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National Treasure I

State legislators oppose Trump executive order

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

A bipartisan group of 325 state legislators from 44 states sent a letter to President Trump this week, raising strong concerns with an unprecedented action to review public lands under an executive order signed late last month. The diverse group of legislators urge the president not to rescind or shrink the lands currently designated as national monuments under the Antiquities Act.

“This action puts our heritage at risk here in Washington and across the country. While a select list of national monuments, including Hanford Reach and San Juan Islands in Washington state, could be under immediate review, the order is a first step that puts all public lands at risk,” said Sen. Kevin Ranker (D-Orcas Island) who drafted the letter. “The president’s action serves the needs of some special interest groups while ignoring the needs of millions who enjoy our nation’s most special places and the jobs that depend on them.”

The 1906 Antiquities Act has allowed the designations of national monuments by nearly every previous president beginning with President Theodore Roosevelt, and include such areas and places as the Grand Canyon, Zion, Chaco Canyon, Olympic National Park, Muir Woods, and the Statue of Liberty. President Barack Obama in particular used the act with precision to protect areas of natural and archaeological values, scientific and educational interest—including lands in the San Juan Islands. These represent a small fraction of the 640 million acres of federal lands.

“National monuments hold an important place in our history and culture in the United States. No president has attempted to revoke a national monument before,” said Jeff Mauk, Executive Director of National Caucus of Environmental Legislators. “We urge the president to work with Congress and state legislators to increase funding for public land management and boost the surrounding local economies.”

In their letter, lawmakers cited the significant economic benefits of protected federal lands, including outdoor recreation and tourism.

“The third assessment of the nation’s Outdoor Recreation Economy, just released by the Outdoor Industry Association, concludes that the outdoor recreation economy generates $887 billion in consumer spending, is responsible for 7.6 million American jobs, and provides $125 million in federal, state, and local tax revenues,” Ranker noted in his letter. “For a sense of the magnitude of these benefits, the jobs dependent on outdoor recreation pursuits exceed those in computer technology, in construction, and in the finance and insurance industry. The study also estimates that public lands, including national monuments, national parks, and national wildlife refuges, account for $45 billion in economic output and about 396,000 jobs nationwide.

“Public support for protecting special places is strong, and many small communities increasingly depend on tourism and the growing outdoor recreation economy,” Ranker said.

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