Wednesday, April 26, 2017

How Trump’s Monuments Review Could Impact Climate

The Toadstools section of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, which is being reviewed by the Trump administration for a reduction in size or abolishment. (Credit: James Marvin Phelps/flickr) Click to Enlarge.
President Trump has directed the Interior Department to “review” all large national monuments created since 1996 to recommend ways for Congress to shrink or abolish them.

The directive came in the form of an executive order signed by the president Wednesday morning.  It requires the department to make preliminary recommendations within 45 days and affects only those monuments that are larger than 100,000 acres.

Each of the monuments in the crosshairs was created using the Antiquities Act, a 1906 law that allows a president to unilaterally give national monument status to federal public land without congressional action.  Historically, many monuments created using the act were later upgraded by Congress to become national parks.

“The Antiquities Act does not give the federal government unlimited power to lock up millions of acres of land and water, and it is time we ended this abusive practice,” Trump said before signing the order, singling out the new Bears Ears National Monument in Utah as an example. “I’m directing (Interior) Secretary (Ryan) Zinke to end these abuses and return control to the people — the people of Utah, the people of all the states, the people of the United States.”

In reality, the monuments are public land and most of them were public prior to being designated as national monuments.  Federal law requires the government to include the public in many decisions about how the land is managed.

Zinke said Tuesday that the size of new monuments has been increasing in recent years, and the review is designed to investigate if they’ve been made too large without sufficient public input.  He is expected to issue preliminary recommendations for Congressional actions to Trump within 45 days followed by a final report in four months.

National monuments play a role in America’s response and contribution to climate change because many of them harbor vast reserves of fossil fuel and timber, which are mostly made off limits to development when a monument is created.  The monuments protect ecosystems vulnerable to climate change, store atmospheric carbon in dense forests and, in some cases, serve as sources of water for nearby communities.

Read more at How Trump’s Monuments Review Could Impact Climate

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