Public Says Keep National Monuments. Will Department of the Interior Agree?

Americans voiced tremendous support for our public lands during the open comment period of the National Monument review. Now, it's the Department of the Interior's move.
The Mountaineers The Mountaineers
July 21, 2017

It’s been about three months since an Executive Order called for the review of our National Monuments, two months since the 60-day public comment period began, and a little over a week since the last of over a million submissions flooded the Department of the Interior.

So now what?

The parameters of the review put 27 National Monuments at risk to be rescinded or reduced. Of those 27, we have a concrete answer on two. The Department of the Interior recommended no changes to Hanford Reach National Monument in Washington and Craters of the Moon Monument in Idaho.

We’re thankful that the Department of the Interior listened to the public in these two instances, particularly Hanford Reach, which is located in The Mountaineers home state. However, as Senator Maria Cantwell said, the Executive Branch “…does not have the authority to rescind the lawful status of our protected National Monuments in the first place and taxpayer dollars should have never been used.”

Since the review is unprecedented, it’s difficult to tell what’s next, but we do know that over a million people weighed in, and studies show that the vast majority support maintaining our National Monuments.

The Center for Western Priorities analyzed a random sample (n=1000) of 654,197 comments submitted to regulations.gov. The group found that 98 percent of those comments expressed support for keeping or expanding national monument designations, while just 1 percent wanted to shrink or eliminate them.

In Utah, where elected officials continue to criticize the state’s Bears Ears National Monument, the group found that Utah residents support National Monuments by a nine-to-one margin. To read the full study, go here.

The Department of the Interior intends to read each comment. It remains to be determined how the DOI will quantify and present the results or how much weight the public’s wishes will have in the final recommendation.

The good news is Americans have spoken up for our National Monuments. As Senator Patty Murray said, “Because of you… the message is loud and clear that families in our state and around the country are ready to fight back against ill-conceived efforts to roll back protections for our prized public lands.”

Thank you to everyone who joined us in submitting comments! We’ll continue to update you with news and action opportunities.