National Monuments Under Threat

June, 2017


Boundary Review Could Strip Monuments of Protections

Anti-public land sentiment in Washington, DC is at a fever pitch these days given the domination of the House, Senate and White House by anti-conservation interests. The first victim was Bureau of Land Management planning rules, overturned by Congress in March. The next intended victims are America’s national monuments—unless we take action.

While national parks, wilderness areas, and most other heavily-protected areas of federal public land can only be established by an act of Congress, American presidents were given the authority to establish national monuments by the Antiquities Act of 1906. Many of America’s National Parks, including Death Valley, Joshua Tree, Pinnacles, and Lassen, among a long list of others, were first protected as national monuments before Congress designated them as parks. 

On April 26, 2017, President Trump issued Executive Order 13792 that directs the Department of the Interior to review the boundaries and management of all national monuments established since January 1, 1996 that are more than 100,000 acres in size. The Executive Order also directs Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to review national monuments that were established “without adequate public outreach and coordination with relevant stakeholders.” No definition of “adequate public outreach” is offered. Conservationists fear that this review is just the first step towards stripping these monuments of their protected status. 

In California, there have been 13 national monuments protected since 1996 and thus subject to President Trump’s review order. They include:

•  Berryessa Snow Mountain

•  Cabrillo

•  California Coastal

•  Carrizo Plain

•  Cascade-Siskiyou

•  Castle Mountains

•  Cesar E. Chavez

•  Fort Ord

•  Giant Sequoia

•  Mojave Trails

•  San Gabriel Mountains

•  Sand to Snow

• World War II Valor in the Pacific (this is the Tule Lake Japanese-American Internment Camp)

The seven italicized monuments are over 100,000 acres in size. As this list illustrates, national monuments protect a vast array of natural and cultural treasures, ranging from the world’s largest trees (Giant Sequoia National Monument) to historic sites such as the beautiful Trinidad Head in Humboldt County in the California Coastal National Monument. A long list of endangered species call these areas home. Some national monuments, like Fort Ord near Monterey, protect both cultural and natural resources alike and are wildly popular with visitors. The Carrizo Plain National Monument recently made international headlines for its spectacular spring wildflower “super bloom.” Towns near the Carrizo were thrilled to see an influx of visitors from around the world who wanted to experience the super bloom first-hand. Visitors to national monuments contribute millions in tourism dollars annually in California alone.

There has not been a loud chorus of voices in California calling for any national monuments to be de-designated. The real motivation for the rollback comes from anti-conservation members of Congress who have been lobbying President Trump to overturn the Bears Ears National Monument protected in Utah last year by President Obama. While de-designating Bears Ears would not affect California directly, it would mark the first time in history that a national monument has been overturned. An attack on one national monument is an attack on them all.


Secretary Zinke is accepting public comments on the national monuments review until July 10, 2017. Please let him know that you support the 14 National Monuments that would be reviewed in California under President Trump’s order. If you have visited any of the California National Monuments, please let him know that as well. You can send him your comments online or by mail to:

Secretary Ryan Zinke

Department of the Interior

1849 C Street, N.W.

Washington DC 20240

(202) 208-3100

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