Trump orders review of monuments

Posted May 10, 2017

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, who announced the order Tuesday, said Trump asked him to review monuments created by Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama under the 1906 Antiquities Act, which gives presidents the power to limit use of public land for historic, cultural, scientific or other reasons.

The order directs the U.S. Department of the Interior to look at designations dating back to Jan 1, 1996, which means more than 50 national monuments named by three presidents could be up for review.

Not everyone agrees. Advocates working to protect Bears Ears, including indigenous tribes, conservationists, and a coalition of outdoor recreation companies, have circulated a memo from the Washington law firm Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer that reaffirms that 1938 opinion.

"Altogether, the previous administration bypassed the states to place over 265 million acres - that's a lot of land, million acres", Trump said.

But Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., said that if Trump truly wants to make America great again, he should use the law to protect and conserve America's public lands.

"To call into question whether our national heritage is worth protecting will have lasting repercussions on the preservation of our public lands for generations to come", Theresa Pierno, president and CEO of the group, said in a statement.

This calls into question the goal of Zinke's review, which will involve 25 monuments - including the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument in southern Oregon.

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Trump says the move returns federal lands to the people, while critics say it could open two dozen protected natural areas to potential development.

Four designated national monuments in Arizona are among 24 across the country slated for review under an executive order signed by President Donald Trump Wednesday.

But under Trump's new order, it is unclear if African-American national monument sites like those recognizing the Freedom Riders, a former school in SC for freed slaves and the church where four little Black girls died in an Alabama church bombing - all designated as national monuments by Obama - could be at risk.

Possible abuses of the Antiquities Act will be reviewed in the next 45 days after an Executive Order was signed by President Donald Trump on April 26. Most presidents since then have designated additional monuments. The Antiquities Act is the exception. But the executive order itself also calls on Interior to review monuments "where the Secretary determines that the designation or expansion was made without adequate public outreach and coordination with relevant stakeholders".

"It is untested, as you know, whether the president can do that", Zinke said. Absent any court guidance, the most instructive opinion dates from 1938, when President Franklin Roosevelt weighed whether to remove the monument status of a neglected Civil War fort in SC.

Environmental and Native American advocates argue that the monuments are deserving of protective status and reflect, at least to some degree, community support for them.