A group of 37 free-market organizations, trade associations, businesses, former federal officials and current lawmakers signed a letter sent Wednesday requesting that President Donald Trump completely rescind four national monuments that cover more than 10,000 square miles.
The National Center for Public Policy Research (NCPPR) sent the letter to the White House in response to a Department of the Interior review of 22 national monuments over the summer, after which Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke suggested changes to six designations and rollbacks to four others, according to an early draft of his report obtained by The Washington Post.
Zinke’s leaked suggestions, however, did not satisfy the NCPPR or the other signees. The letter calls for a full repeal of Bears Ears National Monument and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in Utah, Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument in Maine, and Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument, a marine monument off the coast of New England. All four monuments together cover 10,127 square miles.
A national monument has never been rescinded completely before and legal experts argue whether it can be done. The GOP recently introduced a bill to the House that would codify the president’s ability to rescind a national monument, as well as reign in the president’s power under the Antiquities Act.
Bears Ears was designated by former President Barack Obama in late Dec. 2016. The monument covers 1.35 million acres of land surrounding twin peaks for which it’s named. The designation resulted in criticism from state leaders and local residents, while tribal leaders and environmentalists supported Obama’s decision, according to The New York Times.
Grand Staircase-Escalante was designated by former President Bill Clinton in 1996. The 1.9 million acre national monument angered Utah’s state leaders, as well as local communities in the designations shadow. The residents living in the nearby town of Kanab flew flags at half-staff after the announcement. The designation effectively killed a proposed coal mine and any future development that might have come to the mineral rich area, TheNYT reports.
Katahdin Woods and Waters, designated by Obama in August 2016, is 87,000 acres. Maine Gov. Paul LePage immediately criticized the president for locking up land previously used for logging, according to TheNYT.
Northeast Canyons and Seamounts is nearly as large as the other three national monuments combined. The marine national monument, proclaimed by Obama in Sept. 2016, is 4,913 square miles and protects three underwater canyons, four underwater mountains, dozens of kinds of deep sea coral and several endangered species of whale. New England fisheries are staunchly against the designation, arguing it made significant cuts to fishing that cost jobs and is a hazard for fisherman to avoid, the Boston Globe reports.
“In keeping with President Trump’s campaign pledge to undo the harm massive national monument designations have inflicted on rural areas in the West and Maine, as well as fishing communities along the Northeast coast, the White House needs to take bold action,” NCPPR Senior Fellow Bonner Cohen said in a statement. “Just trimming around the edges, as Secretary Zinke has proposed, won’t do.”
The White House is expected to come out with a final decision on the monument review, either adopting or altering Zinke’s proposed changes, although no date has been set.
The letter also calls on Congress to repeal or reform the president’s authority under the Antiquities Act to designate national monuments.
“In what is a complete distortion of the Antiquities Act’s original intent, monument designations — whether on land or at sea — frequently involve thousands of square miles that are permanently off-limits to almost all economic activity,” the letter states. “It is time for this unconstitutional practice to end.”
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