LCV, 122 Diverse Community Groups Call On Congress To Protect Public Lands During National Park Week

Contact: Holly Burke, 202-454-4554, Holly_Burke@lcv.org

Coalition includes LGBT, labor, women’s, disability, civil rights, Hispanic, African-American, Asian-American and Native American voices

Washington D.C. – This National Park Week, 122 organizations from a broad cross-section of communities sent a letter urging Congress to recognize how national monuments help tell a more inclusive story of our nation and reject attacks on these special places and other public lands, including attempts to gut the Antiquities Act.

“In addition to protecting majestic places, sustaining wildlife, and benefiting local economies and communities, national monuments promote diversity and inclusivity in our system of public lands,” reads the letter. The 122 signers include the League of Conservation Voters (LCV), the American Civil Liberties Union, the Human Rights Campaign, National Immigration Law Center, Public Citizen, Service Employees International Union, Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund, and several other community groups.

The letter comes in the wake of the Trump administration’s unprecedented move to cut Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments by two million acres — the single largest rollback of protections for public lands in our nation’s history — and as Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke faces scrutiny for dismissing the value of racial diversity, making racially insensitive remarks during a congressional hearing, and potentially violating federal anti-discrimination laws with staff reassignments.

“The Trump administration’s continued assault on our national monuments hurts every community that enjoys these shared treasures” said Jennifer Allen, LCV Senior Vice President of Community & Civic Engagement. “Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s actions have made it clear that he doesn’t value racial diversity and inclusivity in his own department or on our public lands. That is why LCV is proud to stand with a cross-section of community groups to call on Congress to defend national monuments and recognize how they reflect the stories of diverse communities across the country.”

Full text of the letter and a complete list of signers can be found here and below.

“The Next 100 Coalition is driven in part by the recognition that our nation’s public lands must reflect the histories and experiences of all our nation’s people,” said Kevin Bryan, Coalition Coordinator for the Next 100 Coalition. “We envision the establishment of public lands that reflect the diverse culture and experiences of our people, and respect and uplift our collective experience in America. Sites such as Birmingham Civil Rights National Monument, Bears Ears National Monument, and Cesar E. Chavez National Monument represent the historical and cultural fabric that connects our diverse communities as a united people.”

“Our sacred sites tell our stories, heal our people, provide resting places for our ancestors, and bring all people together” said Jefferson Keel, President of the National Congress of American Indians. “Importantly, these places are where Native people practice their free exercise of religion. The Antiquities Act delegated to the President the limited authority to set aside and protect these lands because of their historical significance to this Nation as a whole, and – for this reason – NCAI will continue to stand by the five tribes of the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition in their fight to protect their sacred places, as well as other tribes impacted by the unlawful and effective revocation of other Monuments.”

“The National Center for Transgender Equality is proud to stand in support of our national monuments” said Mara Keisling, Executive Director of the National Center for Transgender Equality. “The Antiquities Act has allowed this country to honor and preserve the legacy of civil rights advocates, such as the monument that now acknowledges The Stonewall Inn as the symbolic birthplace of the modern LGBT rights movement. Any attempt to limit the Antiquities Act is a dereliction of our nation’s duty to commemorate those who fought and continue to fight for its future.”

“The Antiquities Act has successfully protected important sites in our nation’s labor history and help tell the story of workers in national parks and monuments,” said J. David Cox, President of the American Federation of Government Employees. “Through protected places like César E. Chávez National Monument and Pullman National Monument, we continue to educate the public about their important legacies and about ongoing efforts for workers’ rights across the country. We’re proud of the work that communities have done to protect these special places and honor the legacy of working people.”

“America is a nation built by Native Americans, slaves and immigrants—people of color who are part of the fabric of this country,” said John C. Yang, President and Executive Director of Asian Americans Advancing Justice | AAJC. “As our country continues to strive to live up to the ideals of valuing diversity, inclusion, and equal opportunity, we reject any attempt to diminish the national monuments that honor the struggles and achievements within communities of color, within our America.”

“Our national monuments are more than just acres of land, they are chapters in the great American story. Many of these places were established to represent or celebrate the diverse heritage and cultures that make up this country,” said Maite Arce, President and CEO of the Hispanic Access Foundation. “We all share the moral obligation to protect our outdoor heritage, to protect these special places and preserve them as a legacy for future generations.”

“National park sites tell the stories of America,” said Theresa Pierno, President and CEO of the National Parks Conservation Association. “From the struggle for women’s right to vote, told at Belmont-Paul Women’s Equality National Monument in D.C., to the rights of African American workers at Pullman National Monument in Chicago, these stories helped define who we are as a nation. They tell our struggles and they tell our triumphs. And they deserve to be protected and retold now, and for generations to come. As history continues to be made, national park sites should continue to be created, including through the Antiquities Act, to honor and reflect our diverse people and places.”

“With more than 100,000 archaeological sites, the Bears Ears cultural landscape is exactly the kind of place the Antiquities Act was designed to protect,” said Josh Ewing, Executive Director of Friends of Cedar Mesa. “Congress failed to protect this unquestionably deserving landscape for more than a century, despite ongoing threats like looting and vandalism of sacred sites. Instead of undermining the important role the Antiquities Act has played in preserving our nation’s history, lawmakers would better serve our public lands by doing the hard work of bringing stakeholders together to solve on-the-ground problems and find common ground.”

 

April 23, 2018

 

Dear Member of Congress,

 

On behalf of our millions of members and supporters, we write to express our strong opposition to legislation weakening the Antiquities Act or codifying attempts to shrink or eliminate national monuments. Any attack on our public lands, monuments, oceans, and waters is an attack on our communities, our history, our contributions to this great nation, and our culture; and it robs the next generation of a chance to learn from these shared treasures. It has often been said that our nation’s public lands system is one of our best ideas; we must now come together to protect these special places.

In addition to protecting majestic places, sustaining wildlife, and benefiting local economies and communities, national monuments promote diversity and inclusivity in our system of public lands. Our nation’s public lands are owned by all people in this country, and we all ought to see our histories and cultures reflected in these public lands. That is one reason why national parks, historical sites, and monuments are so important: they can help tell a more complete story of our country’s history and the many cultures and movements that have helped shape our United States.

National monuments in particular have helped make our public lands more inclusive by commemorating the fights for civil rights and racial justice, women’s suffrage, LGBTQ equality, workers’ rights, tribal recognition and traditions, and so many other pivotal moments, individuals, and movements that continue to take our country forward. Places such as Birmingham Civil Rights National Monument, Belmont-Paul Women’s Equality National Monument, Stonewall National Monument, Pullman National Monument, Cesar E. Chavez National Monument, and Bears Ears National Monument help preserve and share the history and experiences that comprehensively reflect the stories of all people in this country.

The Antiquities Act, which has been used by eight Republicans and eight Democrats, allows presidents to preserve important places as national monuments and has even provided the initial protections for nearly half of our national parks, including the Grand Canyon and Acadia National Parks. President Theodore Roosevelt signed this bedrock conservation law in 1906, and since then presidents have used it to protect remarkable places that tell the fuller story of our nation.

Unfortunately, we write at a time when national monuments and the Antiquities Act are under assault. Nearly one year ago, President Trump signed an executive order directing Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to review dozens of national monument designations. This resulted in President Trump taking the single biggest step in removing protections for public lands in our nation’s history when he overstepped his statutory authority and cut Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments by two million acres. Now legislation may move in Congress that would not only codify Trump’s rollbacks – H.R. 4532 and H.R. 4558 – but also threaten the very purpose of the Antiquities Act. Representative Bishop’s H.R. 3990 and Senator Murkowski’s S. 33, for example, would severely limit presidents’ power to protect incredible and representative places for future generations.

Congress should not be making it harder to protect places that can make our parks and monuments system more inclusive and tell the fuller story of our nation’s history. That is why we urge you to reject any legislation that would limit the president’s authority under the Antiquities Act or codify any unlawful rollbacks of existing national monuments.

While not all undersigned groups work on every issue discussed in this letter, we can all agree on what’s at risk if protections for special places are removed and our legacy of shaping a more inclusive system of public lands is undermined. Thank you for considering our views.

 

Sincerely,

National Organizations

350.org

Alaska Wilderness League

American Civil Liberties Union

American Rivers

American Society of Landscape Architects

Asian Americans Advancing Justice | AAJC

Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance

Center for American Progress

CenterLink: The Community of LGBT Centers

Chispa

Clean Water Action

Conservation Lands Foundation

Continental Divide Trail Coalition

Defenders of Wildlife

Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund

Earthjustice

Endangered Species Coalition

Environmental Working Group

FORGE, Inc.

GLMA: Health Professionals Advancing LGBT Equality

GLSEN

GreenLatinos

Hip Hop Caucus

Hispanic Access Foundation

Human Rights Campaign

League of Conservation Voters

Movement Advancement Project

National Audubon Society

National Black Justice Coalition

National Center for Lesbian Rights

National Center for Transgender Equality

National Congress of American Indians

National Immigration Law Center

National LGBTQ Task Force

National LGBTQ Task Force Action Fund

National Parks Conservation Association

Natural Resources Defense Council

Next 100 Coalition

Ocean Conservancy

Ocean Conservation Research

Oceana

People For the American Way

Public Citizen

Rails-to-Trails Conservancy

Save Animals Facing Extinction

Service Employees International Union

Sierra Club

Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance

State Innovation Exchange (SIX)

Surfrider Foundation

The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights

The Praxis Project

The Trust for Public Land

The Wilderness Society

Union for Reform Judaism

URGE: Unite for Reproductive & Gender Equity

Western Values Project

WildEarth Guardians

State and Local Organizations

ACLU of Idaho

Amargosa Conservancy

Audubon South Carolina

Boise Bicycle Project

California League of Conservation Voters

Carrizo Plain Conservancy

Charleston Audubon Society

Columbia Audubon Society

Conservation Alabama

Conservation Colorado

Conservation Northwest

Conservation Voters for Idaho

Conservation Voters of South Carolina

Conserve Southwest Utah

Desert Wildlife Consultants, LLC

Engage Idaho

Environmental League of Massachusetts

Environmental Protection Information Center

Fort Ord Recreation Trails (FORT) Friends

Friends and Neighbors of the Deschutes Canyon Area

Friends of Arizona Joshua Tree Forest

Friends of Cedar Mesa

Friends of Gold Butte

Friends of Point Arena-Stornetta Lands

Friends of the Desert Mountains

Friends of the San Pedro River

Friends of the Sonoran Desert

Grand Canyon Trust

Grand Staircase Escalante Partners

Hoosier Environmental Council

Idaho Business for the Outdoors

Idaho Conservation League

Idaho Outdoor Business Council

Klamath Forest Alliance

Los Padres ForestWatch

Maine Conservation Voters

Michigan League of Conservation Voters

Montana Conservation Voters

Mystic Aquarium

Nature for All

North Carolina League of Conservation Voters

Nevada Conservation League

New Jersey Highlands Coalition

New Jersey League of Conservation Voters

New Mexico Wildlife Federation

Northeastern Minnesotans for Wilderness

NW Energy Coalition

Oregon League of Conservation Voters

Oregon Wild

Pinelands Preservation Alliance

Raritan Headwaters

Seven Circles Foundation

Sound Action

South Carolina Wildlife Federation

The Ohio Environmental Council

Trinidad Coastal Land Trust

Utah Dine Bikeyah

Virginia League of Conservation Voters

Washington Conservation Voters

Washington Environmental Council

Western Slope Conservation Center

Wilderness Workshop

Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters

Women’s Rights and Empowerment Network

 

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