(Washington, D.C., April 26, 2017) President Trump signed an Executive Order today calling for the Interior Department to review National Monument designations exceeding 100,000 acres since 1996, with an eye toward reducing or eliminating areas that were protected for their historic, cultural, and environmental importance.
“This Executive Order has the potential to undermine one of the nation’s most important conservation tools—one that has benefited endangered birds such as the Northern Spotted Owl and provided habitat essential for their recovery,” said Steve Holmer, Vice President of Policy for American Bird Conservancy. “It’s a troubling reversal of the conservation ethic established by President Teddy Roosevelt in 1906, when he signed the Antiquities Act to safeguard and preserve federal lands and cultural and historical sites for all Americans to enjoy.”
Across the United States, National Monuments make a crucial difference for wildlife. For instance, the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument, the only monument created specifically to conserve biodiversity, provides habitat for the threatened Northern Spotted Owl. The monument also creates an important habitat linkage for the species by protecting a ridge that connects the Coast Range with the Cascade Range. The Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, established by President George W. Bush in 2006, protects the land and waters of the Northwest Hawaiian Islands and is home to 99 percent of the world's breeding population of Laysan Albatross, as well as critically endangered Laysan Duck, Nihoa Finch, and NihoaMillerbird.
“This review process is a step in the wrong direction,” Holmer said. “It threatens endangered birds and diminishes the natural heritage of future generations of Americans."
The Executive Order also threatens to undermine a sustainable economic engine. Outdoor recreation alone generated $887 billion and supported 7.6 million jobs last year. In 2016, national parks saw a record 331 million visits, contributing almost $35 billion to the U.S. economy. Regions surrounding national monuments have seen continued growth or improvement in employment and personal income, and rural counties in the West with more federal lands have healthier economies, on average, than similar communities with fewer protected lands.
(Photo: National Monuments protect crucial habitat for threatened birds, including Northern Spotted Owl, and many other species. Photo by All Canada Photos.)