Interior Secretary Zinke Recommends Reduction of National Monuments

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Jim Scalzo / LA Times

Anoushka Gupta, Staff Writer

   On September 18, 2017, U.S Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke stated his plans to shrink four national monuments following an executive order from Trump. The executive order, signed on April 26, listed 27 monuments that Trump felt should undergo a severe size reduction, and gave the U.S Department of Interior jurisdiction on which monuments should be reduced. The main monuments under review are Oregon’s Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument, Utah’s Bears Ears, Grand Staircase-Escalante, and Nevada’s Gold Butte.

  According to the New York Times, President Donald Trump has even stated that turning these lands into national monuments was a “massive federal land grab” that “never should have happened.”  Despite this belief, Annie Dai (11) said, “the monuments have a sentimental value and symbolize where we were from as people.”

  Many environmentalist groups have been angered by the move and threatened to sue if the law were passed. These groups feel that by diminishing the size of the national monuments, much of our nation’s natural beauty would be destroyed by oil and ore mining companies who would now be able to take operation in the previously protected lands. Heidi McIntosh, attorney for the environmental group, Earthjustice, stated, “An attack on one monument is an attack on all.” Richard Ruan (12) sympathized with this belief, saying that “This should not happen because the monuments have important ecological impact and should not be destroyed.”

   Another group angered by this action was the Native American people who live on these lands. In particular, tribes in Utah’s Bear Ears Park would be severely affected as their sacred grounds are located in an area that would no longer be protected under Trump’s executive order. James Adakai, a member of the Navajo Nation, a tribe that lives in the Bear Ears National Monument,  said that, for his tribe, the action would be like saying, “Let’s shrink Mount Rushmore.”

  The issue has garnered a lot of support and backlash, but ultimately the final decision is up to Department of Interior.