The Aug. 28 editorial "Fragile national monuments in danger" preemptively opposed Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke's recommendations regarding national monuments created through the Antiquities Act, dismissed the secretary's interpretation of the law as "narrow" and lacking the proper "awe" for the natural wonders of the West, and incorrectly claimed that the local community supports the designation.
The lack of review or analysis, be it through consultation of the legislative branch or simply an assessment of impacts under the National Environmental Policy Act, is offensive to the Western communities most affected by the creation of large-scale national monuments.
San Juan County, Utah, where the Bears Ears National Monument is located, is 72 percent federally or tribally owned. Federal approval through an environmental assessment or environmental impact statement under NEPA is required before any activity of real consequence can occur in three-quarters of the county. These processes can take years and cost anywhere from tens of thousands to millions of dollars. It is understandable why the local community, even the local tribes whose land touches the current boundaries, would oppose the creation of a national monument the size of Delaware in their back yard.
These places are unique. To those who live and work in the West, these beautiful vistas are home, livelihood and community all in one — not just a far-off conquest or fodder to burnish a president’s “environmental legacy.”
Ethan Lane, Washington
The writer is executive director of the Public Lands Council and executive director for federal lands of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association.