FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

War on the Monuments

by GEORGE WUERTHNER

Congressman Denny Rehberg’s legislation “The Montana Land Sovereignty Act”, as well as similar legislation with identical goals introduced by Utah and Idaho representatives, is a cynical attempt to shackle the President’s prerogative to create national monuments. Collectively these bills represent an effort to undermine the 1906 Antiquities Act which history has shown to be a valuable tool for land protection. The Act gives the President authority to designate national monuments on federal lands without local or Congressional approval.

Many of these monuments are later proven to be so popular they are upgraded to national park status by Congress.  Some of our most cherished national parks were originally established by Presidential decree using the Antiquities Act. They include Grand Canyon, Arches, Death Valley, Olympic, Glacier Bay, Saguaro,  Lassen Volcano, Joshua Tree, Petrified Forest, Zion, Kenai Fiords, Wrangell St Elias, Gates of the Arctic, Black Canyon of the Gunnison, Bryce Canyon, Great Basin, Grand Teton, among others. In nearly all instances, there was local opposition to designation of these national monuments.  If it had been left to local approval for designation we would not now be enjoying many of these parks and monuments.

For instance, Teddy Roosevelt used the Antiquities Act in 1908 to designate an 800,000 acre Grand Canyon National Monument over the objections of local miners, loggers, and ranchers. Arizona’s Congressional delegation responded to Roosevelt’s action by blocking any appropriations for the new monument, and later succeeded in shrinking the size of the monument.  But by the 1990s attitudes towards the Grand Canyon had changed dramatically such that when the federal government was shut down by intransigence in Congress, Arizona official pleaded  to keep the Grand Canyon National Park operating , even volunteering to pay with state funds the salaries of rangers and other employees.

Similarly after President Franklin Roosevelt designated a portion of what is now the Grand Tetons National Park as a national monument, Wyoming’s Congressional delegation introduced legislation to abolish the monument. It was only Roosevelt’s veto that saved the monument which was later incorporated into Grand Teton National Park.

Locals in Jackson predicted the creation of the national monument would so harm the area’s economy that Jackson would become a “ghost town.”  Some Jackson residents openly questioned why anyone would pay good money to come look at a bunch of mountains.  We know today that lots of people are willing to pay good money to look at a bunch of mountains, and that Grand Teton National Park is one of the economic engines of Wyoming. Such is the lack of imagination that often resides among locals who have a very narrow perspective on the value of natural lands.

We can find many other examples of the short-sighted perspective of local residents. When President Jimmy Carter designated Kenai Fiords as a national monument in 1978, locals in Seward Alaska at the entrance to the new monument burned him in effigy. Go to Seward today and you will find that nearly all locals either economically dependent upon or at least glad that Kenai Fiords was established as a national monument and later a national park.

National Monument designation by executive order has proven to be a valuable conservation tool and any attempts to modify it should be opposed.

George Wuerthner of Helena, Montana is an ecologist, writer and photographer. He is the author of 35 books, many dealing with national parks.

George Wuerthner has published 36 books including Wildfire: A Century of Failed Forest Policy. He serves on the board of the Western Watersheds Project.

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
December 09, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Nasty As They Wanna Be
Henry Giroux
Trump’s Second Gilded Age: Overcoming the Rule of Billionaires and Militarists
Andrew Levine
Trump’s Chumps: Victims of the Old Bait and Switch
Chris Welzenbach
The Forgotten Sneak Attack
Lewis Lapham
Hostile Takeover
Joshua Frank
This Week at CounterPunch: More Hollow Smears and Baseless Accusations
Paul Street
The Democrats Do Their Job, Again
Vijay Prashad
The Cuban Revolution: Defying Imperialism From Its Backyard
Michael Hudson - Sharmini Peries
Orwellian Economics
Erin McCarley
American Nazis and the Fight for US History
Mark Ames
The Anonymous Blacklist Promoted by the Washington Post Has Apparent Ties to Ukrainian Fascism and CIA Spying
Yoav Litvin
Resist or Conform: Lessons in Fortitude and Weakness From the Israeli Left
Conn Hallinan
India & Pakistan: the Unthinkable
Andrew Smolski
Third Coast Pillory: Nativism on the Left – A Realer Smith
Joshua Sperber
Trump in the Age of Identity Politics
Brandy Baker
Jill Stein Sees Russia From Her House
Katheryne Schulz
Report from Santiago de Cuba: Celebrating Fidel’s Rebellious Life
Nelson Valdes
Fidel and the Good People
Norman Solomon
McCarthy’s Smiling Ghost: Democrats Point the Finger at Russia
Renee Parsons
The Snowflake Nation and Trump on Immigration
Margaret Kimberley
Black Fear of Trump
Michael J. Sainato
A Pruitt Running Through It: Trump Kills Nearly Useless EPA With Nomination of Oil Industry Hack
Ron Jacobs
Surviving Hate and Death—The AIDS Crisis in 1980s USA
David Swanson
Virginia’s Constitution Needs Improving
Louis Proyect
Narcos and the Story of Colombia’s Unhappiness
Paul Atwood
War Has Been, is, and Will be the American Way of Life…Unless?
John Wight
Syria and the Bodyguard of Lies
Richard Hardigan
Anti-Semitism Awareness Act: Senate Bill Criminalizes Criticism of Israel
Kathy Kelly
See How We Live
David Macaray
Trump Picks his Secretary of Labor. Ho-Hum.
Howard Lisnoff
Interview with a Political Organizer
Yves Engler
BDS and Anti-Semitism
Adam Parsons
Home Truths About the Climate Emergency
Brian Cloughley
The Decline and Fall of Britain
Eamonn Fingleton
U.S. China Policy: Is Obama Schizoid?
Graham Peebles
Worldwide Air Pollution is Making us Ill
Joseph Natoli
Fake News is Subjective?
Andre Vltchek
Tough-Talking Philippine President Duterte
Binoy Kampmark
Total Surveillance: Snooping in the United Kingdom
Guillermo R. Gil
Vivirse la película: Willful Opposition to the Fiscal Control Board in Puerto Rico
Patrick Bond
South Africa’s Junk Credit Rating was Avoided, But at the Cost of Junk Analysis
Clancy Sigal
Investigate the Protesters! A Trial Balloon Filled With Poison Gas
Pierre Labossiere – Margaret Prescod
Human Rights and Alternative Media Delegation Report on Haiti’s Elections
Charles R. Larson
Review:  Helon Habila’s The Chibok Girls: the Boko Haram Kidnappings and Islamist Militancy in Nigeria
David Yearsley
Brahms and the Tears of Britain’s Oppressed
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail