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The Non-Utah Monuments


One of the lies that the supporters of Trump’s actions in shrinking the Utah monuments tell is that the process to create these monuments is federal tyranny. This ignores that nearly all the Obama monuments were created with significant stakeholder involvement that tried to build something like a consensus. Not everyone was happy of course, primarily in the resource exploitation industries, but there were all sorts of carveouts for popular activities, inclusion of indigenous voices, and attempts to build toward something that looked like a collaborative process. In Utah more than any other western state, the state government was opposed to the monuments, because Utah is controlled by right-wing extremists who run up huge vote totals in the Salt Lake suburbs. Bears Ears was the first big national monument created at the behest of the tribes, but the racists who control Utah don’t care about those people.

So the question now is what Trump and the vile Ryan Zinke do with the other monuments, where you have more state government support. That includes Oregon. Zinke recommended the shrinking of the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument. But while the timber industry hates it, the rest of Oregon is supportive. Governor Kate Brown has promised to sue if it is shrunk and both Wyden and Merkley are big supporters in the Senate. So far, Trump hasn’t gone there.

“Nothing new on non-Utah monuments,” Heather Swift, a spokesperson for the department said in an email. She did not respond when asked if there was a timetable for more news on the fate of the Oregon monument.

Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden decried Trump’s move. “The fight must continue to protect our public lands across the country, including the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument in southern Oregon, from Trump’s and Zinke’s erratic and destructive agenda to restrict access to lands that belong to all Americans in order to benefit large corporations and donors,” he said.

In a September memo from the Department of Interior obtained by The Oregonian/OregonLive, Zinke recommended shrinking the Southern Oregon area to allow for more logging, improved roads and increased hunting and fishing access.

Wyden and Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., blasted that argument this fall, noting that there are hundreds of miles of good roads in the monument and hunting and fishing is already legal.

Wyden said Trump’s “unprecedented and astonishing decision” was based on “faulty information.”

Republicans in Oregon and other western states have argued Obama-era expansions of national monuments occurred without regard to the views of local residents.

Opponents have promised to fight any effort to shrink or modify the monuments with legal action.

Wyden hinted that he would be there for the long haul. “The battle to safeguard Utah’s national monuments for all Americans to enjoy will continue in the courtroom,” he said.

Dave Willis with Southern Oregon’s Soda Mountain Wilderness Council, said the legal fights will pick up steam now. “This administration’s public lands policy is to cut, drill, dig, stomp, chomp, road, and erode more than ever – and then pretend you’re a Teddy Roosevelt who ‘loves the land,'” he said in a statement. “National monuments are precious American gifts of past presidents to future generations.”

This will be the real tell for the future of land management. The only truly right-wing states in the West are Utah, Idaho, Wyoming, and arguably Montana. We know how Utah feels. Idaho and Wyoming don’t have any of the new big national monuments. Zinke has actually proposed a giant new national monument in Montana because he wants to run for governor there and conservation is a big political bonus. Yes, he’s a huge hypocrite. Arizona has a few of the big monuments but despite the Republican base there, giving public lands to corporations is not a huge issue among the retirees who move there and make up a big part of the Republican Party. Nevada is a purple state, Colorado has moved significantly to the left, New Mexico is purplish but the environmental groups there are relatively powerful, and then you have the coastal states. So any further monument reductions promises real resistance from the states and a major confrontation. And so far, Trump has not really taken on the blue states directly, in terms of going after legal weed or environmental issues. The tax bill certainly does this, but that’s from Congress. The sanctuary city issue is more localized since there aren’t sanctuary states. So some of this will be a tell of where the administration goes with states who hate it.

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