National Monuments in Limbo
National Monuments in Limbo

National Monuments In Limbo

December 8, 2017

A closer look at the Administration’s recent actions and how they impact the outdoor places that you love

Public lands including our parks and trails are near and dear to AMC. When President Trump took aim at these places by signing orders on December 4 to shrink the boundaries of two National Monuments in Utah by more than 2 million acres, AMC responded by expressing our opposition to rescinding, shrinking, or otherwise diminishing the protections for these special places. Since then, the Department of Interior has issued a detailed report that also recommends shrinking the size of two additional National Monuments in Nevada and Oregon and making substantial changes to the management of six others, including Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument.

Unilaterally stripping over 2 million acres from the national monument system and suggesting sweeping changes to the management of other sites is an unprecedented action that raises significant concern.  

Though Utah is a long way from AMC’s region, the implications of the President’s actions reverberate across the entire country. Most importantly, AMC believes that President Trump should not be using his executive powers to usurp the public’s role in decisions about managing our public lands. Both the National Monument designation process and subsequent management plan development include robust opportunities for the public to help determine how these sites will be managed, and what uses are appropriate to them. That more than 2.8 million comments in support of national monuments were received by the Department of Interior during last summer’s review of 27 sites exemplifies how the President’s recent actions fly in the face of overwhelming public support for our public lands.

The impacts of these actions are also felt here in the Northeast, where AMC has been a leader in supporting the designation and proper management of the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument. AMC has shared our detailed statement on the issues related to Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument with our elected officials and other stakeholders in the region.

Read our detailed statement on the Department of Interior’s National Monuments Report

Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument
Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument

There are many questions, and some may remain unanswered for the time being. Below is AMC’s response to a few of the most common.

Is Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument safe from being altered or rescinded?

While at this point it appears that Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument will not be rescinded, is not completely “safe.” It was included on the list of sites that Secretary of Interior Zinke has recommended for modification. The final, detailed report from Secretary Zinke is available online. Specifically, the Secretary recommends modifying the Proclamation to promote “active timber management.” The Secretary also recommends that “the management plan should be developed to protect objects and prioritize public access; infrastructure upgrades, repair, and maintenance; traditional use; tribal cultural use; and hunting and fishing rights.” AMC supports the recommendation to continue with the management planning process and looks forward to being an active participant in the process.

Why does the Secretary of Interior want to allow logging in Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument?

The forests encompassed by Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument have seen more than a century of commercial timber harvesting. As a National Monument managed by the National Park Service, there is currently a prohibition on commercial timbering activities on the Katahdin Woods and Waters lands. AMC firmly believes that any recommendations for a change in the existing policy on forestry activities should come through the public management planning process, not summarily determined by the Trump Administration. AMC provides additional comments about active timber management in our detailed statement.

What happens to the 2 million acres that were removed from Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments in Utah?

The announcement to remove 2 million acres from these monuments means most specifically that these areas will no longer be managed for their shared resource values.  When a park or public land unit is being created, it is often “designated” with a boundary line. Within that boundary, there is the opportunity to acquire lands from willing sellers for conservation and recreation purposes. Both Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante had significant in-holdings of private or otherwise non-federal lands. It is through the management planning process that these lands harmonize, creating a sense of place and a distinct experience for visitors. The 2 million acres removed from the boundary are no longer eligible to be protected and then managed as part of a National Monument. Specifically, no lands were sold, given away, or transferred to the state or to other entities.

Why do we need National Monuments to begin with, isn’t Congress charged with designating new parks?

National Monuments established by the President under the authority of the 1906 Antiquities Act have often been an important first step in establishing a new National Park, Forest, Preserve or other public land unit. Many of our country’s most famous National Parks began as National Monuments under a Presidential declaration, including Grand Canyon National Park and Acadia National Park. Congress plays an important role in this process as well, but often acts much more gradually and sometimes is unable to act quickly enough when a specific region is under threat of development or conversion. Congress often acts to establish a tentative park boundary and then to initiate a planning process to determine if there are appropriate resources to justify conserving land and managing those areas under Federal ownership. If it is deemed that a park is a worthwhile investment, Congress will then establish a park and will begin to direct federal funding for conservation through programs like the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

What can I do to help?

AMC will be asking our members and supporters to speak up for our public lands, including Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument through our Conservation Action Network. Join today to ensure that you receive timely notices of when your voice can have the greatest impact and participate in the management planning process.

Watch this video to learn even more about the Antiquities Act:

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Mark Zakutansky

As AMC's Director of Conservation Policy Engagement, Mark works to advance a number of important priority federal and state conservation issues, including land conservation funding, river and watershed protection, as well as access to public lands. Mark is an avid outdoor enthusiast, primarily as a whitewater paddler and telemark skier.