Three national monuments in the Pacific Northwest are officially up for review. The Department of the Interior announced Friday that it’s opening up public comment periods for Hanford Reach, Cascade-Siskiyou and Craters of the Moon national monuments.
President Trump recently issued an executive order that called for a review of several monuments. The goal, the Department of the Interior says, is to let the public weigh-in on national monument designations — with an end result that could shrink, modify, or eliminate some monuments altogether.
The Northwest has seven national monuments. Washington’s Hanford Reach, Oregon’s Cascade-Siskiyou and Idaho’s Craters of the Moon national monuments made the Department of the Interior’s shortlist for review.
People will have 60 days to submit written comments on the two Northwest sites, once it’s officially published in the Federal Regiser. Online comments will be accepted after May 12.
Conservation groups and outdoor enthusiasts are not happy with the national monuments’ review status.
“We believe that any serious review of national monuments will conclude that these are special lands and waters, beloved by millions of Americans for their cultural, recreation, and habitat values,” said John Sterling, executive director of the Conservation Alliance, in a news release.
The executive order applies to monuments created or expanded since January 1, 1996. Monuments under review must have 100,000 or more of federal land.
The Hanford Reach National Monument, which is about 194,451 acres, was created in 2000 and is home to a variety of wildlife and some rare plants. The area also includes the longest free-flowing freshwater portion of the Columbia River, where fall chinook spawn. It’s also an important cultural area for the Yakama Nation. The B-Reactor, just outside the national monument area, was recently designated a part of the Manhattan Project National Historical Park.
U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., worked for years to help protect Hanford Reach. She touted the monument’s importance to the region’s economy, history, and culture.
“Re-litigating the Reach is not only unnecessary but also doubles down on widespread fears about the Trump Administration’s singular focus on rolling back protections for some of our country’s most prized public spaces,” Murray said in a statement.
The Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument was established in 2000 and expanded by President Obama in 2017, from 65,000 acres to 113,000 acres. It’s the first national monument set aside with the only purpose of preserving biodiversity.
“This review is unnecessary and it looks like the beginning of a slippery slope of the Trump administration trying to road and erode and log and drill America’s public lands. And that’s absolutely the wrong way to go,” said David Willis, chair of the Soda Mountain Wilderness Council, in an earlier interview with OPB.
The Antiquities Act of 1906 gives presidents the authority to protect lands deemed important for cultural or natural resources, without congressional approval or consultation of local residents.
“Today’s action, initiating a formal public comment process finally gives a voice to local communities and states when it comes to Antiquities Act monument designations. There is no pre-determined outcome on any monument,” said Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke in a statement.
All told, the department is reviewing 22 national monuments and five marine national monuments.