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Shrinking National Monuments: An Unprecedented Attack on Our Public Lands

Shrinking National Monuments: An Unprecedented Attack on Our Public Lands

By: Eric Melson
Posted: December 6, 2017
Shrinking National Monuments

On December 4, President Trump announced a drastic—and possibly illegal—attack on national monuments in southern Utah. The changes will eliminate 84% of Bears Ears National Monument and remove about half of Grand-Staircase Escalante National Monument. Both monuments offer significant outdoor recreation and cultural significance that would no longer be protected with these changes. These changes account for 2.2 million acres, making this the largest rollback of federal land protection in the nation’s history.

In April, President Trump ordered Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to create a report summarizing the review of 27 National Monuments created since 1996. Since 1906 when the Antiquities Act was signed into law, 16 presidents, both Democrat and Republican, have designated a total of 157 National Monuments across the country. This review places each and every one of those places in jeopardy.

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The report recommends changes to eight monuments, which could strip the public of tens of millions acres of more of our public land. Zinke’s report recommends opening Maine’s Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument for logging—one of the four monuments IMBA specifically advocated for because of its quality mountain biking opportunities—and shrinking Oregon’s Cascade-Siskiyou for the same reason.

In an Outdoor Alliance press release, IMBA Executive Director Dave Wiens said, "National Monuments have become a great tool to preserve places we love to ride. Unlike some land protection measures, National Monuments are mountain bike-friendly and strike a balance between preservation and recreation to allow the American public to directly experience the uniqueness of these areas. Mountain bikers submitted over 5,000 letters to Secretary Zinke and President Trump saying loud and clear that our National Monuments need to be protected. These actions are an attack on our protected public lands.”

During a spring 2017 public comment period more than 98% of the 2.7 million public comments submitted were in favor of keeping these monuments in tact. Yet the administration is pressing on, putting dozens of other monuments at risk and possibly opening millions of preserved public acres to oil and gas extraction, mining, logging and other commercial activities that would interrupt these unique recreation experiences and cultural treasures.

The president’s legal authority to take these actions is in question. A number of groups, including our climbing friends at the Access Fund, Native American groups and sovereign tribal nations, conservation groups, and businesses are planning to take legal action. IMBA supports its partners who intend to challenge this unprecedented attack.

There are over 35,000 miles of rideable trail on federal public lands, but this fight is about more than mountain biking and mountain bike trails. This move to slash protections threatens the very foundation of our public land system and is a pivotal moment in the future of our nation’s protected areas.

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