MISSOULA — The U.S. Interior Department has announced a public comment period for reconsidering designation of 21 national monuments, including Montana’s Upper Missouri Breaks National Monument.
“A public comment period is not required for monument designations under the Antiquities Act,” according to an unsigned DOI press release on Friday. “However, Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke and President Trump both strongly believe that local input is a critical component of federal land management.”
The public comment review also applies to the expansion of the 87,563-acre Katahadin Woods and Waters National Monument in Maine and five marine national monuments in the Pacific and Atlantic oceans.
Trump called for the monument review in an executive order issued on April 26. It only applies to monuments larger than 100,000 acres created or expanded since 1996, by presidents Bill Clinton (12), George W. Bush (4), and Barack Obama (11). Presidents have the power under the Antiquities Act of 1906 to create national monuments, but only Congress can undo such a designation.
“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,” Zinke stated in the press release. “There is no pre-determined outcome on any monument. I look forward to hearing from and engaging with local communities and stakeholders as this process continues.”
The order considers whether the designated areas are:
• “the smallest area compatible with the proper care and management” of protected interests;
• properly classified as objects or lands of historic, prehistoric or scientific interest;
• how the designation affects available use of federal lands inside and outside the monument boundaries;
• how the designation affects use and enjoyment of non-federal lands within or beyond monument boundaries;
• availability of federal resources to properly manage the monuments,
• and other factors the secretary of Interior deems appropriate.
Comments can be submitted online after May 12 at http://www.regulations.gov by entering “DOI-2017-0002” in the Search bar and clicking “Search,” or by mail to Monument Review, MS-1530, U.S. Department of the Interior, 1849 C Street NW, Washington, DC 20240.
Comments on the most controversial of Obama’s monument designations, the 1.3-million acre Bears Ears National Monument in Utah, must be submitted within 15 days of that date. Comments for all other reconsidered monuments must be submitted within 60 days.
Coincidentally, the Interior Department also postponed several regional Bureau of Land Management Resource Advisory Council meetings scheduled for this spring and summer.
Resource Advisory Councils are volunteer groups of local stakeholders who advise on land-management issues. They included the John Day-Snake RAC in Oregon, the Albuquerque District RAC in New Mexico, the Dominquez-Escalante National Conservation Area Advisory Council and three other resource advisory councils in Colorado. Montana’s North Central Montana RAC, which oversees the 377,346-acre Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument, has no meetings scheduled beyond its March 2017 session.
Monuments affected by Executive Order 13792, with the president who created them, the location and year, and their acreage:
• Basin and Range (Obama), Nevada 2015; 703,585
• Bears Ears (Obama), Utah 2016; 1,353,000
• Berryessa Snow Mountain (Obama), California 2015; 330,780
• Canyons of the Ancients (Clinton), Colorado 2000; 175,160
• Carrizo Plain (Clinton), California 2001; 204,107
• Cascade Siskiyou (Clinton & Obama), Oregon 2000/2017; 100,000
• Craters of the Moon (Clinton), Idaho 1924/2000; 737,525
• Giant Sequoia (Clinton), California 2000; 327,760
• Gold Butte (Obama), Nevada 2016; 296,937
• Grand Canyon-Parashant (Clinton), Arizona 2000; 1,014,000
• Grand Staircase-Escalante (Clinton), Utah 1996; 1,700,000
• Hanford Reach (Clinton), Washington 2000; 194,450.93
• Ironwood Forest (Clinton), Arizona 2000; 128,917
• Mojave Trails (Obama), California 2016; 1,600,000
• Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks (Obama), New Mexico 2014; 496,330
• Rio Grande del Norte (Obama), New Mexico 2013; 242,555
• Sand to Snow (Obama), California 2016; 154,000
• San Gabriel Mountains (Obama), California 2014; 346,177
• Sonoran Desert (Clinton), Arizona 2001; 486,149
• Upper Missouri River Breaks (Clinton), Montana 2001; 377,346
• Vermilion Cliffs (Clinton), Arizona 2000; 279,568
• Katahadin Woods and Waters (Obama), Maine 2016; 87,563
• Marianas Trench (Bush), CNMI/Pacific Ocean 2009; 60,938,240
• Northeast Canyons and Seamounts (Obama), Atlantic Ocean 2016; 3,114,320
• Pacific Remote Islands (Bush), Pacific Ocean 2009; 55,608,320
• Papahanaumokuakea (Bush & Obama), Hawaii/Pacific Ocean 2006/2016; 89,600,000
• Rose Atoll (Bush), American Samoa/Pacific Ocean 2009; 8,609,045