Sec. Zinke, Trump willfully ignore millions of Americans’ public comments on National Monuments, side with known opponents like Pearce, Martinez on public lands

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When President Trump issued a directive for his Secretary of the Interior to “review” some 27 national monuments across the American West, a significant part of that process was the public comment reviews. Literally millions of people wrote in their comments to support their love of national monuments, none more fervently than New Mexicans.

No, really, more New Mexicans wrote comments per capita than any other single state. The Land of Enchantment really stepped up to the plate to defend our protected public lands.

Today, Sec. Zinke issued his long-awaited “review” which, well, didn’t really say anything at all. While no monuments will be eliminated outright, an unspecified number will be targeted for “changes” in either management or potentially reduced in size.

But, we did learn whose voice he considered in making the decision: “Comments received were overwhelmingly in favor of maintaining existing monuments and demonstrated a well-orchestrated national campaign organized by multiple organizations.”

Wait, so because millions of people care about our national monuments and public lands it must be a massive conspiracy?

Besides the massive amount of support from everyday New Mexicans, local elected officials from all across New Mexico have supported the protection of both OMDP and the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument time and time again. There have been resolutions from cities, counties, towns, even the state legislature. But did Zinke take any of those voices into consideration? No, of course not. Instead, he only heard from the usual suspects and ostensibly lone Republicans in the state, Land Commissioner Aubrey Dunn, Congressman Steve Pearce, and Governor Susana Martinez.

Watch here as local leaders met today in response to Zinke’s announcement to continue their support for national monuments “by any means necessary.”

Governor Martinez, after generally staying out of the fray during the actual campaign to create both national monuments, used her lame duck status and whats left of her political sway to actively support Trump’s review by sending a letter to Zinke saying as much. State Land Commissioner Aubrey Dunn also spoke out publicly in support of shrinking the monument, specifically “if it will allow the state to generate income.” And US Rep. Steve Pearce, of course, has spoken out against nearly every effort to protect public lands anywhere in the west as part of the extreme right-wing Western Caucus of the Republican Party. 

Perhaps the most troubling thing about today’s announcement is the outright dismissal by Zinke that he and the administration take toward the millions of comments in support of keeping national monuments whole.

Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised when after all, the Las Cruces Sun-News referred to Zinke’s in-person visit as a “dog and pony show” because of his failure to engage with anyone but the ranchers and private developers eager to see protected lands returned to disposal rolls.

However, the (short) summary that Zinke provided has many glaring omissions and even some outright falsehoods within it, the most egregious of which is actually about the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument in Dona Ana County. The summary lambasts the use of the Antiquities Act to protect “…features such as World War II desert bombing craters…” which, when put like that does sound kind of wonky. The truth, of course, is that he doesn’t know what he’s talking about. Within the boundary of the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument are bombing TARGETS that were utilized by the Army Air Corp during the war to train bombardiers on the top secret new technology of the time, the Norden Bombsight. (We wish we could go into it more, it’s really very fascinating and we encourage you to read more about it).

So while Sec. Zinke didn’t provide any context or specific info about which monuments he’s recommending be “changed” it is clear that OMDP is on his list, but it also appears that he actually doesn’t have any idea what’s actually within the monument. Either that, or he really doesn’t value World War II history and the role New Mexico played in that effort, which, if true, would be deeply disturbing.