Trump Issues Executive Order Threatening National Monuments

The Trump Administration today issued an Executive Order that commands the Department of Interior to examine the Antiquities Act and national monuments designated over the last 21 years. The stated goal of the Executive Order is to determine whether the national monuments comply with the intent of the Antiquities Act—the law that allows presidents to proclaim national monuments without the consent of Congress.

Rock climbing in Indian Creek, Utah at Bears Ears National Monument
Photo courtesy of © Andrew Burr

This Executive Order may be the first step in undermining the authority of the Antiquities Act. Access Fund and legal experts doubt that a president has the authority to revoke or modify a national monument, and attacks on the Antiquities Act are a threat to our public lands.

The Antiquities Act has protected some of our country’s most important climbing areas, like Joshua Tree, Devils Tower, and Black Canyon of the Gunnison. Because of this, we have endorsed administrative designation of national monuments when the legislative process has been exhausted.

Trump has ordered the review of the recent designation of Bears Ears National Monument as the first priority, within the first 45 days of this 120-day order. The Bears Ears National Monument designation was the only viable option for protecting this threatened landscape—from resource extraction, looting and unmanaged recreation—after the 114th Congress adjourned without passing long-promised legislation to protect the area. Bears Ears National Monument includes the ultra-classic Indian Creek climbing area and many other remote climbing destinations. Utah legislators have recently been pressuring President Trump to rescind Bears Ears National Monument, as well as the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.

The previous administration spent years conducting a thorough assessment of the Bears Ears region that included a wide spectrum of stakeholders—including Access Fund—and this process resulted in a well-substantiated national monument boundary that protects threatened cultural resources and recreation areas. If the Trump Administration conducts a comprehensive and transparent review of the process through which Bears Ears National Monument was designated, Access Fund believes they will find that the monument, in its entirety, is justified.

“I’m confident that a thorough and honest review of the process that led to the creation of the Bears Ears National Monument—which included extensive consultation with Native Americans, San Juan county residents, conservationists, recreationists, legislators, and commercial interests—will support the need to protect the area and legitimacy of the Bears Ears National Monument boundary,” says Brady Robinson, Access Fund Executive Director.

Access Fund spent hundreds of hours over the past few years advocating for advanced protections for the Bears Ears landscape and the acknowledgement of “rock climbing” as a valued recreation opportunity in the monument proclamation.

Other national monuments that contain climbing resources that will also be subject to this review include Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument and San Gabriel Mountains National Monument. Their review is likely to come later in the 120-day window.

Access Fund will be watching this review process carefully. Please stay tuned for updates and potential action alerts. If you have not already done so, please tell Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke to protect Bears Ears National Monument.

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