Why does the current Administration want to reduce public lands at a time when Americans are flocking to them in record numbers?
The love of public lands is particularly strong in the west where 93 percent of Western voters have visited national parks, national forests, or other public lands within the last year. “The overwhelming majority of Westerners view the national forests and other public lands they use as American places that are a shared inheritance and a shared responsibility. Rather than supporting land transfer proposals, voters say their top priorities are to ensure public lands are protected for future generations and that the rangers and land managers have the resources they need to do their jobs.” — Dave Metz, president FM3
Americans continue to show their love for our public lands by flocking to national parks in record numbers. According to a recent AP article “Overall more than 330 million people visited U.S. national parks in 2016, a record.” – Zion National Park alone had 4.3 million; Yellowstone had 4.1 million visitors and Great Smoky National Park had a whopping 11.3 million visitors, also a record.
Further, the Center for Western Priorities analyzed a random sample of the 654,197 public comments posted as of Monday morning, July 24, 2017 regarding the proposed rollback of national monuments. A huge majority (98 percent) of the comments expressed support for keeping or expanding national monument designations. Only one percent requested that we attempt to shrink or erase monument boundaries.
There should be no further discussion about compromising public lands. They are off the table. Public lands are already protected in perpetuity for the benefit of the American people. As Senator Tom Udall of New Mexico, pointed out, the president has no legal authority to rescind or shrink a monument designation.
Public lands belong to all of us; not just to the relative few disgruntled neighbors who seem to be receiving a disproportionate share of this administration’s attention. The Mt. St. Helens National Monument that I visited last month, for example, belongs to people who live on the east coast as much as it does those of us who are fortunate to live nearby. The same is true of Hanford Reach and all other national monuments. Every American is a public land owner
As a natural history tour guide, public lands are our top destinations. Tourism is a major industry for many states, including ours.
Public lands are sacred places that enshrine our human and natural history. They are places to recreate and to seek solace. We value them and expect them to be protected for future generations; not desecrated for short-term gain. Sally Jewell, former Department of the Interior Secretary said it clearly: Any move to eliminate or shrink monuments would put the president “on the wrong side of history.”