Press release: New report on threatened national monuments highlights wide public support, economic benefits

A new report by the Natural Resources Defense Council highlights the tremendous economic and environmental benefits of some two dozen American parklands and waters.

There is robust public support for protecting these national monuments.  In the coming weeks, however, the Trump administration could attempt to remove protections for these public lands and waters, and open them to oil, gas, mineral or other resource extraction.

In Utah, the Bears Ears National Monument and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument could be dramatically reduced or revoked.  Bears Ears, one of the most scenic places in the American West is a sacred place to Native Americans and home to at least 18 endangered species.  Fossil excavations at Grand Staircase have earned it the nickname “Dinosaur Shangri-La.”  If these areas are opened up to private industry, the local economies have a lot to lose.  Jobs and income have grown significantly in neighboring communities since the designation of Grand Staircase.  And Bears Ears is expected to bring in millions of visitors.  In 2016, 14.4 million park visitors spent an estimated 1.1 billion in local gateway regions while visiting lands in Utah, according to the National Park Service.

This report highlights how these special places help support jobs and pump revenue into local communities around the country. Our national parks, monuments and other Department of Interior sites contribute to an $887 billion a year outdoor recreation industry that supports 7.6 million jobs. And there’s a direct benefit to local economies.  Carrizo Plain National Monument in California, for example, was designated in 2001.  Jobs in local communities grew 28 percent by 2015, and real personal income rose 55 percent.

“These breathtaking places belong to you and me,” said Rhea Suh, NRDC president.  “Millions of Americans have urged the government to protect them.  They are not mere pieces of real estate the Trump Administration can sacrifice to industrial ruin.” 

In an unprecedented move, Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke launched the review of 27 national monuments in May following an executive order by President Trump.  The administration invited public input, and in more than 2.7 million public comments, Americans have urged the Trump Administration to protect these national monuments. 

“Our national monuments remind us what we share as a country, who we are as a people, and what we as Americans value enough to protect and conserve,” said Rhea Suh.  “Protecting each of these treasures is a promise we’ve made to our children—and a promise we’re going to keep.  If this administration tries to violate that, we’ll hold the president to account in the court of public opinion, and in our courts of law.”

NRDC’s report, “America’s Monuments: Worth the Fight” can be found here.

NRDC’s interactive story map on the national monuments under threat can be found here.