National Monuments are protected areas, either terrestrial or marine, that are somewhat similar to national parks. Unlike the latter, which requires Congressional approval, monuments can be created by order of the President. Similarly, they can be shrunk in that way.
They stem from the 1906 Antiquities Act, which originally came about in order to protect Native American ruins. The Act also permits areas of historic or scientific interest to gain a protected status.
Today, thanks to this piece of legislation, there are 27 national monuments scattered all over the country.
Back in August, the results of an Interior Department report on the state of the country’s national monuments was widely expected to deliver bad news: the unprecedented nixing of various national monuments, along with a range of shrinkages.
The Trump administration has a terrible track record when it comes to conservation, environmentalism, and science in general – so it came as an enormous surprise that the Secretary of the Interior, Ryan Zinke, announced that all 27 national monuments would retain their status. Ominously, however, it was noted that a “handful” of them would experience boundary changes.
Now it’s clear what that meant. The White House avoids the term “shrinking” altogether in an official press release, and instead claims that their “modification” of the boundaries has created “five unique national monument units”, which simply means that the remaining protected area has been fragmented into even smaller pieces.
“The Antiquities Act does not give the Federal Government unlimited power to lock up millions of acres of land and water, and it’s time we ended this abusive practice,” the President said in a statement released by the White House.
The President himself has explicitly referred to the oft-cited federal overreach as being the driving factor behind the shrinkage decision. Similar actions at other agencies citing precisely the same concern, however, appear to just be a cover for industry-led takeovers. Will the same apply this time around?