Guest Opinion - Stand up for national monuments

By: 
Ted Brewer

 

 

On Dec. 4, President Trump signed two proclamations dramatically reducing the size of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments in southern Utah.

In response, Hold Our Ground called on Congressman Greg Gianforte to immediately withdraw his support of the “National Monument Creation and Protection Act” (H.R. 3990). H.R. 3990 gives current and future presidents legal authority to shrink existing national monuments and would prohibit them from designating future national monuments, as currently allowed by the 1906 Antiquities Act. In October, Rep. Gianforte voted for H.R. 3990 as a member of the House Natural Resources Committee.

“Hundreds of legal scholars agree that what the President did isn’t legal, but Bishop’s dishonestly-named bill would make it legal,” said Larry Epstein, a former Glacier County attorney and a representative of Hold Our Ground. “This bill would allow Trump and future presidents to strip protection from millions of acres of irreplaceable public lands and hundreds of national monuments, including Pompeys Pillar and Upper Missouri River Breaks here in Montana.”

Hold Our Ground is a diverse group of Montanans dedicated to protecting national monuments and other public lands that hold cultural, historical, and scientific value for the people of Montana and the United States.

Early in the year, Colorado College released a poll showing that 77 percent of Montanans support existing national monuments. During a review of national monuments this summer, more than 24,000 Montanans submitted comments to Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke urging him to maintain Upper Missouri River Breaks and other existing national monuments. At the end of the review, Secretary Zinke recommended that Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument remain intact.

“If H.R. 3990 passes, the Upper Missouri River Breaks will be put right back on the chopping block and subject to the political whims of the current and future presidents,” said Nicolle Fugere, owner of Missouri River Outfitters in Fort Benton and a Hold Our Ground representative. “The bill jeopardizes my business and thousands of others in Montana and across the country that depend on the permanent protection national monuments were intended to have.”

Representatives of Hold Our Ground perceive President Trump’s proclamation as a giveaway to the demands of Utah’s political leaders and others who have advocated for transferring and privatizing public lands.

“H.R. 3990 is an attempt by Utah Congressman Rob Bishop to not only dismantle the Antiquities Act, but to dismantle our entire public lands legacy,” said Hold Our Ground representative Hilary Hutcheson, host of Trout TV and owner of Lary’s Fly and Supply in Columbia Falls. “If Rep. Gianforte doesn’t withdraw his support of H.R. 3990, Montanans will certainly hold him accountable for standing with Rep. Bishop’s anti-public lands crusade and against Montana’s outdoor way of life.”

Signed by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1906, the Antiquities Act gives U.S. presidents the authority to designate national monuments – that is, to set aside and safeguard public lands with outstanding natural, cultural, historical, and scientific value to the people of this country. Over the past 110 years, 16 presidents – eight Democrats and eight Republicans – have used the Antiquities Act to designate 157 national monuments, including Montana’s Upper Missouri River Breaks and Pompeys Pillar.

“The Antiquities Act is one of the best tools we have for preserving, protecting, and perpetuating the shared heritage we’ve inherited – as Native Americans, European Americans, as Montanans,” said Hold Our Ground spokesman Shane Doyle, an educator and Crow tribal member. “If we don’t protect the public lands that embody that heritage, we could very well lose touch with who we are as a people.”

 

Ted Brewer is the communications director for Montana Wilderness Association. The MWA is a member of Hold Our Ground.

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