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SCVNews.com | Opinion/Commentary: Hands Off Our National Monuments | Commentary by Linda Castro | 05-18-2017
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San Gabriel Mountains National Monument | Photo: Linda Castro

Were you one of the lucky people who was able to visit the Carrizo Plain National Monument earlier this spring to witness the spectacular superbloom of multi-colored spring flowers?

How would you feel if the president of the United States took the Carrizo Plain away from you and handed it over to corporations for them to exploit and destroy it for their profit?

That is exactly what could happen if you do not tell the administration to keep its hands off of our national monuments.

As you might have heard, President Trump has issued an executive order to the U.S. Department of Interior to “review” 27 national monuments that were designated as far back as Jan. 1, 1996. Those under attack include seven in California: Berryessa-Snow Mountain, Carrizo Plain, Cascade-Siskiyou, Giant Sequoia, Mojave Trails, San Gabriel Mountains and Sand to Snow.

The president said he was ordering this review to “end another egregious use of government power,” adding that it was “time that we ended this abusive practice.”

What he actually wants to do is take away from us, the American public, lands that are being managed by federal agencies that protect them for our use and enjoyment, and hand them over to those who want to extract and exploit the resources on those lands for their profit.

The law which gives a president the authority to designate a national monument is the Antiquities Act. It was signed into law by President Teddy Roosevelt in 1906. It empowers a president to take action to protect cultural, historic or natural resources on land that is managed by the federal government.

The Antiquities Act expressly gives the president the authority to designate national monuments. It does not mention the president’s authority to undo or modify those designations.

Since 1906, sixteen presidents, both Democrats and Republicans, have used the Antiquities Act to designate national monuments. For example, President Herbert Hoover, a Republican, used the Antiquities Act to designate Death Valley National Monument in 1933, and President Franklin D. Roosevelt, a Democrat, used the act to designate Joshua Tree National Monument in 1936.

Carrizo Plain National Monument | Photo: Matthew Sayles

History shows us that presidents have used the Antiquities Act to protect important and special places on our federal lands only after local residents, businesses, tribes and others have made it clear to the president that an overwhelming majority of them want and support such a designation.

It is important to understand that most, if not all, recreational uses that took place on public lands prior to a national monument designation continue to be allowed after the designation. The national monument designation protects the important and special cultural, historic and natural resources of an area and at the same time continues to provide all of us with the opportunity to visit and enjoy these special places.

One of the California national monuments that is under attack is in our own backyard – the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument. This national monument encompasses a significant portion of the Angeles National Forest in the San Gabriel Mountains and protects threatened and endangered species, important historical sites, and streams and rivers that provide drinking water to local communities. President Obama designated this national monument in 2014 in response to decades of input and support from the local community demanding greater environmental protections for the heavily visited and beloved area.

In 2001, President Clinton designated another nearby national monument, the Carrizo Plain National Monument, after receiving more than 600,000 written expressions of support from the public for protecting the area.

Mojave Trails National Monument | Photo: Linda Castro

The Carrizo Plain is located west of Interstate 5 in the San Joaquin Valley and east of Los Padres National Forest in San Luis Obispo and Kern counties. The Carrizo Plain’s national monument designation protects diverse communities of wildlife and plant species including 13 endangered species and an area culturally important to local tribes.

Since its designation, Carrizo Plain National Monument’s visitation has steadily increased, and it now brings much appreciated and substantial tourism dollars to the local rural communities such as Taft and Maricopa. Due to the superbloom this spring, there has already been a record-breaking number of visitors to this national monument this year.

Another California national monument that is within short driving distance from us is Mojave Trails, located in the eastern Mojave Desert. Its monument status protects spectacular scenery and geology, habitat for rare and endangered wildlife, fossils, desert seeps and springs, World War II training camps, places sacred to local tribes, the longest undeveloped segment of historic Route 66, and many other values. President Obama designated this national monument last year after receiving a groundswell of local public support from residents, businesses, ranchers, local tribes, veterans, off-highway vehicle enthusiasts and others.

President Trump’s executive order puts the fate of our national monuments in the hands of U.S. Secretary of the Interior, Ryan Zinke. It is important for everyone to speak up and let Secretary Zinke know we want our lands to remain protected.

Your voice – every voice – is important. You can help demonstrate the overwhelming public support for California’s national monuments such as San Gabriel Mountains, Carrizo Plain and Mojave Trails, and all national monuments.

A link that can be used to submit official comments to the Department of Interior is http://monumentsforall.org/action/. This site will provide you with a template letter, but please be sure to include your personal, California-specific comments before you hit the “submit” button. The comment deadline is July 10, 2017.

Tell the secretary you do not want the administration to get rid of or reduce the size of any of our national monuments, especially any national monument in California. If you have visited or care deeply about any particular national monument, it would be important to tell the secretary that, as well.

The president’s executive order is an unprecedented and underhanded attack on America’s national parks, public lands and oceans. No president has ever attempted to take this kind of illegal and ill-conceived action.

National parks and public lands and waters help define who we are as a nation. The president’s attempts to revoke or change the fabric of national monuments is an assault on our nation’s historical, cultural and natural heritage.

 

Linda Castro is a nature enthusiast and animal lover. She is the Assistant Policy Director for the California Wilderness Coalition and serves on the board of the SCV-based Community Hiking Club.  Her commentaries relate to California’s deserts.

 

 

 

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7 Comments

  1. Harvey says:

    This is EXACTLY what I voted for! You land grabbing liberals DO NOT get to decide what happens on our public lands! That land is for Hunters, OHV people and yes, hikers and nature lovers too. GO TRUMP.

    • Denny NNWofLA says:

      It’s those ‘liberals’/progressives that want to protect and preserve our natural treasures for everybody from those who would trash them for their own selfish profits. Wake up and learn, Harvey.

  2. Denny NNWofLA says:

    The egregious use of government power would be the implementing of this really horrible, it’s bad, really, really, hugely bad, believe me it’s bad, policy along with everything else Trump is attempting to steal from us all. Resist!

  3. chuck stock says:

    Make assumptions much? So these monuments will be destroyed? It is still federal land. Frankly there are more than enough “monuments”. The govt does a terrible job of managing its lands and the parks. Private owners can figure out whether they want pretty flowers or if they want to brew beer on it, or drill a hole. Enough with govt ownership.

  4. Harvey says:

    Love how differing viewpoints are “moderated” for days and days. How very fair and unbiased of you SCV NEWS.

    • SCVNews.com says:

      We don’t control which comments WordPress flags for approval. We go through them every couple of days and approve them unless they contain dirty words.

      • Leko says:

        So, here is the thing. Hunting and OHV use is already allowed in National Parks and Monuments. Kahtadin National Monument has an ATV park in it. There are many places in the western monuments that are unreachable without an offroad capaboe vehicle. This revisit is claiming to voters that it is evaluating the impact of those activities, but in truth it is solely to allow special interests the ability to destroy the resources these places have for hunting, fishing, OHV use, and yes, hiking.

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