More than 100 groups call on Congress to oppose weakening national park protections
In conjunction with national park week, 122 groups sent a letter to Congress Tuesday urging members to oppose any legislation that might weaken protections of national parks and monuments.
The letter — signed by various groups representing the LGBTQ community, women, disabled Americans, African-Americans and others — calls the shrinking of national monuments an attack on the Antiquities Act.
“Any attack on our public lands, monuments, oceans, and waters is an attack on our communities, our history, our contributions to this great nation, and our culture; and it robs the next generation of a chance to learn from these shared treasures,” reads the letter. “It has often been said that our nation’s public lands system is one of our best ideas; we must now come together to protect these special places.”
The letter comes months after President Trump signed off on shrinking the borders of two national monuments in Utah’s Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante that were designated under an Obama administration executive order. The current administration has said it is reconsidering the boundaries of other national and marine monuments.
“Congress should not be making it harder to protect places that can make our parks and monuments system more inclusive and tell the fuller story of our nation’s history,” the group’s letter reads. “That is why we urge you to reject any legislation that would limit the president’s authority under the Antiquities Act or codify any unlawful rollbacks of existing national monuments.”
One bill in Congress aims to limit the president’s ability to establish national monuments under an executive order. The National Monument Creation and Protection Act sponsored by House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Rob Bishop (R-Utah) would require congressional approval for new monuments larger than 85,000 acres.
The groups argue that the monuments highlight the country’s diversity — a jab at recent comments reportedly made by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke downplaying diversity’s importance.
“We envision the establishment of public lands that reflect the diverse culture and experiences of our people, and respect and uplift our collective experience in America,” said Kevin Bryan, coordinator for the Next 100 Coalition, one of the groups that signed the letter.
“Sites such as Birmingham Civil Rights National Monument, Bears Ears National Monument, and Cesar E. Chavez National Monument represent the historical and cultural fabric that connects our diverse communities as a united people.”
Copyright 2023 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.