Slashing Bears Ears Diminishes America’s Bipartisan Public Lands Legacy

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke announced plans to try to cut the size of Bears Ears National Monument today

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke announced plans to try to cut the size of Bears Ears National Monument today. 

Collin O’Mara, the National Wildlife Federation’s president and CEO, made the following statement about today’s announcement:

“The Administration sought more time for public input, the public spoke out, with more than a million hunters, anglers, and outdoor enthusiasts from Utah and the entire country loudly proclaiming Bears Ears deserves protection. For the Administration to then ignore that broad showing of support and recommend reducing the boundaries of Bears Ears is both disappointing and baffling. We take some small solace in the fact that those million-strong voices made it impossible to completely repeal the designation of Bears Ears, which some in the Administration no doubt wanted to do.”

“Every American should have confidence that the National Wildlife Federation and our allies will persevere in our fight to defend America’s public lands. We’re right on the merits — in the grand bipartisan conservation tradition of President Theodore Roosevelt, Americans overwhelmingly want our public lands to be accessible and well-managed for current and future generations. And we’re right on the law — legal experts hold that the Antiquities Act does not authorize presidents to rescind or shrink national monument designations.”

“The lands and waters of America’s national monuments matter to all Americans — they help sustain our fish and wildlife populations, provide clean water supplies, protect irreplaceable historic and archaeological treasures, and support hunting, fishing, and other outdoor opportunities. They fuel America’s outdoor recreation economy that generates $887 billion in spending annually and supports 7.6 million jobs. In many ways, our national monuments help make America exceptional, and it’s a legacy the National Wildlife Federation will defend no matter what.”

Reaction from the National Wildlife Federation’s state affiliates:

“The attempt to reduce Bears Ears National Monument is troubling to people across the country and certainly here in South Carolina. Our national public lands belong to all Americans. South Carolinians cherish our state’s forests, wildlife refuges, historic sites and public waters and can’t imagine not being able to enjoy them,” said Ben Gregg, executive director of the South Carolina Wildlife Federation. “We can’t imagine not being able to take our children or grandchildren to Rio Grande del Norte in New Mexico or Katahdin Woods in Maine and say to them ‘This land belongs to you.’ All the national monuments under review are part of our birthright and we don’t want our birthright sold out.”

“During the review process, the Interior Department got hundreds of thousands of comments about our monuments. They were overwhelmingly in favor of keeping our national monuments as they are," said New Mexico Wildlife Federation Executive Director Garrett Vene Klasen. "By recommending a reduction of Bears Ears National Monument today, it is clear the Interior Department and President have not listened to the American people. Large scale landscapes are needed to protect the wildlife and cultural sites at Bears Ears, reducing the monument defies years of collaboration between diverse stakeholders and the current support it enjoys."

"Papahānaumokuākea, the Pacific Remote Islands, and other marine national monuments are humanity's insurance policy in a warming world. Coral reefs, marine mammals, sea turtles, seabirds, sharks, food fish, and thousands of additional species find refuge in these protected areas,” said Marjorie Ziegler, executive director of the Conservation Council for Hawai'i. “Just as Bears Ears contains many cultural sites considered sacred to the Navajo, Ute and other First Nations of the American Southwest, Papahānaumokuākea is considered sacred to Native Hawaiians."

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