At the end of April, President Trump issued an Executive Order that instructed the Secretary of the Interior to conduct a review of all presidential designations or expansions of national monuments of 100,000 acres or more made since January 1, 1996.
That review comes to an end this week and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke will submit his recommendations to President Trump on more than two dozen national monuments impacted by the review.
Secretary Zinke should recommend no changes to these national monuments and if he recommends shrinking any of these national monuments by executive fiat, the president should flatly reject this recommendation.
During the presidential campaign, Trump promised to protect and defend our public lands – even though this position was antithetical to the “conservatism” of the GOP establishment and think tank elites.
Trump ran as a different kind of Republican, one not beholden to the establishment, a leader that was willing to challenge the party’s orthodoxy on issues like immigration, trade, and foreign affairs. Trump was willing to buck establishment conservatism on these issues because he understood that while unfettered free trade, open borders and foreign adventurism might be good for the corporate special interests – these policies were hurting America’s working class.
It is no different when it comes to the issue of public lands.
The establishment elites and corporate interests pushing for the dismantling of public lands do so because they don’t need public lands. For them public lands are a luxury they don’t need. Just another commodity that can be sold off to the Chinese or turned into parking lots.
Our lands are more than just a commodity to be bought and sold, our lands are what makes America great.
For tens of millions of working class Americans, however, who can’t afford European vacations or private hunting reserves, our public lands are an essential part of their life.
During the campaign, Trump pledged to be a great steward of our public lands:
“We have to be great stewards of this land. This land is magnificent land. And we have to be great stewards of this land.”
Trump also made it clear that he would oppose efforts to return public lands to the states, saying, “I don’t like the idea because I want to keep the lands great, and you don’t know what the state is going to do with it.”
Trump’s willingness to buck the establishment and defend our public lands is part of why I enthusiastically voted for him in November.
For me, the issue of our public lands is an incredibly personal one.
My grandfather, Wallace Barron, served as a Game Warden in northern Maine for 30 years. He also wrote a weekly column on the wonders of the outdoors for a local newspaper. He was a conservationist – not as a way of virtue signaling – but because it was simply the right way to live. He had a strong love, respect and reverence for the land – and passed that down to his children and grandchildren.
If there are changes that should be made to a national monument there is an explicit statutory remedy that already exists – action by Congress.
Furthermore, if Congress is unhappy with the broad authority given to the president to establish national monuments, then Congress can take action there as well by amending or repealing the Antiquities Act. President Trump’s agenda shouldn’t be hijacked by a member of Congress who is unable to pass his own legislation.
President Trump has an opportunity to put the interests of working class Americans above those of the special interests and think tank elites by protecting and defending our public lands.
Christopher R. Barron is the President of Right Turn Strategies and the former organizer of LGBT for Trump.