Sunday, June 11, 2017 | 2 a.m.
On Thursday, we celebrated the 111th anniversary of the Antiquities Act, a measure that has played a critical role in protecting our nation’s greatest natural wonders.
The act specifically gives the president the power to set land aside as historic landmarks, historic and prehistoric structures, and other objects of scientific interest. The president also can use this power to expand monument boundaries, direct resources toward monument management and redesignate monuments as national parks. Since its inception, 16 presidents have used the act’s power — but no president has ever rescinded the designation of a previous administration.
On April 26, President Donald Trump issued an executive order calling for the review of all national monument designations since Jan. 1, 1996. This order calls on the secretary of the Interior to review these designations in just 120 days, despite the decades of work that have gone into these natural lands. After this review, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke will give a recommendation to President Trump as to which national monuments ought to be resized or simply abolished. Despite the clear evidence that national monuments serve to protect precious natural resources and contribute to local economies, this executive order could seriously endanger national monuments in Nevada and around the country.
Since the passage of the Antiquities Act, areas of cultural and environmental importance around the country have been protected from resource extraction, crime and pollution. Great Basin National Park is a perfect example of the importance of preservation in our home state. Great Basin actually began as a national monument; in 1922, the Lehman Caves National Monument was created, and then was incorporated into the Great Basin National Park in 1986. Today, Great Basin offers an abundance of pine trees, wildlife, lakes and streams, and limestone caverns. This area has been beautifully preserved and offers an ideal setting to study astronomy, as well as countless other outdoor activities.
National monuments like Gold Butte and Basin and Range, which are rich in history, culture and natural beauty, are in danger of being resized or eliminated altogether due to Trump. Gold Butte’s designation has resulted in the preservation of thousands of acres of treasured Nevada desert featuring a wide array of natural and cultural resources, including dramatic Aztec stone formations, artifacts from Paiute tribes and important habitats for wildlife. This monument has been preserved for activities that all Nevadans can now enjoy, including hiking, horseback riding, biking, camping and sightseeing on the monuments’ 300 trails. Basin and Range National Monument is one of the most undisturbed corners of the region, with a vast landscape of mountains and valleys available for visitors to explore.
These monuments and parks not only preserve Nevada’s natural beauty and cultural importance, but also contribute significantly to the state’s economy. The outdoor industry is an integral part of Nevada’s economy, responsible for nearly 150,000 direct jobs and more than $1 billion in state and local tax revenue. Thousands of visitors from across the world come to visit Southern Nevada to enjoy our public lands, contributing to our diverse and vibrant economy.
I am a strong believer that this land should be available for all to enjoy. That’s why I strongly oppose efforts by the current administration and outside groups to revoke Basin and Range and Gold Butte’s statuses as national monuments. I look forward to working with my colleagues in Congress to ensure that public lands are protected now and in the future. Please make your thoughts known by submitting your comments online at monumentsforall.org before July 10.
Rep. Jacky Rosen, D-Nev., was elected in November to serve the 3rd Congressional District.