HECHO (Hispanics Enjoying Camping, Hunting and the Outdoors) eagerly awaits the public release of Secretary Zinke’s report detailing his recommendations to change a handful of monuments. Which monuments will be reduced in size and by how much is unclear, as the Administration has yet to release the full report to the public.
What we do know is that more than 2.8 million public comments poured in during the Department of the Interior’s 60-day comment period – a record-breaking response. More than 98 percent of all comments received expressed support for maintaining, or even expanding, national monuments. This is in addition to the vast public process and comments received in support of the monuments prior to being designated.
As HECHO Board Member Kent Salazar wrote recently in the Santa Fe New Mexican, the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks and Rio Grande del norte national monuments were created with input from local elected officials, business owners, veterans, Native Americans, hunters, faith leaders, the Latino community, conservationists, border patrol, the U.S. military, power companies, and others who love to recreate outdoors. “The decision to create these monuments did not come top down from the president, but from the people themselves,” he wrote.
Our public lands and waterways do not just make up the physical landscape of our country, they are a vital pillar of our culture and the backdrop to our history – some of which we are still uncovering – especially sites and stories that were overlooked in the past because they are of greatest significance to underrepresented communities, like Latinos.
Many of the most recent National Monument designations have been made to safeguard sites that are more inclusive and representative of our nation’s diverse history. “These are monuments that embody America, our courage and sacrifice, and our Latino history. An attack on even one national monument is an attack on them all,” says Liz Archuleta, HECHO’s Arizona Spokesperson. “Our public lands belong to every American; they are our common heritage and precious heirlooms of our country that have been handed down from generation to generation for all Americans and visitors to enjoy.”
Beyond being a cultural treasure, these are lands that generate millions of visitors nationally and internationally, and are integral to the tourist economy of many counties, regions, and cities. Any change to monuments will deal a major blow to local economies and the multi-billion outdoor recreation economy that America’s public lands and waters support. HECHO is very concerned for local communities whose monuments are economic engines. We are especially concerned that monuments currently open for hunting, fishing, hiking and outdoor recreation are at risk of being closed or overrun by strip mines and oil fields.
Legal professionals agree that the Antiquities Act does not grant the president the authority to eliminate or significantly alter a national park or national monument. Also, the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976 affirmed that only Congress has the authority to modify national monuments.
We are concerned that protections for tens of thousands of Native American and Latino sacred sites could be eliminated.
“HECHO is proud of our centuries-old tradition as stewards of public lands. National monuments protect these special places and cultural heritage so that future generations can experience them,” says Rock Ulibarri, HECHO Advisory Board Chairman. “National monuments are testaments to our nation’s diverse heritage, recreational resources unparalleled in beauty, and economic engines for local communities. They are an invaluable public treasure. Any attempts to revoke or diminish these monuments undermines our history, our culture, and the essence of our democracy.”