Trump revises national monument designations
On Dec. 4, President Donald Trump made significant reductions to two national monuments in Utah, dropping the designations from over 3 million acres to just over 1 million.
“The President reduced the two large monuments in Utah by about 2 million acres in total,” said Public Lands Council (PLC Executive Director Ethan Lane. “This action took effect immediately, as soon as they signed the documents.”
Specifically the Grand Staircase Escalate Monument will be reduced from 1.9 million acres to approximately 1 million. The Bears Ears Monument will be reduced from 1.35 million to around 0.25 million acres.
“In addition, President Trump is cutting the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument into smaller pieces,” Lane continued. “Rather than a giant circle, they’re going to protect specific areas that need protection and allow multiple use on the ground around those pieces.”
Impact to ag
The impact to agriculture is immediately important, Lane said.
“The most obvious impact to anyone holding a grazing permit inside the monument area is ranchers now have the chance to achieve the full potential of their operations,” he said. “For 25 years, ranchers in the Escalante area have been withering on the vine.”
In the area, the total amount of animal unit months (AUMs) has dropped by 32 percent by the most conservative estimates. Local county estimates have shown decreases of up to 60 percent.
“The monument has been a catastrophic blow to the ranching industry,” Lane commented. “Sixty schools have closed in Utah as a result.”
When the monument was designated, supporters argued that tourism would recapture the impact to agriculture, but Lane explained the seasonal nature of the tourism industry can’t compete with year-round benefits of ag.
“Tourism is a great contribution to the economy, but it’s seasonal for those of us in the West, whereas ag provides a year-round revenue stream,” he emphasized.
In Wyoming, ranchers are protected from the threat of the Antiquities Act after a 1950 law amended the Act to require congressional content for creation or enlargement of national monuments in Wyoming.
However, Lane said Trump’s action is still influential on the state.
“For Wyoming ranchers, it’s important that the administration is paying attention to the impact of federal policy on ranchers’ ability to operate in the West, whether that’s through a monument designation, Endangered Species Act listing or waters of the U.S. designation,” he explained. “This administration is listening to cattlemen and sheep producers, and they’re taking action to improve on the record of the last few decades.”
“This is encouraging,” he added.
Agriculture interest groups responded with similar enthusiasm to the action.
The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association President Craig Uden commented, “We are grateful today’s action will allow ranchers to resume their role as responsible stewards of the land and drivers of rural economies. Going forward, it is critical we reform the Antiquities Act to ensure those whose livelihoods and communities depend on the land have a voice in federal land management decisions.”
In the wake of Trump’s action, Western Watersheds Project, Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club, WildEarth Guardians, Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife and others filed a lawsuit on Dec. 7.
Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke released a list of commonly perpetuated myths spread by opponents of the action, along with a summary of his review of designations under the Antiquities Act.
Among the many myths, opponents of Trump’s action have noted no president has ever reduced a monument, the monument review will sell or transfer public lands to the state and removal of the designation will leave Native American artifacts and paleontological objects subject to looking or desecration.
“Monuments have been reduced at least 18 times under presidents on both sides of the aisle,” Zinke said, adding that he opposes the wholesale sale or transfer of public lands, as well. “The Antiquities Act only allows federal land to be reserved as a national monument. Therefore, if any monument is reduced, the land would remain federally owned and would be managed by the appropriate federal land agency.”
Additionally, all artifacts and resources are still protected on public lands.
In addition to a review, Zinke also recommended beginning a process to consider three new national monuments – the Badger II Medicine Area in Montana, Camp Nelson in Kentucky and the Medgar Evers Home in Mississippi.
“America has spoken, and public land belongs to the people,” Zinke said. “As I visited the monuments across this country, I met with Americans on all sides of the issue – from ranchers to conservationists to tribal leaders – and found we agree on wanting to protect our heritage while still allowing public access to public land.”
Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to firstname.lastname@example.org.