“Boundary adjustments” will eliminate key protections; national monuments must remain as designated
Tucson, Ariz. (August 24, 2017)—In response to Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke’s announcement regarding his recommendations for 27 national monuments, including four in Arizona, Archaeology Southwest’s President and CEO, William H. Doelle, made the following statements:
“While we await the report and its specific recommendations, Secretary Zinke’s comments regarding ‘boundary adjustments’ do not at all allay our concerns for the ‘handful’ of national monuments that would likely lose protections for broad areas.
“Make no mistake: such ‘adjustments’ will lead to destruction of cultural, historical, and natural landscapes. We and others in the conservation community are ready to challenge such ‘boundary adjustments’ in court.
“We expect the full report, when released to the public, will offer baseless recommendations that show utter disrespect for the Antiquities Act, its intent, tribal histories in the land, scientific research, and clear public support for America’s national monuments.
“The Antiquities Act of 1906 is visionary. It preserves and protects the lands and stories that teach us about people’s lives here since time immemorial. It asserts that there is broad public interest in the places and artifacts that tell our human story, that these deserve protection, and that, in addition to scientific value, there is value in interpreting these places and their meaning for humankind.
“Legal scholars state that only Congress has the power to change or rescind a national monument. The president does not have the authority to implement the eliminations of protection Secretary Zinke indicated are put forth in his report, whether at Bears Ears National Monument, or anywhere else.
“Secretary Zinke’s review process was too brief and too inconsistent: inconsistent in terms of whose voices were heard on the ground and which monuments will be recommended to remain intact, and certainly too brief given the years of work that went into each monument designation. I say that unequivocally for Bears Ears National Monument. Archaeology Southwest spent years working on designation as part of a group that included the Friends of Cedar Mesa and the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition.
“Yesterday, we released a free public report summarizing a Bears Ears archaeological experts meeting held July 22–23. The report shows that the archaeological record supports Antiquities Act protection for everything within the current boundary of Bears Ears National Monument.
“Bottom line: the review was unnecessary. So-called ‘boundary adjustments’ deliberately ignore science, the law, the will of the American people, and the sacred geographies of indigenous Americans. Furthermore, they will eliminate critical protections for these lands.
“Archaeology Southwest is ready to challenge the recommendations for Bears Ears National Monument in the courts. We stand with the Antiquities Act.”
- Secretary Zinke’s report was required by President Trump’s Executive Order 13792 signed on April 26, 2017. The president directed the Department of the Interior to review national monument designations under the Antiquities Act since January 1, 1996, that are greater than 100,000 acres or determined to be lacking in adequate public consultation. The deadline for the report on this review was August 24, 2017. Bears Ears National Monument, designated by President Obama on December 28, 2016, was a focus of the review. Arizona national monuments Vermilion Cliffs, Grand Canyon-Parshant, Sonoran Desert, and Ironwood Forest were included in the review.
- The requisite public comment period (May 11–July 10, 2017) revealed overwhelming public support for America’s national monuments, and especially those under review. Independent analysis of more than 1.3 million comments submitted by July 10 indicates that more than 90% of respondents oppose rescinding or reducing the protection afforded to the 27 monuments listed in the Executive Order. Respondents’ top issue of concern related to historical/cultural artifacts and places. [link to study]
- The public report, Bears Ears Archaeological Experts Gathering: Assessing and Looking Ahead is available as a free PDF download here.
About Archaeology Southwest
Archaeology Southwest is a private 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization based in Tucson, Arizona, that explores and protects the places of our past across the American Southwest and Mexican Northwest. For three decades, Archaeology Southwest has fostered meaningful connections to the past and respectfully safeguarded its irreplaceable resources. Learn more at www.archaeologysouthwest.org.