Commentary: One of the more unsettling policy changes that President Trump has envisioned for America involves the way we protect our most cherished public lands. The president has precipitated a national debate over the use of the Antiquities Act to designate national monuments, a law initiated by Theodore Roosevelt in 1906 to give presidents the ability to bypass a stalling Congress and protect special geological, cultural, and historical sites more swiftly, if needed.
Since then, 157 national monuments have been proclaimed by 16 presidents—8 republicans and 8 democrats—many of which are now iconic national parks such as Acadia and the Grand Canyon.
However, in our own backyard, the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument is being threatened for recension or reduction in size.
On April 26, President Trump ordered the Department of the Interior to review 27 of America’s national monuments established by previous presidential proclamation, all sites larger than 100,000 acres. Interior Secretary Zinke now must provide an assessment due by August 24, including recommendations for which monuments should be reduced in size, rescinded or left as is.
An attempt to undo a monument would be unwelcomed by a majority of the American public. Recent public opinion polls tell us that Americans love their public lands, a sentiment that dominates on both the national and individual state levels. In 2017, the highly-regarded Colorado College “Conservation in the West” poll—based on thousands of interviews with representative Westerners in seven states—found overwhelming support for national monuments with 80 percent of voters wanting to keep current national monument designations in place.
Secretary Zinke has said that being a good steward involves listening to the American people he represents and giving a voice to local communities. It appears that a majority of Americans prefer their monuments left intact. Sportsmen and women in New Mexico are no different.
On July 27, during Secretary Zinke’s visit to Las Cruces, more than 600 local sportsmen and women, business owners, elected officials, and community leaders hosted a rally in support of the OMDP National Monument. Despite an invitation to attend this and many other community events, including a special invitation by sportsmen, Secretary Zinke neither attended nor responded to any invitation extended to him and his staff.
Secretary Zinke, you have been very vocal about your admiration for President Theodore Roosevelt. You can honor his legacy and the wishes of the American people by respecting the actions of previous presidents and their use of the Antiquities Act. Leave our national monuments alone.