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Trump wants national monuments reviewed; Simpson wants Idaho’s Craters left alone

At Craters of the Moon National Monument in Idaho, a wind-whipped limber pine at Inferno Cone frames Big Cinder Butte. At about 800 vertical feet (6,515 feet in elevation), it’s one of the world’s largest purely basaltic cinder cones.
At Craters of the Moon National Monument in Idaho, a wind-whipped limber pine at Inferno Cone frames Big Cinder Butte. At about 800 vertical feet (6,515 feet in elevation), it’s one of the world’s largest purely basaltic cinder cones. kjones@idahostatesman.com

With only 1,000 acres, the San Juan Islands National Monument in Washington state’s northwestern tip may be too tiny to even matter to President Donald Trump.

It’s a speck compared to the 27 big monuments that the White House targeted for a federal review on Friday, with only one on the list smaller than 100,000 acres.

Yet backers of the San Juan Islands monument, a tourism magnet in the Salish Sea, hardly feel safe. They fear that Trump could soon use an executive order he signed on April 26 to try to overturn designations of smaller federally protected sites, too.

One of the 27 monuments up for review is Idaho’s Craters of the Moon National Monument, which was expanded to 661,000 acres by President Clinton in 2000. But management on those acres was set by Congress in 2002, ensuring that activities like hunting and grazing can continue.

Idaho Congressman Mike Simpson this week urged Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to leave Craters out of the review, saying the monument “adequately suits the diverse interests of Idahoans.”

“In Idaho, we believe that cooperative efforts produce long-term solutions and in this instance, Craters of the Moon fits that definition,” Simpson said in a May 9 letter to Zinke. “This is due in large part to a collaborative planning process, in concert with compromise legislation that I authored and was signed into law in 2002, which ultimately resulted in a truly Idaho solution.”

In fact, in recent years county officials have lobbied to upgrade Craters’ status from monument to a higher-profile national park, in hopes of attracting more park-loving tourists to visit Idaho communities like Arco. Gov. Butch Otter backs the proposal.

National Park Service Director Jon Jarvis was in Boise on Tuesday for the Andrus Lecture. Afterward, he answered a few questions -- including one about Idaho's prospects for a national park.

ADVOCATES OF SMALL MONUMENTS WORRY

In Washington state, monument advocates are concerned that a provision in Trump’s order opens the door to review any designation if Zinke determines that it was made “without adequate public outreach and coordination with relevant stakeholders.”

“I don’t think anything is safe under this president,” said Washington state Democratic Rep. Rick Larsen, whose district includes the 4-year-old monument, made up of 75 small islands, rocks and pinnacles and a home for orca whales, harbor seals and bald eagles. “My concern is that the president wants to get rid of national monuments altogether.”

Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., the ranking member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, said that Trump’s order could open up thousands of acres of public lands and coastal shores, accusing the president of trying to “exploit lands held in public trust.”

“Over 100 years of conservation is proposed to be undone in just a few days by President Trump,” Cantwell said in a speech on the Senate floor two weeks ago.

120 DAYS TO REVIEW

Since President Theodore Roosevelt designated Devils Tower in Wyoming as the first national monument in 1906, 15 other presidents have used their power under the Antiquities Act to create or expand another 156 national monuments that total 840 million acres.

Under Trump’s order, Zinke has 45 days to release an initial report, with final recommendations due within 120 days. He kicked off the review this week with a “listening tour” in Utah and stops at the controversial Bears Ears National Monument and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, two of the 27 monuments to be “initially reviewed.”

Since President Theodore Roosevelt designated Devils Tower in Wyoming as the first national monument in 1906, 15 other presidents have used their power under the Antiquities Act to create or expand another 156 national monuments that total 840 million acres.

Trump, who pledged as a presidential candidate to open more federal lands to energy development, isn’t the only one complaining about the law.

President Barack Obama used the law 34 times to designate nearly 554 million acres of land and water as national monuments, unilateral presidential actions that angered many conservative westerners, especially in Utah.

President Donald Trump signed a late-April executive order aimed at reviewing national monument designations, including the Bears Ears National Monument. It was created by former President Barack Obama in December 2016 on more than 1 million acres

LABRADOR: ANOTHER APPROACH

Last week, Idaho Republican Rep. Raúl Labrador said that Obama had locked up acreage that measured “10 times the size of Idaho” while setting “a new standard for executive overreach.”

The complaints prompted a hearing of the House Subcommittee on Federal Lands, where Republicans stepped up their attacks.

California Republican Rep. Tom McClintock, the panel’s chairman, told his colleagues that the monuments often result in broad prohibitions on roads, hunting and fishing and other recreational uses, denying access to too many Americans.

Right now it’s wildflower season and the wildflowers out at Iceberg Point are gorgeous. And when the whales are by, there’s no place better to watch them.

Tom Reeve of Lopez Island, chairman of the San Juan Islands monument advisory committee

“Preserving these lands for future generations does not mean closing them to the current generation,” he said.

Labrador, a member of the subcommittee, praised Trump’s move but said the White House plan to review the monuments and then recommend any changes did not go far enough.

Labrador introduced a bill that would require approval from Congress and any state with a proposed monument before the president would designate a monument.

“Individuals who live near our public lands and state and local elected officials know how to best protect our cherished lands,” Labrador said, “more than any bureaucrat in Washington, D.C., or any think tank or any other group like that, or even the president of the United States.”

Idaho Republican Sens. Mike Crapo and Jim Risch are promoting a similar bill in the Senate, called the Improved National Monument Designation Process Act. Like Labrador’s bill, it would require states and Congress to sign off on national monuments. Risch said the legislation “would allow for greater transparency.”

Rob Hotakainen: 202-383-6154, @HotakainenRob

What about Craters?

President Clinton’s controversial designation of the 1.7 million-acre Grand Staircase-Escalante in Utah in 1996 surprised Utahans, and Staircase-Escalante became the poster child for the abuses of presidential overreach with the 1906 Antiquities Act.

When Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt came to Idaho in late 2000 to study expanding Craters of the Moon National Monument, he made sure he worked with the state’s congressional delegation, local officials and ranchers — including Secretary of State Pete Cenarrusa.

Later that year, Clinton expanded the monument from 54,000 acres to 661,000 acres, a 12-fold increase. But it’s less likely to be affected by Trump’s review because U.S. Rep Mike Simpson got Congress to pass 2002 legislation making the expansion a preserve and guaranteeing that hunting could continue.

Craters was originally designated as a monument in 1924 by President Calvin Coolidge.

Rocky Barker

27 monuments to be reviewed

Basin and Range, Nevada; Bears Ears, Utah; Berryessa Snow Mountain, Calif.; Canyons of the Ancients, Colo.; Carrizo Plain, Calif; Cascade-Siskiyou, Ore.; Craters of the Moon, Idaho; Giant Sequoia, Calif.; Gold Butte, Nev.; Grand Canyon-Parashant, Ariz.; Grand Staircase-Escalante, Utah; Hanford Reach, Wash.; Ironwood Forest, Ariz.; Mojave Trails, Calif.; Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks, N.M.; Rio Grande del Norte, N.M.; Sand to Snow, Calif.; San Gabriel Mountains, Calif.; Sonoran Desert, Ariz.; Upper Missouri River Breaks, Mont.; Vermilion Cliffs, Ariz.; Katahdin Woods and Waters, Maine; Marianas Trench, Pacific Ocean; Northeast Canyons and Seamounts, Atlantic Ocean; Pacific Remote Islands, Pacific Ocean; Papahanaumokuakea, Hawaii; Rose Atoll, American Samoa.

Source: U.S. Interior Department

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