The attempted Trump dump of national monuments is under way. You have a chance to register your objection (see below).
The original monument hit list has been reduced to include only national monuments greater than 100,000 acres in size, with one exception (in Maine). It’s mostly about the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase–Escalante national monuments, both in the bipolar state of Utah, though other national monuments may be collateral damage. It was the congressional delegation from Utah that prevailed upon President Trump to “review” national monuments of more than 100,000 acres that were presidentially proclaimed between 1996 (Clinton) and 2017 (Obama).
Trump’s two immediate predecessors, Democratic President Obama and Republican President Bush, broke records in proclaiming national monuments for this and future generations. By contrast, it’s clear that Trump is no Theodore Roosevelt, who signed the Antiquities Act of 1906 in which Congress granted the power to the president to proclaim national monuments.
Pursuant to Executive Order 13792 (“Review of Designations Under the Antiquities Act”), Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is reviewing twenty-two national monuments in twelve states. Here is the Trump/Zinke hit list, totaling 11,335,910 acres:
• Basin and Range, Nevada, 2015, 703,585 acres
• Bears Ears, Utah, 2016, 1,350,000 acres
• Berryessa Snow Mountain, California, 2015, 330,780 acres
• Canyons of the Ancients, Colorado, 2000, 164,000 acres
• Carrizo Plain, California, 2001, 204,107 acres
• Cascade-Siskiyou, Oregon and California, 2000/2017, 100,000 acres
• Craters of the Moon, Idaho, 1924/2000, 717,387 acres
• Giant Sequoia, California, 2000, 327,760 acres
• Gold Butte, Nevada, 2016, 296,937 acres
• Grand Canyon–Parashant, Arizona, 2000, 1,014,000 acres
• Grand Staircase–Escalante, Utah, 1996, 1,700,000
• Hanford Reach, Washington, 2000, 194,451 acres
• Ironwood Forest, Arizona, 2000, 128,917 acres
• Katahadin [sic] Woods and Waters, Maine, 2016, 87,563 acres
• Mojave Trails, California, 2016, 1,600,000 acres
• Organ Mountains–Desert Peaks, New Mexico, 2014, 496,330 acres
• Rio Grande del Norte, New Mexico, 2013, 242,555 acres
• Sand to Snow, California, 2016, 154,000 acres
• San Gabriel Mountains, California, 2014, 346,177 acres
• Sonoran Desert, Arizona, 2001, 486,149 acres
• Upper Missouri River Breaks, Montana, 2001, 377,346 acres
• Vermilion Cliffs, Arizona, 2000, 279,568 acres
Though Katahdin Woods National Monument is smaller than 100,000 acres, Zinke included it anyway because he had the discretion to under the executive order, even though he apparently cannot spell it correctly. We can hope that the Katahdin Woods National Monument is the embryonic form of a Maine Woods National Park.
To pick another nit, the Craters of the Moon National Monument was first proclaimed in 1924 (Coolidge) and expanded in 1928 (Coolidge), 1930 (Hoover), 1961 (Kennedy), and 2000 (Clinton). President Franklin Roosevelt shrunk the monument by 500 acres in 1941; although this was illegal, he didn’t get sued.
Pursuant to Executive Orders 13792 and 13795 (“Implementing an America-First Offshore Energy Strategy”), Commerce Secretary Wilbur L. Ross is reviewing five marine national monuments in two oceans. Here is the Trump/Ross hit list, totaling 217,869,295 acres or 1,006,169,685 acres:
• Marianas Trench, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, 2009, 60,938,240 acres or 80,700,105 acres
• Northeast Canyons and Seamounts, Atlantic Ocean, 2016, 3,114,320 acres or 4,164,002 acres
• Pacific Remote Islands, Pacific Ocean, 2009, 55,608,320 acres or 416,145,939 acres• Papahānaumokuākea, Hawaii, 2006/2016, 89,600,000 acres or 493,759,274 acres
• Rose Atoll, American Samoa, 2009, 8,609,045 acres or 11,400,365 acres
That difference of 788,299,760 acres? That’s a lot of acres. It all depends on how you define a mile.
When is a mile not 5,280 feet in length? When it’s a nautical mile. A nautical mile is 6,000 feet in length. When one travels for one hour at a speed of one knot (phonetic from naut[ical]) along a meridian of longitude, one has traveled approximately 1 minute of geographic latitude. There are 640 acres in a square (statute) mile on land and 847.547736 acres in a square (nautical) mile in the ocean (but who’s counting?). In the listing above, the first acreages given for the Marianas Trench, Northeast Canyons and Seamounts, and Rose Atoll assume the square miles are statute square miles, while the second acreage numbers assume them to be nautical square miles.
Apparently the landlubbers at the Commerce Department only know about the statute mile. But when G. W. Bush and Obama wrote “miles” in their proclamations, they did not always mean statute miles.
The Bush marine national monument proclamations were always consistent—distance was specified in “nautical miles” and area in “square miles.” The Obama marine national monument proclamations are less consistent. Obama’s first proclamation used both “nautical miles” and “miles” for distance and introduced “square nautical miles.” In his second and third, it was must “miles” for distance and “square miles” for area.
If Bush and Obama followed long and settled convention when they wrote “square miles,” they meant nautical square miles, not statute square miles. Statute miles are simply not used at sea, and nautical miles are simply not used on land. In any case, it is merely a matter of accounting, since all marine national monument proclamations incorporate by reference an official map; it’s what’s on the map that counts.
For the Pacific Remote Islands and Papahānaumokuākea national monuments, part of the acreage discrepancy is the nautical versus statute mile thing. The Trump administration’s official public notice acknowledges that the Papahānaumokuākea was established by Bush in 2006 and expanded by Obama in 2016, but it does not include the Obama acreage. For the Pacific Remote Islands established by Bush in early January 2009, nobody in the Commerce Department apparently knows that Obama expanded it in 2016 (don’t anybody tell them).
Public comments are being taken on the regulations.gov website until May 26, 2017, for Bears Ears National Monument and until July 10, 2017, for all the other national moments on the Trump hit list. Register your opinion by clicking the “Comment Now!” button. You have my permission to be frank, blunt, terse, profane, and/or eloquent.
The tension over national monuments is one of long-term national versus short-term local interests. Fortunately, a president cannot eliminate, reduce, or weaken national monuments. A president can proclaim national monuments but cannot unproclaim them. Only Congress can change national monument status.
Instead of a Trump dump of national monuments, it certainly would be best for this and future generations of humans and other life forms to dump Trump.