Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument / BLM photo

Our Campaigns

Environmental Defense: Our Public Lands

Goal: Defend our national monuments and other public lands from attempts to remove their protections.
From the redwood forest to the Gulf Stream waters, America is a beautiful country. Since Teddy Roosevelt, 15 presidents have protected some of our most special places as national monuments. Yet President Trump wants to erase protections for many of them. Together with our national network, we're doing all we can to protect and preserve these places.
  • <h4>BEARS EARS (UTAH): SHRUNK</h4><h5>In December 2017, President Trump announced he was shrinking Bears Ears National Monument in Utah by 85 percent.</h5><em>Bob Wick / BLM</em>
  • <h4>KATAHDIN WOODS (MAINE): THREATENED</h4><h5>If the President adopts his Interior Secretary’s recommendations, more logging will scar the new Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument in Maine.</h5><em>Russel Toris via flickr / CC-BY-2.0</em>
  • <h4>CASCADE-SISKIYOU (OREGON): THREATENED</h4><h5>Oregon's Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument would see more logging and be reduced in size.</h5><em>Bob Wick / BLM</em>
  • <h4>ORGAN MOUNTAINS-DESERT PEAKS (N.M.): THREATENED</h4><h5>New Mexico's Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument could lose its national monument status entirely.</h5><em>Bob Wick / BLM</em>
  • <h4>ACTION & RESULTS</h4><h5>Over the past 30 years, our national network has been a leader in protecting America’s forests, parks and monuments.</h5>
A sense of beauty and utter freedom

In America, we live and travel among natural wonders. Seeing them provides us, in the words of author and historian Craig Shirley, with a “sense of beauty and utter freedom” that is “purely American.”  

Wallace Stegner called the decision to protect these places “the best idea we ever had. Absolutely American, absolutely democratic, they reflect us at our best.” While Stegner was referring to national parks, that’s just one tool our country has used to protect and preserve the best of America.

Since 1906, when Teddy Roosevelt protected Devils Tower in Wyoming, 15 U.S. presidents have used the Antiquities Act to protect and preserve special places of historical, cultural and scientific interest as national monuments.

President Trump announces plans to reconsider public lands protections.
White House Photo
Reversing a century of progress

President Trump and his allies want to erase or shrink protections for national monuments including Bears Ears in Utah and Katahdin Woods and Waters in Maine.

For what? After more than a century of protecting wilderness and wildlife, do we suddenly need to reverse course and sacrifice both in the name of progress?

We don’t think so. That’s not the America we want to live in. Nor is it the country we want to leave to our children and grandchildren.  

Our public lands are rich with natural and historical treasures. Bears Ears National Monument, Utah.
Bob Wick / BLM
Damaging our treasured places

If the president adopts the recommendations of a Dec. 5 memorandum by Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke, more national monuments will shrink, lose protections or both. For example:

• more logging would scar Katahdin Woods and Waters in Maine and Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument in Oregon, which would also shrink in size;

• fracking and grazing would trample the volcanic soils of the Rio Grande Del Norte National Monument in New Mexico;

• some or all of Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks in New Mexico, which is near the Mexican border, could lose its national monument status after reviews by the departments of Defense and Homeland Security; and

• protections for all national monuments could come into question, since no previous president has made such drastic changes.  


How can we protect our lands?

RIGHT NOW: Together with our national network, we’re making the case against the administration’s actions and plans, and alerting our supporters and the public to tell administration officials that we want stronger, not weaker, protections for our national monuments and public lands.

IN THE MONTHS TO COME: Our national network is also closely monitoring legislation in Congress that would weaken the Antiquities Act, the law that gives presidents the authority to designate national monuments for protection. When a bill comes up for a vote, we’ll alert our members and the public to oppose it. Under the rules for most legislation, we will need only 41 votes in the U.S. Senate to stop it. In addition, we’re working to stop bills that would codify into law President Trump’s decisions to shrink Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante.  

At some point, the question of whether President Trump has the authority to rescind or weaken national monuments declared by previous presidents will end up in court. Judges must follow the letter and spirit of the law, but public opinion counts. Public comments against the administration’s actions and public opposition to legislation targeting the Antiquities Act will bolster the case for keeping America’s national monuments protected.

IN THE LONG RUN: Ultimately, we need to win enough hearts and minds to our point of view so daring to weaken protections for America’s public lands would be a career-ending move for any elected official. That’s one more reason why our work to raise awareness and engage people in action matters.

Staff deliver more than 2 million petitions urging the Dept. of the Interior to protect public lands.
Jenny Nordstrom
A decades-long commitment

We believe the enduring beauty, history and culture of these places are worth far more than the short-term value of any timber, minerals or oil we can extract from them.

Our national network has won much of the support necessary to establish such new national monuments as Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks in New Mexico. We have a long track record of protecting other public lands, from President Bill Clinton’s declaration of nearly 60 million acres of national forest off-limits to logging and road-building to President Barack Obama’s moratorium on new mining on a million acres around the Grand Canyon.

Protecting our national monuments and other public lands will require us to act where and when it matters most. Our national network has staff in many of the states where national monuments are being targeted for reduction, and members in all of them.

Our success also depends on gaining support that transcends the partisan divide. Fortunately, this is a cause that can unite hunters and hikers, anglers and birdwatchers, native tribes and businesses that cater to tourists.  


We’re keeping an eye out for other attempts to turn back the clock on environmental protections. To keep informed, sign up for our email, follow us on Facebook, or connect with us on Twitter.