Last night, the Department of the Interior closed public comment on the administration’s controversial review of the designations of Basin and Range and Gold Butte National Monuments and other monuments across the country. Ironically, this came on the same day as the second anniversary of Basin and Range National Monument’s designation. Much to the White House’s chagrin, public comments were overwhelmingly in favor of keeping the monuments in place.
What’s under review, and why?
The Trump Administration is currently reviewing several National Monuments designated since 1996. This includes two of Nevada’s monuments: Gold Butte, and Basin and Range. Late last month, U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke hinted that both monuments are on Donald Trump’s “short list” of monuments that he might try to downsize or revoke.
Two years ago, President Barack Obama designated Basin and Range National Monument. It’s home to ancient Native American artifacts, and to the City land art project. The Trump Administration has run afoul of Native American communities who want their heritage protected.
“There are pristine areas that need to be protected. […] It’s a right for so many people to enjoy our public lands.”
– U.S. Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D)
Earlier today, Senator Catherine Cortez Masto participated in a press conference at the U.S. Capitol and made her case for keeping Nevada’s monuments whole. “We will be united in this fight to protect our great outdoors. […] The fight is just beginning. Cortez Masto then mentioned how all the monuments declared by Obama have since generated $156 million in economic activity, directly benefitting nearby rural communities.
State legislators and other local leaders also voiced their support of Nevada’s monuments.
“Gold Butte and Basin and Range are two of our state’s most iconic National Monuments — they are a part of our natural heritage, and a part of our state’s identity.”
– Assembly Member Heidi Swank (D-Las Vegas)
Assembly Member Heidi Swank submitted her own comment on regulations.gov, and State Senator Nicole Cannizzaro (D-Las Vegas) mailed a letter in support. Swank successfully pushed for the passage of AJR 13 endorsing ongoing protection for both monuments, as did Cannizzaro with SB 413 to establish Public Lands Day in Nevada.
Battle Born Progress and Nevada Conservation League thanked the Nevada leaders who have stood up for public lands… And called out the two Members of Congress who have not. “All members of the delegation except for Senator [Dean] Heller [R] and Congressman [Mark] Amodei [R-Carson City] have answered the call of these Nevadans to stand with them in protecting Nevada’s natural treasures,” said Battle Born Progress Executive Director Annette Magnus. “We expect Heller and Amodei to join the rest of Nevada’s delegation and the will of over 98% of the positive comments that have come into the Department of the Interior during this review process.”
Over 2.5 million Americans submitted comments in support of protecting public lands.
Of the 2.5 million+ public comments submitted to the Trump Administration via regulations.gov, 98% were in support of maintaining protections of the National Monuments under review. Well over 90% of the comments from Nevada were in support of protecting the monuments. Even over 80% of the comments from Utah were in support of the monuments, despite local politicians’ long-running campaign against Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments.
Following his visit last month, Secretary Zinke plans to return to Nevada later in July. He’s expected to visit Gold Butte and Basin and Range National Monuments, though it’s unclear whether he will meet with community leaders who want to keep the monuments in place.
(Cover photo taken by Bob Wick, made available by BLM Nevada, and licensed under Creative Commons.)