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Public Comment Period Open to review National Monuments

President Trump signed an Executive Order April 26, 2017 that could threaten the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks and Rio Grande del Norte National Monuments. The order “directs the Department of the Interior to review prior monument designations and suggest legislative changes or modifications to the monument proclamations.”     Save your monuments>>

Starting on May 12, 2017, the Department of the Interior launched a public comment period ending on Tuesday July 11, 2017. After the 60-Day Review, Secretary Zinke will recommend either legislative or administrative action on national monuments under review, including both Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks and Rio Grande del Norte. Submit your comment today.

Efforts to protect these federal public lands began in the early 1970s, with community support growing steadily over decades. Legislation to protect these areas has been introduced into Congress by both Republican and Democratic Senators, with subsequent bills introduced until President Obama designated the areas as national monuments after Congress was unable to move legislation. Dozens of local government support resolutions passed during this time.

The Río Grande del Norte National Monument was designated in 2013 in response to support from local business owners, local chambers of commerce, sportsmen and ranchers, local elected officials, Hispanic organizations, Native American tribes, and countless others. The Organ Mountains Desert-Peaks National Monument was designated in 2014 with the support of a broad coalition of stakeholder including sportsmen, Native Americans, business leaders, veterans, civic groups, current and former local elected officials, archaeologists, historians, and conservation organizations.

In February 2017, legislation was re-introduction into the Senate to protect wilderness areas within both monuments. Clearly, the communities in New Mexico are rallying together to preserve their clean water, wildlife habitat, and public lands.

Don’t Reverse National Monument Designations

April 12, 2017

Western Democratic Senators Tell Trump: Don’t Reverse National Monument Designations

Senators urge president to uphold protections for Bears Ears National Monument, all 157 national monuments

WASHINGTON — Today, U.S. Senator Tom Udall led a group of Western Democratic senators in calling on President Donald Trump to live up to his repeated promises on the campaign trail to protect public lands for all Americans and uphold the existing protections for the 157 national monuments, which have been designated throughout the decades by nearly every U.S. president of the last century.

In particular, the senators warned President Trump against reversing the recent designation of the Bears Ears National Monument in Southern Utah, an unprecedented step that some congressional Republicans have urged the president to take. In their letter, the senators noted that Bears Ears enjoys strong support from the $646 billion outdoor recreation industry, as well as from Tribes, archaeologists, and local conservation organizations. The senators wrote that Tribes with ancestral ties to the Bears Ears region joined forces to protect sacred areas, and that is part of the reason that Bears Ears was designated as the first-ever national monument to be co-managed by Tribes. Rescinding protections for Bears Ears would betray the core commitments that Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has made to Tribes and that President Trump made to voters, the senators added.

"Weakening the protections for this deserving landscape [Bears Ears National Monument], or any of the 157 Monuments previously protected, would be a direct affront to the local communities and stakeholders who worked collaboratively to identify and advocated to protect these areas for future generations. This is especially true, in the case of Bears Ears National Monument, for the Native American tribes who call this living cultural landscape their ancestral home. It also would cut against your commitment to be a good steward of our nation’s public lands," the senators wrote. "We urge you to maintain the current protections so that our children and grandchildren can experience them with the same wonder we do today.”

They continued, "We urge you to honor your promise to be a great steward of our public lands by upholding the existing protections for the 157 National Monuments that have been designated through the years by nearly every President since the Antiquities Act was enacted into law in 1906. They have protected iconic landscapes across the United States, such as the Grand Canyon, Zion National Park, Chaco Canyon in New Mexico, and Olympic National Park in Washington, as well as cultural icons, including the Statue of Liberty and the Belmont-Paul Women’s Equality Monument. Removing protections for any of these areas would threaten the cultural, historical and biological wealth of our country.”

In addition to Udall, the letter was signed by U.S. Senators Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), and Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.).

The full text of the letter can be found below and here.

Dear Mr. President,

During your campaign, you stated that America’s protected federal public lands make America great, once stating that, “We have to be great stewards of this land. This is magnificent land. And we have to be great stewards of this land.” You promised that, if elected, you’d emulate President Teddy Roosevelt’s efforts to protect public lands for all Americans. During his confirmation hearing, Interior Secretary Zinke reaffirmed your Administration’s commitment to President Roosevelt’s conservation vision. Unfortunately, some members of Congress do not share that commitment to conservation and are calling for the repeal of National Monument designations using a never-tested and questionable legal theory.

We urge you to honor your promise to be a great steward of our public lands by upholding the existing protections for the 157 National Monuments that have been designated through the years by nearly every President since the Antiquities Act was enacted into law in 1906. They have protected iconic landscapes across the United States, such as the Grand Canyon, Zion National Park, Chaco Canyon in New Mexico, and Olympic National Park in Washington, as well as cultural icons, including the Statue of Liberty and the Belmont-Paul Women’s Equality Monument. Removing protections for any of these areas would threaten the cultural, historical and biological wealth of our country.

In particular, we urge you to reject calls to rescind protections for the Bears Ears National Monument in Southern Utah. This area contains thousands of archeological and Native American sacred sites currently threatened by looting and vandalism. Notably, this designation represents the first time in which two federal agencies will jointly manage a National Monument along with a commission of elected tribal leaders. For the first time, the designation allows tribal co-management of the Monument—a strong move toward tribal self-determination. Despite the claims of some, there is wide tribal, regional and national support for maintaining protection for Bears Ears. Outdoor recreationists, who drive a $646 billion industry, tribes, archeologists, and local conservation organizations all support the Bears Ears designation.

Most notably, after working individually for decades, the tribes with ancestral ties in this region—the Hopi, Navajo, Ute Mountain Ute, Uintah and Ouray Ute, and Zuni—joined forces to protect Bears Ears and ensure these sacred areas are maintained for future generations. In addition, six of the seven Navajo Chapter Houses in Utah supported the designation, as did the Tri-Ute Council, the Utah Tribal Leaders Association, the Utah Navajo Commission, the National Congress of American Indians, and 25 additional tribes, including many in our home states. This designation culminated more than 80 years of efforts to protect the Bears Ears region. Changes to the designation would strike at the core of the commitments Secretary Zinke has promised tribes.

Weakening the protections for this deserving landscape, or any of the 157 Monuments previously protected, would be a direct affront to the local communities and stakeholders who worked collaboratively to identify and advocated to protect these areas for future generations. This is especially true, in the case of Bears Ears National Monument, for the Native American tribes who call this living cultural landscape their ancestral home. It also would cut against your commitment to be a good steward of our nation’s public lands. We urge you to maintain the current protections so that our children and grandchildren can experience them with the same wonder we do today.

 

https://www.tomudall.senate.gov/news/press-releases/04/12/2017/western-democratic-senators-tell-trump-dont-reverse-national-monument-designations

Court Lifts Injunction Blocking Mexican Gray Wolf Releases

Court Lifts Injunction Blocking Mexican Gray Wolf Releases

 

DENVER (April 25, 2017) – The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled today to lift a preliminary injunction blocking further releases of highly endangered Mexican gray wolves into the wild within New Mexico. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) can now resume wolf releases within the state.

Bryan Bird, Southwest program director for Defenders of Wildlife, issued the following statement:

“Today’s ruling is a victory for the Endangered Species Act, the Mexican gray wolf and everyone who cares about endangered species recovery. Now that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife can again release Mexican gray wolves into the wild in New Mexico, we hope that their numbers will continue to climb and that their genetic diversity in the wild will improve. Defenders will continue to work with local communities by providing them proactive strategies and tools to peacefully share the landscape with Mexican gray wolves. We can coexist with these icons of the Southwest.”

Judy Calman, staff attorney for the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance, said:

"Direct releases of wolves into the wild is one of the most critical tools available to the Fish and Wildlife Service to facilitate species recovery. With this ability restored, the Court has increased the chances that the wolf will once again be able to fill its keystone role in the Gila ecosystem."

Background

 

Mexican gray wolves, or lobos, are the most endangered gray wolf subspecies in the world. Lobos are facing low numbers and a genetic crisis in the wild. Limited genetic diversity in the wild can result in smaller litters and lower pup survival – a recipe for extinction. Releases of captive wolves are critical to increase lobo genetic diversity in the wild.

Scientists conclude that lobos require at least three linked populations in suitable habitat. Habitat capable of supporting two additional populations exists in the Grand Canyon ecoregion and in northern New Mexico and southern Colorado.

In May 2016, the state of New Mexico filed suit against FWS after the agency released two pups that they cross-fostered with a family in the wild. New Mexico also requested a preliminary injunction to halt all Mexican gray wolf releases into the wild within the state until the merits of its case were heard.

In June 2016, a federal court granted New Mexico the preliminary injunction, halting all Mexican gray wolf releases within the state. As interveners in the case between the state and FWS, Defenders and our partners appealed that ruling to the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Defenders represents Center of Biological Diversity, WildEarth Guardians and New Mexico Wilderness Alliance in this case.

###

Defenders of Wildlife is dedicated to the protection of all native animals and plants in their natural communities. With more than 1.2 million members and activists, Defenders of Wildlife is a leading advocate for innovative solutions to safeguard our wildlife heritage for generations to come. For more information, visit www.defenders.org and follow us on Twitter @DefendersNews.

Trump urged to abolish national monuments

Trump urged to abolish national monuments, including 2 in NM

https://www.abqjournal.com/895610/trump-urged-to-abolish-national-monuments.html?fb_action_ids=10210939703559761&fb_action_types=og.likes

 

SANTA FE – A congressman from a bordering state is calling on President-elect Donald Trump to abolish national monuments created during the Obama and Clinton administrations, an idea that could threaten two newly created monuments in New Mexico.

Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, head of the House Committee on Natural Resources, is getting push-back from conservation groups and some in the New Mexico congressional delegation for his suggestion that Trump could take back monuments preserving public lands from California to Maine.

Obama designated the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument in Taos County and the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument in southern New Mexico.

Doing away with national monuments created by presidential proclamation under the 110-year-old Antiquities Act has never been done, but also has never been legally tested. The act was passed in 1906 during the Republican administration of President Theodore Roosevelt, an early leader in the conservation movement.

“If any administration thinks they’re going to start divesting us of a hundred-year history of lands that belong to every American, they’re going to have to do it over my dead body,” said Sen. Martin Heinrich.

Heinrich was joined in his condemnation of Bishop’s idea by New Mexico Democrats U.S. Sen. Tom Udall and U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján.

“Extremists in Congress may be urging President-elect Trump to take radical and unprecedented actions against our public lands, but I will fight any such actions every step of the way. I urge Western communities to join me in informing Mr. Trump about the value these lands hold for New Mexicans and all Americans,” Udall told the Journal in a statement.

“No president has ever overturned a previous president’s decision to designate a national monument and I sincerely hope that the president-elect respects this precedent so that this treasure of northern New Mexico will be protected and preserved for future generations,” said Luján, referring to the Rio Grande del Norte monument.

But U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce, New Mexico’s only Republican member of Congress, pointed out this week that he had introduced legislation to protect 60,000 acres of the Organ Mountains, as opposed to the 496,000 acres Obama set aside.

“The Antiquities Act requires that a President designate the smallest possible footprint in order to achieve the desired environmental preservation. American’s have witnessed the Obama Administration disregard that part of the law,” Pearce said in a written statement to the Journal.

He called on Trump to review the Organ Mountains designation and others around the country, reducing their footprint “to an acreage supported by existing federal law.” He added, “Additionally, Congress should work with President Trump in the years to come on changing the designation process – so that no future President may unilaterally restrict lands from the people. These decisions must be made in Congress.”

Bishop has said on his website that “communities across the West live in constant fear of unilateral monument declarations.”

Conservation by pen

During the just-concluded presidential campaign, Trump raised a red flag for conservation groups after Obama used a proclamation to designate 87,500 acres of donated Maine woodlands the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument.

“This decision, done at the stroke of a pen without the support of the local community, undermines the people that live and work right here in Maine,” Trump said in October.

Obama used his pen to designate the two new monuments in New Mexico on land that was already under the federal Bureau of Land Management’s umbrella. The Rio Grande del Norte Monument’s creation in 2013 was supported by a wide range of business, environmental and community groups as a boon for Taos-area tourism, while the Organ Mountains designation was more controversial.

Conservation groups now are urging Obama to make a last-minute national monument proclamation of the Bears Ears area of Utah, which Bishop opposes.

Using the Antiquities Act, Obama has burnished his conservation credentials with the establishment of a total of 28 national monuments across the country. There were 19 designated during the Clinton administration. President George W. Bush created two.

Asked if Trump has authority to rescind monuments, a Department of Interior spokesperson responded in a statement, “We’re not going to speculate on what any new Administration will or won’t do. For over 100 years, both Republican and Democratic presidents have designated monuments to conserve America’s natural, historical and cultural heritage.”

“No president has ever rescinded a national monument,” said Kristen Brengel, vice president of government affairs for the Washington, D.C.-based National Parks Conservation Association. “There is no precedent.”

Bishop and his Utah supporters think it can be done and they especially dislike a Utah monument designated by President Bill Clinton two decades ago.

“Just because somebody who created mistakes like the Grand Staircase-Escalante Monument says you can’t do it, or you shouldn’t do it, or it’s questionable – bull crap,” Bishop recently told E&E News, which tracks environmental issues.

“It’s never been done before and that’s why people are saying you can’t do it … of course you can do it. It’s always been implied.”

John Leshy, a former chief attorney for the Department of Interior, said the legally untested Antiquities Act has become a partisan issue.

“The Republican platform calls for eviscerating the Antiquities Act,” Leshy, now professor of law emeritus at the University of California’s Hastings College of the Law, said by email. The GOP platform approved at this past summer’s national convention calls for a requirement that Congress and state legislatures sign off on any new national monuments.

Because no president has tried to take back a national monument, “there’s no track record on this,” Leshy said. He said there’s a U.S. Attorney General opinion from the 1930s that examined the issue “and concluded that a president cannot undo a monument.”

“That’s not been litigated because no president has ever tried,” Leshy added. “Perhaps Trump can be the first and we’d have a test case.

“In a very few instances, presidents have shrunk the boundaries of monuments proclaimed by their predecessors,” he said. “The extent of that power has not been litigated either.” Leshy said that much more often “Congress or subsequent presidents expand previous presidents’ proclamations, or convert the monument into a (national) park.”

Wilderness Alliance concern

“We are certainly deeply concerned about the Trump administration’s posture on conservation issues,” said Mark Allison, executive director of the Albuquerque-based New Mexico Wilderness Alliance.

Allison thinks there is a distinction between executive actions Trump might take to reverse Obama’s actions on immigration issues and what Obama did under the 1906 Antiquities Act.

“Our interpretation is he (Trump) would be unable to completely rescind a national monument under the Antiquities Act. He may have the authority to modify boundaries or acres, but we think this is extremely unlikely,” Allison said in a phone interview.

“From a political standpoint, these national monuments have widespread support,” Allison said of the two recently created New Mexico monuments. “It is inconceivable for him (Trump) to rescind them.”

Udall’s statement noted a broad coalition that supported the Taos-area monument. “The Rio Grande del Norte National Monument also supports cultural traditions like hunting, grazing and irrigation – and it has been embraced by the local community,” said Udall. Any reversal “would be a massive betrayal of the public interest, putting many of our most precious natural landscapes at risk, and such an action would face strong legal challenge,” he said.

Rio Grande del Norte extends from Pilar along the Rio Grande south of Taos north to the New Mexico-Colorado border and includes over 242,000 acres of volcanic cones and the 800-foot deep Rio Grande Gorge.

The 496,000-acre Organ Mountains monument is home to ancient petroglyphs and lava flows, rare plants and animals, and vast recreational and hunting areas. Ranchers said the monument designation could complicate the already strict rules governing use of federal lands and make ranching tougher.

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