April 26, 2017

Udall, Democratic Senators Condemn Trump Executive Order Threatening National Monuments

Senators to Trump: 'These monuments have been built upon the support of local communities and are economic drivers across the United States’

WASHINGTON — Today, U.S. Senator Tom Udall led a group of 31 Democratic senators in condemning President Trump’s executive order which threatens national monuments by directing the Department of Interior to review, and possibly modify or rescind, prior monument designations. The senators noted that national monuments enjoy widespread public support and serve as economic drivers across the United States. Given the depth and significance of support in the communities, the senators demanded that any process for evaluating existing monument protections be ‘open, transparent and public,’ and called on the Trump administration to ensure that full and meaningful consultation is conducted with federally recognized Indian tribes.

"We are writing you to express our deep concern with your Executive Order directing the Department of the Interior to review prior national monument designations and propose changes to modify or rescind these protected lands,” the senators wrote to President Trump. "Sixteen presidents from both parties have used the authority under the Antiquities Act to protect iconic landscapes across the United States and preserve the natural, cultural, historical, and scientific values for the benefit of all Americans and future generations. During your campaign and during Secretary Zinke’s confirmation hearing, you promised to emulate President Teddy Roosevelt and his vision for conserving public lands. We urge you to honor your promises and not alter the protections that previous presidents have put in place to safeguard these national monuments.”

As the senators wrote, national monuments and America’s protected public lands help fuel an $887 billion outdoor recreation industry, which sustains 7.6 million jobs and creates $65.3 billion in federal tax revenue and $59.2 billion in local and state tax revenue. In addition, the senators said, all recently designated national monuments were the result of exhaustive public and Tribal consultation, and polls show large majorities of westerners support maintaining existing protections.

The senators continued, "we request that any process for evaluating, modifying or removing the protections for areas designated under the Antiquities Act should be conducted through an open, transparent and public process in which all Americans can participate and provide their information and insight. In particular, it is important that government to government relationships with federally recognized Indian tribes be maintained through meaningful consultation.”

In addition to Udall, the letter was signed by U.S. Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Tom Carper (D-Del.), Robert Casey (D-Pa.), Christopher Coons (D-Del.), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Al Franken (D-Minn.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Angus King (I-Maine), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Mark Warner (D-Va.), and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.).

Earlier this month, Udall and a group of Western Democratic senators wrote to President Trump urging him to live up to his repeated promises on the campaign trail to protect public lands and uphold the existing protections of the 157 national monuments.

The full text of today's letter can be found below.

Dear Mr. President,

We are writing you to express our deep concern with your Executive Order directing the Department of the Interior to review prior national monument designations and propose changes to modify or retract protection of these lands. Sixteen presidents from both parties have used the authority under the Antiquities Act to protect iconic landscapes across the United States and preserve the natural, cultural, historical, and scientific values for the benefit of all Americans and future generations. During your campaign and during Secretary Zinke’s confirmation hearing, your administration promised to emulate President Teddy Roosevelt and his vision for conserving public lands. We urge you to honor your promises and not alter the protections that previous presidents have put in place to safeguard these national monuments.

These monuments are built upon the support of local communities and are economic drivers across the United States. Just yesterday, the Outdoor Industry Association (OIA) issued the latest economic numbers detailing how the outdoor industry is helping drive our economy. It found that the industry contributes $887 billion in consumer spending, produces 7.6 million jobs, and creates $65.3 billion in federal tax revenue and $59.2 billion in local and state tax revenue. All of these figures have increased since OIA’s last study in 2012 and are critical indicators of the value of America’s protected public lands. In 2016, National Parks alone saw a record 331 million visits, contributing almost $35 billion to the U.S. economy. In addition, regions surrounding national monuments have seen continued growth or improvement in employment, personal income and increased per-capita income, and rural counties in the West with more than 30 percent protected public lands saw jobs increase by 345 percent compared to regions without protected lands. Weakening protections, modifying, or rescinding national monuments could damage the economy of local communities.

In addition, despite claims to the contrary, all the national monuments designated during the past eight years were designated after public meetings were held and input was gathered from local communities, and each of these monuments had broad local support. The people who enjoy these lands have actively participated in the public process leading to their designation. Outdoor recreationists, local organizations, scientists, and tribes with ancestral ties to these lands all worked with prior administrations to ensure these lands are protected at the scale necessary to preserve its special values. The public has shown strong support for national monuments. A Colorado College poll in 2017 reports 80% of western voters supported keeping protections for existing national monuments. Recently, OIA announced it would pull its trade show out of Salt Lake City because of efforts to rescind the Bears Ears National Monument. Americans care deeply about national monuments and their voices should be considered if you proceed with any potential changes to the monument designations.

Thus, we request that any process evaluating national monuments designated under the Antiquities Act should be conducted through an open, transparent and public process in which all Americans can participate and provide their information and insight. In particular, it is important that government to government relationships with federally recognized Indian tribes be maintained through meaningful consultation.

Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,