This story is being updated as we learn more details on the executive order.
In late April, President Trump issued an executive order instructing the Department of the Interior to review 27 landscape-scale monuments protected over the last 21 years. The order is part of a direct attack on America’s parks, lands, and waters. Every indication from President Trump and politicians close to him is that the outcome is preordained: the review will be used to attempt to shrink or eliminate our national monuments.
The order could ultimately upend protections for millions of acres of public lands across the country by eliminating protections for 27 national monuments established since 1996 by President Clinton, President Bush, and President Obama. The order will review over 232 million acres of America’s lands and waters, including tens of thousands of archaeological sites, and numerous cultural and historic areas that celebrate America’s history, diversity, and natural beauty.
But that’s not the end of the story. White House documents leave the door open to target additional monuments if the Interior Secretary believes the designation was made without proper coordination with local stakeholders. This puts every monument designated since 1996 at serious risk.
These national monuments were set aside by presidents with the foresight to preserve deserving public lands in perpetuity for generations to come. Any attempt to reduce or remove recent national monuments is an erosion of the country’s system of protected public lands. An attack on even one of America’s national monuments is an attack on them all.
The executive order is part of an assault on America’s national monuments and the conservation legacy of the Antiquities Act, America’s national monument law signed by Theodore Roosevelt in 1906. Both Democratic and Republican presidents have used the Antiquities Act 231 times to protect America’s land, water, and history. Some of our most iconic landscapes, from Arches National Park to the Grand Canyon, were initially protected as national monuments.
Some politicians and their allies have proposed to eliminate the Antiquities Act, erase national monuments, or block future designations. But among Westerners, these attacks are deeply unpopular. A 2017 poll conducted by Colorado College found that 80% of Western voters supported keeping protections for existing national monuments, with only 13% in favor of rolling them back.
It’s no wonder that Westerners stand behind their national monuments, protected public lands make up the backbone of the region’s thriving outdoor economy. Nationwide, outdoor recreation accounts for $887 billion in annual consumer spending and 7.6 million American jobs. Any threat to national monuments is a threat to the communities that rely on these economic benefits.
No president has ever attempted to eliminate an existing national monument and boundary changes have never been challenged in court. Legal experts agree that the president does not have the authority to eliminate national monuments.