Ocean Protection, Marine Protected Areas
April 26 2017

Monuments Under Attack: Trump Administration Targets our National Treasures

by Pete Stauffer

President Donald Trump has ordered a review of National Monuments designated by U.S. Presidents since 1996. The move jeopardizes dozens of monument sites, including the California Coastal Monument, Hawaii's Papahānaumokuākea Monument and the Northeast Canyons & Seamounts Marine Monument that Surfrider chapters worked so hard to designate.

Ever since the days of Theodore Roosevelt, U.S. Presidents have used the Antiquities Act to protect some of our nation's most outstanding public lands and waters. The Grand Canyon and the Statue of Liberty are among the sites designated under the century-old law. More recently, presidents of both parties, including Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama, have used the Act to grant a legacy of natural resource protection for the nation they served.

For Surfrider members, the Antiquities Act has meant a way to protect great coastal places like Trinidad Head in Humboldt (photo) and Piedras Blancas in San Luis Obispo, both part of the California Coastal Monument. Designated by President Clinton and enlarged under the Obama administration, the designation protects some of the best stretches of California's 1,100 mile coastline from destructive activities such as mining, logging, and mineral and geothermal leasing. Aside from being areas of great natural beauty, these places serve as important habitat for seabirds, marine mammals, and other plant and animal life, including endangered species. 

  

In the Hawaiian Islands, the Act was used by President Bush in 2006 to create the Papahānaumokuākea Monument, the largest marine protected area (MPA) in the world at the time. Ten years later, President Obama expanded the monument to reclaim the title at the behest of Hawaiian community members, scientists, political leaders, Surfrider members and many others. At a time when 90 percent of the world’s predators are believed to have been driven into extinction, the Papahānaumokuākea sanctuary is especially esteemed for its healthy predator population, including a diversity of sharks. The sancturary currently protects over 7,000 known marine species in total, 25% of which are found nowhere else on the planet, including 23 endangered species. 

Regrettably, it appears we will now have to fight to defend these and other monuments from being revoked by an administration that seems to be embracing a scorched earth policy. On Wednesday, President Trump signed an executive order that directs the Department of the Interior to begin a review of national monuments designated in the past twenty years. Apparently, nothing is sacred in our country, even the preservation of our nation's very best places as determined by U.S. Presidents of all political persuasions.

Moreover, any attempt by a U.S. President to revoke a national monument is wholly unprecedented. Even Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, who will be tasked to carry out Trump's vision, acknowledged that it is "untested" whether the President has the power to shrink public lands by using the Antiquities Act. And while such action may not even be legal, it is clear that we can no longer take this important law, or designations that have already been protected, for granted.

The 115th Congress is also taking aim at the Antiquities Act, consistent with a pattern of hostility towards environmental protection. Members of both the Senate and House of Representatives have floated proposals to limit the purpose and scope of the law. This includes Senate Bill 33, introduced by Lisa Murkowski (AK), that would require congressional and state approval for new designations and create additional requirements for marine monuments.

Surfrider is proud to be part of a national coalition working to defend the Antiquities Act from attacks by the Trump administration and Congress. Surfrider also stands ready to defend the individual monuments that our chapters have supported, including the California Coastal Monument, Hawaii's Papahānaumokuākea, and the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine Monument. 

Today's executive order is a slow-motion attack on America’s national parks, public lands and oceans. National parks and public lands and waters help define who we are as a nation. Attempts to revoke or change the fabric of national monuments is an assault on our nation’s historical, cultural and natural heritage. As recreational users, we must speak out for laws like the Antiquities Act that allow our nation's greatest resources to be protected for future generations.

WHAT CAN YOU DO RIGHT NOW?

Make Your Voice Heard. Please pick up the phone and call your Congressional Representatives in D.C. and ask them to defend the Antiquities Act and existing National Monuments. Find your member's phone numbers here: Senate and House.

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