If Trump Doesn’t Revoke ‘Illegal’ National Monument Created By Obama, The Courts Might

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Michael Bastasch DCNF Managing Editor
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Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke recommended President Donald Trump change the boundaries or management of 10 national monuments, including ocean monuments created by the Obama administration.

Zinke asked Trump to allow commercial fishing at Obama-designated ocean monuments in the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans, but five of those monuments the Department of the Interior reviewed could be declared unlawful.

Earlier this year, the Pacific Legal Foundation (PLF) filed suit against the Trump administration on behalf of New England fisherman opposed to the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts monument off the New England coast.

PLF’s lawsuit doesn’t just argue against the offshore monument’s prohibition against fishing and crabbing above 3.1 million acres of underwater canyons, the group has also claimed the Antiquities Act is limited to creating national monuments on federally-controlled “lands,” not waters.

Should PLF prevail, the Atlantic Ocean monument would be void.

“The Antiquities Act authorizes President Trump alone to decide what to do about monuments, and he may go further than his secretary of interior has recommended,” PLF attorney Jonathan Wood told The Daily Caller News Foundation.

“He should acknowledge that the Northeast Canyons monument is illegal and revoke it. If he doesn’t, that responsibility will fall to the courts,” Wood said.

President Obama designated the Northeast Canyons monument right before leaving office in 2016, and it was hotly opposed by New England fisherman and crabbers whose livelihoods are now at stake.

The Obama administration outlawed fishing at the monument, and only allowed crabbing to continue for another seven years in an effort to preserve its geological features. The move put $50 million in fisheries off-limits.

Conversely, oil tankers will still be able to traverse the Atlantic monument and telecommunications companies would still be able to lay cable.

Obama created four marine national monuments and expanded another, encompassing nearly 150 million acres of U.S. waters.

“Congress expressly limited monuments to federal land—and Presidents respected this limit for the first 100 years after the Antiquities Act was enacted,” Wood said. “We remain confident that, if President Trump does not admit that the statute does not apply to ocean far removed from our shores, the courts will strike down the Northeast Canyons monument as an abuse of power.”

Zinke delivered his recommendations in late August, but The Washington Post obtained a copy of the document, which they published Sunday. The document was the culmination of an Interior Department review of 27 monuments created since the 1990s.

Zinke recommended modifying the size of six national monuments and changing the management structure of four others. The Department of Commerce is alo reviewing marine monuments.

Environmentalists opposed Zinke’s recommendations.

“Sec. Zinke’s proposal threatens the very idea of shared public spaces open to all. Leaving the protection of Native American sacred sites, outdoor recreation destinations, and natural wonders to the goodwill of polluting industries is a recipe for disaster,” Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club, said in a statement.

“Secretary Zinke has just sold out public lands and all the people who rely on them,” Brune said.

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