Environment Arizona, a subgroup of Environment America, works to protect the state’s national monuments from being reduced or changed by the president.
The Antiquities Act, constructed in 1906, gave the president and congress the ability to protect public lands in the country. Since then, 16 presidents from both parties have protected public lands across the country.
President Donald Trump is using the act for a different purpose. Trump directed his Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to create a list of monuments that were created after 1906 and are 100,000 acres and up to see if some of their protections can be erased. The country saw the president do just that last December with Utah’s Bears Ears National Monument and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.
“I think what we’re seeing is very unprecedented,” Senior Advocate for Environment Arizona Bret Fanshaw says. “No president in the history of the Antiquities Act has used the power in this way. Presidents have been protecting places, not erasing the protections.
Among the 27 monuments on the list are Arizona’s Sonoran Desert, Ironwood Forest, Grand Canyon-Parashant and Vermillion Cliffs monuments. Secretary Zinke is in Arizona this week to meet with the National Mining Association.
“They’re have been emails that the New York Times obtained from the interior department last year that showed drilling for oil, gas and coal were factors in the Utah monument reductions,” Fanshaw says. “We don’t know if that’s true in Arizona, but it is concerning.”
Environment America’s mission is to educate people on the importance of these places and to ask their national leaders to weigh in. Three million comments have already been submitted during the public comment period.
“We feel like when one monument comes under attack, like the ones in Utah, that all of them are under attack,” Fanshaw says. “We feel very strongly that these places should stay protected.”
For more information on Environment Arizona and how you can help, go to environmentarizona.org.
TED SIMONS-ENVIRONMENT ARIZONA AND THE WILDERNESS SOCIETY RECENTLY HELD A "MONUMENTS 101" EVENT TO EDUCATE ATTENDEES ON THE IRONWOOD FOREST AND SONORAN DESERT NATIONAL MONUMENTS. JOINING US NOW IS BRET FANSHAW-, THE SENIOR ADVOCATE FOR ENVIRONMENT ARIZONA. Good to have you here. Thanks for joining us.
TED SIMONS-Monuments 101. What is that?
BRET FANSHAW- National monuments are ways that presidents and congress can protect public lands throughout the United States, and that authority was given to them by the Antiquities Act in 1906. Since that act was put in place, 16 presidents of both parties have protected lands across the United States and here in Arizona.
TED SIMONS-That's basically, what goes on out there. SENORAN desert, monument place, are they threatened?
BRET FANSHAW-I think it's the most biologically diverse desert in all of North America. That's what national geographic says. Across the country, monuments are under threat. Last year President Trump directed his interior secretary to look at monuments created since 1996, a hundred thousand acres and up to see if they might erase protections for some of them. We saw this happen in Utah where the grand staircase was reduced significantly.
TED SIMONS- Are there threats from industry? Are there threats to pull the monument status?
BRET FANSHAW- Putting the recommendations together, president ZINKE brought President Trump a list to erase protections were on the list. Two others in Arizona are also on the list. There are 27 monuments on the list.
TED SIMONS-Why would that be pulled? What kind of industry is interested? What kind of developments in industry? What's going on out there?
BRET FANSHAW-Here's what we know. Secretary ZINKE is in Phoenix today. There are e-mails that the "New York times" obtained from the interior department last year that showed that actually drilling for oil, gas and coal were factors in the Utah monument reductions. We don't know that, that's true in Arizona, but it's concerning.
TED SIMONS- The threats, are they increasing? Are you seeing the threats increasing with this administration? I imagine yes.
BRET FANSHAW- What we are seeing is unprecedented. No president since in Antiquities Act has used it in this way. We are concerned. The recommendations are sitting with the White House today. What we have been trying to do is educate Arizonans as well as others around the country. This is part of a national campaign about the importance of these places and ask their national leaders to weigh in.
TED SIMONS-The event included a call to action. Describe what that is?
BRET FANSHAW- Right. President Trump is deciding which monuments he might want to reduce or change, change how they are managed. We are asking the public to weigh in with their elected leaders and others with the White House. We had 3,000,000 comments with the rest of the country to say, these places are important. We should protect them.
TED SIMONS- Reading around on this, I saw a quote from someone saying our wilderness is under attack. Is that how you feel?
BRET FANSHAW-I'm someone who loves the wilderness. I love to hike and backpack. I was at spur cross ranch conservation area, beautiful place. Those places are important to Arizonans across the board, so we feel like when one monument comes under attack like those in Utah, all of them are under attack. We feel strongly that the places should be protected.
TED SIMONS-Monuments 101, what do you want them to take from these kind of events?
BRET FANSHAW-We want them to know what's happening. Sometimes people are going about their daily lives, and it's important to know how to weigh in. They can learn more about the documents on the list there. Environment Arizona, what is that? We are a statewide citizen based environmental adequacy group working on clean air issues throughout the state.
TED SIMONS-You are teaming with the wilderness society on the event.
BRET FANSHAW-We are.
TED SIMONS- Where do we go from here on all of this?
BRET FANSHAW- I think Arizonans need to stand up and ask the president and elected officials to protect the special places. That's why they were protected in the first place.
TED SIMONS-Brett Fanshaw, good to have you here.
BRET FANSHAW- Thanks, Ted.
TED SIMONS-TUESDAY ON ARIZONA HORIZON, WE'LL TAKE A LOOK AT LOCAL HOUSING PRICES. AND WE'LL HEAR ABOUT -AND HEAR FROM -THE PHOENIX SYMPHONY CHORUS. THAT'S TUESDAY ON "ARIZONA HORIZON." That is it for now. I'm Ted Simons. Thank you so much for joining us. You have a great evening. ¶ ¶ ¶
Bret Fanshaw: Senior Advocate, Environment Arizona