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Why national monument protection matters

© Bob Wick, BLM/Flickr Creative Commons

Editor’s Note: An update to this story: On December 4, 2017, Dr. M. Sanjayan, CEO of Conservation International (CI), reacted to President Trump’s announcement to cut land from national monuments in Utah on Monday. Here are three stories you need to read about the effects of reducing America’s national monuments. 

1. White House to shrink Utah monuments

When Trump visits Utah on Monday, he will announce plans to cut Bears Ears National Monument by 85 percent and reduce Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument nearly by half, according to documents obtained by The Washington Post.

The downsizing of these monuments follows a broader pattern of PADDD events. PADDD, which stands for protected area downgrading, downsizing and degazettement, are events that make legal changes to protected area laws and regulations that relax the rules governing use of resources, shrink park boundaries or eliminate the protected area entirely. Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, encouraged Trump to consider allowing mining on Grand Staircase-Escalante.

2. UPDATE: U.S. recommends reductions to 10 national monuments

After an unusual, months-long review of national monuments, U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke recommended reductions in 10 U.S. national monuments and parks. Zinke’s memo calls for shrinking at least four sites and changing management at all 10 sites to permit previously restricted activities such as grazing and mining.

Two marine national monuments — Pacific Remote Islands and Rose Atoll — were among the 10 recommended for reductions. Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument in northwestern Hawai‘i, meanwhile, was not slated for any immediate action, according to the Post.

3. America’s largest national monument is under threat

Although Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument isn’t immediately on the administration’s chopping block, the White House is setting a dangerous precedent for protected areas.

The monument enjoys widespread support from local to international levels. It’s incomprehensible, then, that this global pioneer in the engagement of indigenous people in management and large-scale ocean conservation would be placed under “review,” Aulani Wilhelm, a Native Hawaiian and the monument’s first superintendent, said in June.

The creation of Papahānaumokuākea and the other U.S. Pacific marine national monuments established the United States as a global leader in marine conservation, creating new models for managing large-scale and remote ocean areas. This work has been replicated very quickly. There are now 18 large-scale sites in the world encompassing nearly 10 million square kilometers (3,861,022 square miles, an area slightly larger than the United States). The establishment of large-scale MPAs is arguably the single largest driver for the dramatic increase in ocean protection globally, something the United States should be proud of.

Morgan Lynch is a staff writer for CI.