Signed into law by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1906, the Antiquities Act gives the president the authority to safeguard federal lands and cultural and historical sites for all Americans to enjoy. Since then, presidents from both sides of the aisle have designated 150 national monuments across the United States.
On April 27, President Donald Trump signed an executive order (EO #13792) directing Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to review 27 national monuments designated or expanded since January 1, 1996. He is charged with determining whether their boundaries are consistent with the intent of the Antiquities Act. The review is expected to trigger dramatic changes in protections or boundaries for monuments to accommodate special interests like coal, oil, gas and logging industries.
This executive order is an attack on our shared American history and heritage; it threatens to undermine our most treasured landscapes, including Craters of the Moon in Idaho.
Craters Is Under Review
Craters of the Moon is one of the 27 national monuments that Secretary Zinke will be reviewing under this executive order. Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve is located along the Snake River Plain in central Idaho. Craters is a volcanic wonderland of lava flows, with scattered islands of cinder cones and sagebrush. In this vast and incredible landscape, there are three lava fields that lie along the Great Rift of Idaho as well as tree molds and lava tubes. Craters has some of the world’s best examples of open rift cracks, including the deepest known rift crack on earth.
President Calvin Coolidge used the Antiquities Act to establish the monument in 1924. In 2000, Craters was expanded to better protect the region’s lava fields, cinder cones and sagebrush. In 2002, Congress redesignated the expanded National Park Service area as a national preserve to ensure that hunting could continue.
Craters Should Remain Protected
According to the Society and Natural Resources Journal, western counties with protected public lands, like national monuments, have been more successful in attracting fast-growing economic sectors. As a result, they grow more quickly, on average, than counties without protected public lands. This is largely thanks to the array of recreational and tourism opportunities that national monuments provide. An updated study by the Outdoor Industry Association shows that outdoor recreation generates $887 billion in consumer spending annually and supports 7.6 million jobs in the United States.
Idaho’s Craters of the Moon attracts thousands of visitors who come from across the world to explore this unique area. Research has shown that, after the 2000 expansion of Craters, the economies of neighboring counties-including in Blaine, Butte, Minidoka and Power-grew. The primary employment increase was related to service industry positions such as doctors, engineers and teachers.
Eliminating or reducing the national monument status for Craters of the Moon would be a blow to Idaho’s economy, recreation and tourism opportunities, and ultimately this incredibly unique area located in our state.
Speak Up for Craters and Other National Monuments
It is imperative that Secretary Zinke hear from Idahoans who value our national monuments and parks, including Craters of the Moon. You can send comments to Department of the Interior about this order until Monday, July 10. With your help, we can demonstrate overwhelming public support for keeping Craters of the Moon intact as well as preserving all our nations’ unique monuments, lands and waters.
To learn more about what else is happening regarding national monuments, read our blog about the H.R. 2284 that Rep. RaÃºl Labrador and some of his colleagues have introduced. This bill would gut the Antiquities Act, making it more difficult to safeguard federal lands and America’s cultural and historical sites. From that blog, you can provide your input on the Antiquities Act to Labrador.