Washington, DC: On the heels of Interior Secretary Zinke’s recommendation to remove protections for Bears Ears National Monument in what may just be a preview of the Trump administration’s coming assault on our national parks and monuments, the League of Conservation Voters today launched the new “Our Lands, Our Vote” campaign to engage and mobilize community leaders, activists, public officials and the broader public to support America’s majestic national parks, the monuments that tell the story of all people in this country – including those places which are the gatekeepers to our nation’s human rights and civil rights history – and defend key conservation laws such as the Antiquities Act.
With an initial commitment of $600,000, the national “Our Lands, Our Vote” campaign will involve a mix of paid advertising, online organizing and on-the-ground mobilization to demonstrate the overwhelming public support for national monuments and the rich cultural history each holds, as well as oppose congressional attacks on laws such as the Antiquities Act that have allowed presidents of both parties to protect public lands as national monuments.
The campaign will include continuing to encourage public comments into the Interior Department in support of national monuments during its ongoing review, with an initial goal of submitting 250,000 by the July 10 close of Interior’s comment period, of which 150,000 have already been submitted by LCV members. It will feature digital content showcasing particular national monuments and the stories of local community members that are benefiting from and working to preserve these landmarks. And it will use online and other advertising and phone calls from constituents to apply pressure to anti-parks politicians to support the Antiquities Act and other conservation laws.
“America’s parks should be protected and celebrated – not sold off to special interests,” said Gene Karpinski, President of LCV. “These lands – and the natural and cultural heritage they hold – belong to all of us and generations to come. From the Statue of Liberty to the Grand Canyon, our monuments and parks honor our nation’s deep history and the history of those who originated on those lands, they recognize our dedication to human and civil rights, and they protect our lands and waters that fuel this country’s thriving outdoor recreation industry. This campaign will mobilize the public to hold Trump and members of Congress accountable for putting corporate polluter interests ahead of people.”
“Secretary Zinke’s recommendation to significantly reduce national monument designation for Bears Ears National Monument sets the stage for additional attacks on all of America’s national parks and public lands, including New Mexico’s own Rio Grande del Norte and Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monuments,” said Senator Martin Heinrich of New Mexico. “It’s a page out of the playbook by a small contingent of special interests to dispose of America’s national forests, conservation lands, and open space. But the campaign to transfer or even sell off our shared lands should not be mistaken for the mainstream values of Westerners whose way of life depends on the region’s land and water.”
“This administration has picked the wrong fight with the American people,” said House Committee on Natural Resources Ranking Member Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.). “Secretary Zinke and the White House keep forgetting the ‘public’ in our public lands. The longer they treat our national monuments as problems to be solved rather than the popular successes they are, the more resistance they’ll face. Our national monuments don’t exist to make a few Republican donors happy – they exist for all of us to enjoy and preserve for the future. If this administration has to learn that the hard way, I join the millions of Americans across the country ready to stand up and teach them.”
Many of LCV’s state affiliates are also participating in the campaign, with the leaders of affiliates from Alabama, Colorado, Idaho and Maine speaking out about the importance of monuments in their states and to their communities.
“In Alabama, we know firsthand that public lands serve as a foundation for a healthy environment, a strong economy, and thriving communities,” said Tammy Herrington, Executive Director of Conservation Alabama. “The Antiquities Act preserves not only spectacular landscapes like the Grand Canyon but also cultural landmarks like those in Birmingham and Anniston that tell our country’s history. The bipartisan support we saw for our state’s national monuments is an example of the support public lands should be receiving across the country.”
“Protected lands are good for Colorado’s economy, and we want more of them, not less,” said Pete Maysmith, Executive Director of Conservation Colorado. “National monuments and public lands are incredibly important to our state – not only do they preserve our beautiful places and tell our state’s history and stories, but they are important for the economy.”
“In Idaho, this isn’t an issue about right versus left but about right versus wrong, and protecting our natural heritage for future generations is vital because these landscapes make Idaho a great place to live, work and raise a family,” said Rialin Flores of Conservation Voters for Idaho.
“The Trump Administration’s attack on our national monuments is an attack on Maine’s natural legacy and economic future,” said Maureen Drouin, Executive Director of Maine Conservation Voters. “I stand with everyone gathered here today and indeed Americans across the country to protect our nation’s heritage and the national monuments that are part of the fabric of our country’s history.”
The Trump administration’s review of national monuments has already generated a significant backlash, with more than 1 million comments having been submitted in favor of national monuments like the tribal-supported Bears Ears National Monument. With the comment period set to close on July 10 and Secretary Zinke’s final recommendation on national monuments due to Trump on August 24, the public still has an opportunity to make its voice heard in defense of our shared public lands. Meanwhile, several members of Congress have introduced legislation weakening the Antiquities Act and otherwise attacking our parks. “Our Lands, Our Vote” will provide a vehicle for the public to resist this assault on America’s natural and cultural heritage.