website, you will see a sharp message blasting the government as it begins to shrink national monuments. You will even see a message from Patagonia’s Rose Marcario on Time.com explaining why Patagonia is suing President Trump for shrinking Utah’s national monuments.
Oregon lawmakers have also voiced their displeasure with these moves:
“Secretary Zinke falsely claims the Interior Department is listening to the voices of Oregonians when it comes to the agency’s damaging, vague recommendation to close off public access to the Cascade-Siskiyou monument,” Sen. Ron Wyden said in a statement. “This is not what the majority of Oregonians signed up for when they spoke out in favor of expanding protections for this Oregon treasure.”
Sen. Jeff Merkley called Tuesday’s report a “monumental mistake.”
“The Trump administration is ignoring the voices of thousands of Oregonians who have spoken out in favor of the monument, and is recklessly risking the future of irreplaceable biodiversity and natural wonder,” he said in a statement.
Signed by President Teddy Roosevelt in 1906, the Antiquities Act was intended to stop the pilfering of ancient Indian artifacts from public land. But it also gave presidents the authority to create national monuments on their own, without Congress.
The federal government argues that the Antiquities Act also expressly states that presidents should protect the important sites while using the smallest amount of land possible. Therein lies the argument – what exactly is the smallest amount possible?
Past presidents have shrunken national monuments before, but none of them used the Antiquities Act to shrink them so considerably. With Native American triable and conservationists preparing lawsuits, these issues will have to be hashed out in court.
In January 2016, Trump, then the GOP frontrunner, told Field & Stream that he doesn’t like the idea of transferring public lands to states. “You don’t know what the state is going to do,” he said. “I mean, are they going to sell if they get into a little bit of trouble? And I don’t think it’s something that should be sold.”
In many cases, I can understand anyone’s arguments for less federal government around the country. This is not one of them. We have no idea what the states will do with their newly acquired land, but I can tell you what they’ve done with them in the past:
There has been 156 million acres of federal land entrusted to the states over the years – 110 million of those acres were sold to private companies.
That’s 70% of the land – gone.
I’m not going to sit here with a proverbial crystal ball and predict what the states will do with these lands. I can only see what has been done in the past, and I don’t like it. There is a certain amount of land in this country that is meant for us to enjoy the wilderness. We need preserve these lands.
Even if these national monuments aren’t sold off today or in the next year, this opens up the possibility of it happening in the future. As for now, I propose we keep them preserved and keep them out of harm’s way.
Northern California’s Outdoor Digital Newsmagazine