Leaked Interior Memo Suggests Monument Downsizing

On Sunday, September 17, a leaked memo from the Department of the Interior addressed the Trump Administration’s directive from April to review 27 land and ocean monuments created since 1996.

Here’s what it told us: 

  • 10 national monuments are recommended to be resized or opened up to mining, logging and other industrial purposes.
  • These monuments include:
    • Bears Ears National Monument, UT
    • Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument, OR
    • Gold Butte National Monument, NV
    • Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, UT
    • Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument, ME
    • Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument, MA
    • Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument, NM
    • Pacific Remote Islands National Monument
    • Rio Grande Del Norte National Monument, NM
    • Rose Atoll Marine National Monument
  • The memo also includes suggested new protections via the Antiquities Act, including:
    • Camp Nelson, KY
    • Medgar Evers Home, MS
    • Badger-Two Medicine Area, MT

Here’s what it means for our national monuments:

The words “The boundary should be revised through the use of appropriate authority” appear with frequency in the memo, addressing specifically Bears Ears, Cascade-Siskiyou, Grand Staircase-Escalante, Gold Butte, Rose Atoll, and the Pacific Remote Islands. While the word “revised” may inspire hope of expansion, it’s more likely that the borders would be downsized to allow for extraction and development, including unspecified “traditional use” of the land, which could include activities like drilling, mining, and increased grazing.

Specifically, timber production is to be prioritized in Cascade-Siskiyou and Katahdin Woods.

Commercial fishing is to be opened in Northeast Canyons and Seamounts, Pacific Remote Islands, and Rose Atoll.

In Bears Ears, the Department recommends “more appropriate conservation designations, such as national recreation areas or national conservation areas”.

Here’s what our community is saying

We’ve been talking to business owners in communities adjacent to national monuments in Maine, Utah, New Mexico, Oregon, Montana and other states, and the designations are the economic engines of their communities. Here’re a few of their comments:

“The Colorado National Monument and other protected public lands characterize the Fruita lifestyle.  Locals and visitors alike treasure the beauty and recreational activities that they provide.  Not only are they vital to the economy, but they also have positive effects on physical health and mental well being.” – Lori Buck, Mayor, Fruita, CO

Dave Willis (R) speaks with Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke (L).

“The Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument was established and expanded to protect its remarkable biodiversity. But its economic benefits are not lost on the two closest Oregon towns to the Monument, Ashland and Talent, whose chamber boards, city councils, and mayors all unanimously supported the recent January 2017 Monument expansion. Recognizing that “green is gold,” these towns know that a protected area in their backyard is good for business and improved quality of life for their citizens. By letter and in-person on behalf of both their towns, both mayors urged Secretary Zinke not to turn the clock back on Cascade-Siskiyou. It’s too bad the Secretary doesn’t seem to be listening. Reducing the Monument’s boundaries and/or protections would reduce the needed resilience of the ecologically strategic Cascade-Siskiyou biological corridor – as well as Southern Oregon’s long-overdue diversifying economy.”    – Dave Willis, Chair, Soda Mountain Wilderness Council

(L-R) Lucas St. Clair, Gail Fanjoy, Ryan Zinke

“Since last year’s designation of the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument, listed by CNN as number five on its list of 17 places in the WORLD to visit in 2017, the communities bordering the monument are growing economically, and more importantly, growing in hope and investment. The designation of the KWWNM was the spark which lit a fire of economic revival. Private investments, new businesses, business expansions, and real estate transfers illustrate the impact the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument is having on our local economy in its brief existence.” – Gail Fanjoy, past President, Katahdin Area Chamber of Commerce

“The greatest benefits to gateway communities near [Grand Staircase-Escalante] are two-fold: economies grew (and continue to grow) after designation of the spectacular wilderness Monument areas. People are buying experiences and millions of people have a memorable experience outdoors visiting these areas.  The other benefit is for all people: it’s the ability to visit public lands that offer things urban places cannot. In the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument for instance, new dinosaur species continue to be discovered and studied.

“For Escalante, there will be impacts from this recommendation, beginning with uncertainty, as several entities challenge this action in court.  If reductions were made after that process, it would be clear that the administration is not considering the American citizens’ pleas to leave the areas as they are– just as they weighed in during the comment period and every chance since.” – Suzanne Catlett, President, Escalante & Boulder Chamber of Commerce

“The economy of the area encompassed by the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument historically relied on ranching, timber and a limited amount of mining. Global economics have made the region far less competitive in those sectors. Since President Clinton designated the Grand Staircase as a national monument there has been a dramatic increase in new construction and local business development all related to the increase in tourism and the economic diversification that follows the visitor-based economy.” – Dave Conine, former Utah State Director for USDA Rural Development

Willie Grayeyes, Board Chairman, Utah Diné Bikéyah

“Any and all recommendations by Secretary Zinke regarding Bears Ears National Monument are fundamentally flawed because the Secretary never took the time to meet with and listen to local Native Americans, despite numerous invitations. Tribal people, whose ancestors have dwelled in and around Bears Ears for millennia, are keepers of traditional knowledge. We have a vision for our future that includes both land protection and building a sustainable economy for our children and grandchildren. It is frustrating that neither the state of Utah or Department of Interior can hear Native voices.” – Willie Grayeyes, Utah Diné Bikéyah Board Chair

Carrie Hamblen, CEO/President, Las Cruces Chamber of Commerce

“The Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument has been an economic driver for Las Cruces, New Mexico. More than 10 years of public input, coordination, and advocacy went into the designation of OMDP and to change the language within the proclamation is ignoring the majority of residents of Southern New Mexico who want the monument to remain unchanged.  Although we are grateful the boundaries will not be changed, we remain concerned about the intent to change the language within the proclamation.  Our local businesses have benefited from the monument by creating OMDP products and services like the OMDP Coffee Blend, the OMDP Cocktail, and the newly released Monumental Wine Series. Changing the language of the OMDP proclamation would hinder the positive economic impact our protected public lands have had for our community.” – Carrie Hamblen, CEO/President of the Las Cruces Green Chamber of Commerce. 

Lucas St. Clair, President, Elliotsville Plantation Inc.

“The Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument has led to increased economic stability in the region after only one year of its existence. To threaten the conservation and recreational resource with timber harvesting puts in jeopardy the very thing that is helping the region at such an important time. We are looking to a 21st century, diverse economy made up of young entrepreneurs, tourists, and high-efficiency forest products. It is critical to understand that these can all exist simultaneously and that one doesn’t have to replace the other. The recommendation to the White House creates more questions then answers and provokes more anxiety about the future then certainty. That is not the role of government.” – Lucas St. Clair, President, Elliotsville Plantation Inc.

Robbie Bond, Founder, Kids Speak for Parks

“At a time when our environment seems under attack from almost every possible direction, it deeply saddens me to find our parks and monuments threatened, by of all things, our own elected government. 99.2% of all comments received by the Department of the Interior opposed Presidents Trump’s executive order to review the monuments and one of them was mine. Ownership of these monuments is shared by over 320 million Americans and our voices are being ignored. Now, more than ever, our public lands need our support so they will be here for my generation and future generations.” – Robbie Bond, Kids Speak for Parks

Research indicates these folks have a right to be worried. Headwaters Economics has studied the local economies surrounding 17 national monuments in the western United States and found that all of them showed either continued or improved growth in key economic indicators such as population, employment, personal income, and per-capita income.

Public lands and outdoor recreation are important to the American economy. According to the Outdoor Industry Association, outdoor recreation generates $887 billion in consumer spending and 7.6 million jobs each year.

At The Center for Jackson Hole, we are alarmed at the current administration’s threats to these economic drivers, as well as to the preservation and protection of our public lands. President Trump needs to harness the power and reach of the outdoor recreation and public lands economy, not hinder it.

Here’s what SHIFT is doing about it:

That’s the point of this year’s SHIFT. The benefits of outdoor recreation and the conservation of public lands are critical to our economy. SHIFT aims to provide the tools and power of collective voice to advance our case and gain more support for public land. As long as public land designations remain vulnerable, we’ll need to fight, strong and together, to protect our investments.

On the opening night of SHIFT, we are honored to present a special feature on Utah’s Bears Ears National Monument, with keynotes by Jonah Yellowman, Eric Descheenie and Cynthia Wilson, the tribal leaders who helped create it.

On SHIFT’s closing night, Lucas St. Clair will keynote a presentation on Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument. St. Clair is the President of Elliotsville Plantation, Inc., a 2017 SHIFT Award Official Selection for its role in the creation of the monument.

Also, the perspectives of business owners and community leaders from Grand Staircase-Escalante, Organ Peaks-Desert Mountains and Bears Ears national monuments, among others, will be showcased at SHIFT on November 2, in a panel that focuses on The Designation Effect: How the economies of national monument gateway communities around the country have been impacted by the designations.

Throughout the duration of the three-day Festival, SHIFT’s popular working sessions will provide a unique opportunity for business leaders to learn how others are successfully harnessing industry voices to advance public land issues. There will also be workshops that will equip attendees with new insights and actionable strategies on how outdoor recreation can reinvigorate local economies.

This year’s SHIFT will make the business case for public lands. In the midst of the current political landscape, that argument is more important than ever to make.


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