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Interior Department Seeks Public Comment on National Monuments

The Department of the Interior is seeking public comment on 27 national monuments established in the past 20 years.

A few weeks ago, we reported the Trump Administration would call (via executive order) for a review of national monument designations made since January 1, 1996. Few details were shared at the time, although Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke framed the decision as a means to address whether monuments were designated improperly i.e. without sufficient notice or input from stakeholders.

The comment period begins May 12.

In addition to 22 land-based national monuments, the Interior will also review marine national monuments designated in the past 20 years. With one exception, all the monuments under review measure over 100,000 acres—an apparent prerequisite under the order.

According to a DOI press release, comments can be submitted through the federal regulations site by entering “DOI-2017-0002” in the Search bar or by mail to the following address:

Monument Review, MS-1530
U.S. Department of the Interior
1849 C Street NW
Washington, D.C. 20240

Environmental and conservation groups decried the executive order as retaliatory and shortsighted, adding they were concerned the review was part of a larger assault on the 1906 Antiquities Act, which gives presidents the power to create national monuments. The Act allows presidents to also downsize monuments; it does not allow them to void them, however.

Patagonia threatened litigation against the Trump Administration in light of its call for a review, saying they’re prepared “to defend our most treasured public landscapes from coast to coast.”

Although the review encompasses over 20 years worth of monument designations, it places special emphasis on Bears Ears National Monument, which was designated by President Barack Obama in late December 2016.

From the DOI release:

DATES: The Department will shortly publish a notice in the Federal Register officially opening the public comment period. Written comments relating to the Bears Ears National Monument must be submitted within 15 days of publication of that notice. Written comments relating to all other designations subject to Executive Order 13792 must be submitted within 60 days of that date.

“The Department of the Interior is the steward of America’s greatest treasures and the manager of one-fifth of our land. Part of being a good steward is being a good neighbor and listening to the American people who we represent,” said Secretary Zinke. “Today’s action, initiating a formal public comment process finally gives a voice to local communities and states when it comes to Antiquities Act monument designations. There is no pre-determined outcome on any monument. I look forward to hearing from and engaging with local communities and stakeholders as this process continues.”

[…]

In making the requisite determinations, the Secretary is directed to consider:

(i) the requirements and original objectives of the Act, including the Act’s requirement that reservations of land not exceed “the smallest area compatible with the proper care and management of the objects to be protected”;
(ii) whether designated lands are appropriately classified under the Act as “historic landmarks, historic and prehistoric structures, [or] other objects of historic or scientific interest”;
(iii) the effects of a designation on the available uses of designated Federal lands, including consideration of the multiple-use policy of section 102(a)(7) of the Federal Land Policy and Management Act (43 U.S.C. 1701(a)(7)), as well as the effects on the available uses of Federal lands beyond the monument boundaries;
(iv) the effects of a designation on the use and enjoyment of non-Federal lands within or beyond monument boundaries;
(v) concerns of State, tribal, and local governments affected by a designation, including the economic development and fiscal condition of affected States, tribes, and localities;
(vi) the availability of Federal resources to properly manage designated areas; and
(vii) such other factors as the Secretary deems appropriate.
82 FR 20429-20430 (May 1, 2017).

The full list of monuments under review is below:

• Basin and Range, Nevada, 703,585 acres, designated 2015.
• Bears Ears, Utah, 1,353,000 acres, designated 2016.
• Berryessa Snow Mountain, California, 330,780 acres, designated 2015.
• Canyons of the Ancients, Colorado, 175,160 acres, designated 2000.
• Carrizo Plain, California, 204,107 acres, designated 2001.
• Cascade Siskiyou, Oregon, 100,000 acres, designated 2000/2007.
• Craters of the Moon, Idaho, 737,525 acres, designated 1924/2000.
• Giant Sequoia, California, 327,760 acres, designated 2000.
• Gold Butte, Nevada, 296,937 acres, designated 2016.
• Grand Canyon-Parashant, Arizona, 1,014,000 acres, designated 2000.
• Grand Staircase-Escalante, Utah, 1,700,000 acres, designated 1996.
• Hanford Reach, Washington, 194,450.93 acres, designated 2000.
• Ironwood Forest, Arizona, 128,917 acres, designated 2000.
• Katahadin Woods and Waters, Maine, 87,563 acres, designated 2016.
• Marianas Trench, CNMI/Pacific Ocean 60,938,240, designated 2009.
• Mojave Trails, California, 1,600,000 acres, designated 2016.
• Northeast Canyons and Seamounts, Atlantic Ocean, 3,114,320 acres, designated 2016.
• Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks, New Mexico, 496,330 acres, designated 2014.
• Pacific Remote Islands, Pacific Ocean, 55,608,320 acres, designated 2009.
• Papahanaumokuakea, Hawaii/Pacific Ocean, 89,600,000 acres, designated 2006/2016.
• Rio Grande del Norte, New Mexico, 242,555 acres, designated 2013.
• Rose Atoll, American Samoa/Pacific Ocean, 8,609,045 acres, designated 2009.
• Sand to Snow, California, 154,000 acres, designated 2014.
• San Gabriel Mountains, California, 346,177 acres, designated 2014.
• Sonoran Desert, Arizona, 486,149 acres, designated 2001.
• Upper Missouri River Breaks, Montana, 377,346 acres, designated 2001.
• Vermilion Cliffs, Arizona, 279,568 acres, designated 2000.

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