An Open Letter To Secretary Zinke

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Pricey Secretary Zinke,

Thanks for permitting a chance to touch upon the enduring worth of nationwide monuments, particularly the 27 monuments detailed in Govt Order 13792 that you’ve got proposed for elimination or discount in dimension. I perceive that the deadline for receiving feedback concerning monuments is July 10. Please settle for these as my official feedback, and please observe that I stand in opposition to any change in dimension or administration of our present roster of nationwide monuments.

It seems the aim of your evaluate is to verify your individual help for monuments. That’s the one approach I can perceive your order, as a intelligent (and barely subversive) strategy to name consideration to those particular locations which might be reservoirs of the American qualities of equality, journey, self-reliance, and democracy.

In any case, you might have repeatedly recognized your self as a “Teddy Roosevelt Republican.” The daddy of the Antiquities Act—the laws that allows the creation of Nationwide Monuments —Roosevelt acknowledged that monuments are a software to raise the easiest of our greatest public lands by giving them a standing that enables true a number of use whereas defending the integrity of outstanding landscapes for future generations. Whereas I feel it’s wholesome to periodically evaluate authorities choices, I feel you—particularly when you emulate TR—would agree that nationwide monuments are amongst America’s greatest concepts and completely value celebrating, not eliminating.

Apparently, your technique is working. After I final regarded, greater than 1 million fellow residents have commented in help of monuments. Please add my observe to that rising roster of monument champions.


There are a lot of causes to help monuments—and I’ll element a few of them beneath—however essentially the most compelling purpose within the present political local weather of federal-land liquidation is to insulate them from those that would flip these American heirlooms into nationwide sacrifice areas.

I’m certain you’re conscious of this land-transfer motion, promulgated by many in your individual social gathering. It’s a short-sighted try to divest the federal authorities of land that gives 26 million sportsmen and girls a spot to hunt and fish yearly. Rural jobs rely on this hook-and-bullet economic system. In 2014, $51 billion was spent on recreating on federal lands.

We sportsmen have executed a reasonably good job of battling again these misguided makes an attempt to switch public lands, however it’s somewhat like combating a wildland hearth. Each time we glance, there’s one other spot hearth to stamp out—lest it develop into an inferno—with dozens of proposals to strip the feds of land-management authority launched at county, state, and nationwide ranges each month.

Monument standing completely closes the door to the sale or switch of public lands contained in the monument boundary. That alone is sufficient for me to help the broadest definition of a nationwide monument. And it prompts me to ask you to not reopen the door to the sale or switch of those important public lands.


However there’s another excuse I help monuments. I dwell in jap Montana, not removed from the Higher Missouri River Breaks Nationwide Monument, one of many 27 monuments in your evaluate checklist. As as a fellow Montanan, this a part of the state doesn’t have crystal-clear rivers or snow-capped mountains. Out right here, we’re dry, distant, and struggling each economically and demographically. However I really feel wealthy as a king, residing right here, as a result of I’m surrounded by public land the place I can hunt, fish, hike, or discover with out asking anybody’s permission or forgiveness. The Missouri River Breaks is the beating coronary heart of this kingdom of public land.

The rationale to your evaluate means that monuments in your checklist are usually not within the public’s curiosity as a result of they have been created with little public discover or native help. That’s actually not the case with the Missouri Breaks Monument, which was the topic of 18 months of public conferences carried out by the BLM’s Central Montana Useful resource Advisory Council. After which, after the state reviewed the designation, one other spherical of public conferences generated greater than 1,000 feedback from Montanans who help the monument.

I simply returned from Taos, New Mexico, the place I floated and fished the outstanding Rio Grande del Norte Nationwide Monument. Designation of that monument, in 2013, was the fruits of years of labor by native ranchers, sportsmen, and enterprise homeowners and is extensively supported all through the area. In a gathering convened by your predecessor, Inside Secretary Ken Salazar, help was unanimous among the many a number of hundred individuals who attended a public assembly to gauge native curiosity in institution of a monument. What number of instances have you ever seen unanimity of any federal determination?


I’m going to stay with the Rio Grande del Norte Monument for a second, as a result of I feel it illuminates an vital, and neglected, facet of the Antiquities Act.

Some critics of the act declare that it was initially meant to guard battlefields and different comparatively small, discrete properties that performed a job in our nation’s historical past and prehistory. I take a extra expansive definition of the time period “antiquities,” one on full show within the Rio Grande del Norte Monument.

It is a monument actually surrounded by the sweep of historical past. The Wild & Scenic stretch of the river right here incorporates native Rio Grande cutthroat trout, which any American acknowledges as a valuable residing artifact of this gorgeous panorama. Deep within the canyon are petroglyphs depicting bighorn sheep. Throughout my float of the river final month, I noticed wild desert sheep each upstream and downstream of those historical rock carvings, proof of the timeless worth of those outstanding animals.

Then there’s the normal use of this panorama. The monument is open to searching, fishing, firewood chopping, and pinon nut gathering. All these actions have taken place right here for hundreds of years by ancestors of the close by Taos Pueblo, whose members proceed to make use of the monument for conventional functions. Extra lately, native ranchers and sheepherders graze their livestock on the monument, which can be utilized by elk and mule deer hunters, trout anglers, and fly-fishing, float-tripping, and outfitting firms that depend on the river and its surrounding public land to maintain their companies.

This high quality of respecting the previous whereas benefitting current customers and conserving the land for future guests is exactly the form of worth that the Antiquities Act was designed to guard and promote.

monument perpetuates conventional makes use of is a degree value stressing, as a result of it’s not nicely understood by those that would name monuments “land grabs” by a distant and out-of-touch federal authorities. These are already federal, public lands. Monument standing doesn’t add acreage to the general public property, and personal land inside monument boundaries is just not topic to restrictions that govern administration of public land.

However monument standing ensures that these landscapes are protected for future generations. So a brand new coal mine, as an illustration, can’t be developed within the Missouri Breaks, or a hydroelectric undertaking can’t dam up the Rio Grande contained in the Taos monument.

To anybody who considers property-rights “taking” or an improper restriction of business, I like to recommend you go to a monument to expertise the primal richness of the landscapes that we will—and should—cross on to our grandchildren’s grandchildren.


I do suppose it’s value noting, as a approach of agreeing along with your evaluate, that monument designations could be problematic and politicized. The truth that a variety of monuments have been designated within the waning days—and in some circumstances, the waning hours—of an outgoing president’s administration is just not within the public curiosity. President Clinton didn’t do any favors to his successors (or to the very best prospects of the Antiquities Act) along with his midnight institution of the 1.7-million-acre Grand Staircase-Escalante Nationwide Monument in southern Utah in 1996.

Evidently one intention of your evaluate, to re-evaluate monuments established after Jan. 1, 1996 which might be bigger than 100,000 acres, is designed to rethink the legitimacy of the Grand Staircase-Escalante Monument. I hope that the reconsideration of 1 monument doesn’t impugn the validity of all monuments. And I hope your evaluate additionally addresses one shortcoming of monument designation: the shortcoming for wildlife companies to do significant habitat work inside their boundaries.

I hope your evaluate reveals that monuments take pleasure in virtually bipartisan and large public help. Even the latest Utah monument, Bears Ears ( to/bears-ears-national-monument), was the topic of years of conferences with numerous consumer teams in southeast Utah.

If this public course of and native enter is vital to you, as you might have indicated within the rationale to your evaluate, then it’s value asking why earlier this yr you abolished the BLM’s Useful resource Advisory Councils, whose very position was to facilitate public dialogue concerning the worth of monuments. Secretary Zinke, you’ll be able to’t have it each methods, criticizing the shortage of public enter whereas closing the conduit that provides it.

I’d prefer to return to a remaining inconsistency. You proceed to outline your self as a Theodore Roosevelt conservationist. That definition means one thing to these of us who cherish the land ethic and imaginative and prescient of our 26th president.

Roosevelt acknowledged and promoted the intrinsic worth of our public lands as locations that outlined the American characters of independence, fairness, and liberty. However TR additionally exhibited traits that I feel are in brief provide proper now. He had the intestinal fortitude to talk fact to energy, and he had the depth of his convictions to guide, even when it wasn’t politically standard.

If you happen to proceed to borrow from Roosevelt’s legacy, as I hope you do, it’s truthful to ask you: What would TR do with this chance to query the integrity of nationwide monuments? I feel he would say it’s time to cease demonizing monuments and the method that created them, and as an alternative to rejoice them as a set of the very best of our landscapes, and locations to train true a number of use on our most outstanding public lands.

I encourage you to take no motion on this misguided and ineffectual evaluate of monuments, and as an alternative to dedicate your division’s sources to adequately funding the administration of our present nationwide treasures.

Accessibly Yours,

Andrew McKean, Editor-in-Chief, Outside Life

Click on right here to submit your individual remark concerning the evaluate of 27 nationwide monuments.

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