Washington—Senators Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris (both D-Calif.) called on Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke to preserve the monument designation and current boundaries of all six California national monuments currently under review by the Trump administration.
“These iconic California landscapes and historic landmarks were designated by President Trump’s predecessors in recognition of their ‘historic or scientific interest’ to the nation and special meaning for our state,” the senators wrote. “On behalf of all Californians, we urge that these national monument designations are preserved with their present boundaries, to ensure these special places remain for generations to come.”
The full text of the letter follows:
June 9, 2017
The Honorable Ryan K. Zinke
U.S. Department of the Interior
1849 C Street, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20240
Dear Secretary Zinke:
We write in response to your May 12 letter, requesting our comments by June 9, to express strong support for the six California National Monuments as currently designated under the Antiquities Act. We attach Appendix A to our letter containing some specific details about each monument. The monuments in California you are reviewing pursuant to Executive Order 13792 are:
- Mojave Trails
- Sand to Snow
- Berryessa Snow Mountain
- San Gabriel Mountains
- Carrizo Plain
- Giant Sequoia
We firmly believe these six monument designations fall well within the scope and purpose of the Antiquities Act, which enables the President to “declare by public proclamation historic landmarks, historic and prehistoric structures, and other objects of historic or scientific interests…” In addition, we believe the designation process for all six California National Monuments had beyond adequate public outreach and coordination. Further, public engagement continues after proclamation with “maximum public involvement” required in the development of management plans for most of these monuments.
These iconic California landscapes and historic landmarks were designated by President Trump’s predecessors in recognition of their “historic or scientific interest” to the nation and special meaning for our state. On behalf of all Californians, we urge that these national monument designations are preserved with their present boundaries, to ensure these special places remain for generations to come.
Visitors to these six California national monuments enjoy a range of experiences, including majestic sequoias, pristine mountain air, geological formations ranging from sea level to elevation, exceptional Native American and national historical sites, and numerous other wonders to explore. Importantly, California’s national monuments also safeguard natural supplies of clean drinking water for some of our nation’s most populated urban areas.
Californians overwhelmingly support the conservation of their federal lands, and these six national monument designations are no exception. In fact, a poll published in advance of President Obama’s 2015 Antiquities Act designation found that 75% of Californians statewide and 70% in the desert region supported establishing the Mojave Trails, Sand to Snow, and Castle Mountains National Monuments.
We expect your Department’s review to acknowledge that each of these six national monument designations was achieved through hard work and collaboration between federal agencies, local communities, tribes, and other stakeholder groups. In fact, all national monuments designated in California during the Obama Administration resulted from months of public dialogue including in-state public meetings, and many, such as San Gabriel Mountains, were many years in the making.
California is home to numerous examples of unique landscapes and natural areas designated as national monuments by both Republican and Democratic presidents, going back to the early 20th century. Many of California’s most visited parks, including Joshua Tree National Park, were first protected by presidential order as national monuments. Without Antiquities Act designations, these breathtaking landscapes, historical sites, and natural areas would simply not exist as we know them today. Five of California’s nine National Parks were first protected as national monuments by presidential order. Nationwide, nearly half of the 59 current national parks were first protected as national monuments under the Antiquities Act.
These six presidentially designated national monuments also have significant positive economic impacts, particularly for rural development in communities across California. Many of California’s federal land units, including our national monuments, enjoyed record-breaking attendance last year. According to a study by the Outdoor Industry Association, more than 59% of Californians participate in outdoor recreation each year, directly supporting an estimated 732,000 jobs, and generating some $85.4 billion in consumer spending and $6.7 billion in state and local tax revenue.
A recent study by Headwaters Economics shows the positive economic impacts of national monuments, tracking data from 2001 to 2015. The study includes two California monuments, Carrizo Plain and Giant Sequoia, where the neighboring rural counties experienced positive economic growth and an increase in jobs, real personal income, and real per capita income for local residents. In San Luis Obispo and Kern counties, both nearby the Carrizo Plain monument designated in 2001, jobs grew by 28%. In counties neighboring the Giant Sequoia National Monument designated in 2000, jobs grew by 20%. This economic data illustrates some of the many positive impacts of these designations for individuals and local communities.
A 2015 report by the nonpartisan Sonoran Institute found that much of the economic growth in California’s desert region over the past four decades was attributable to “businesses and demographic changes that benefit directly from preserving the desert.” Furthermore, the Sonoran Institute report found that designating the Mojave Trails, Sand to Snow, and Castle Mountains National Monuments was likely the “highest and best economic use of those public lands” while also wholly “compatible with ongoing mining activities and…future development of critical and competitive mineral resources.”
We respectfully request that your Department not recommend to the President that California’s national monuments be rolled back or otherwise reduced. This would in turn jeopardize good-paying jobs in our state’s tourism and outdoor recreation economies, and have negative impacts on both rural and urban communities. Please do not hesitate to contact us to discuss California’s national monuments further. Thank you for considering our views.
United States Senator
Kamala D. Harris
United States Senator
Attachments: California National Monuments under DOI Review