This weekend, the Wall Street Journal published a leaked version of Interior Secretary Zinke’s memo to Donald Trump with recommendations to significantly change at least six western public national monuments – including two here in New Mexico.
Zinke has two plans for Trump: create new powers to let the president give away thousands of acres of public monument land, or turn monument land over to “other uses” to include mining and logging.
Four western monuments in other states could be shrunk under the first proposal and here at home both the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument and the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument are on the list to be opened to up to corporate use, forever destroying our public lands.
Zinke’s memo suggests that a “broader set of activities” be allowed within both OMDP and RGDN monuments.
“It emphasizes the need to adjust the proclamations to address concerns of local officials or affected industries, saying the administration should permit ‘traditional uses’ now restricted within the monuments’ boundaries, such as grazing, logging, coal mining and commercial fishing.”
So, what could Zinke mean with his “broader set of activities?” We have to look at what is currently restricted within the monument boundaries to get an idea of what could come if these changes are allowed to be implemented. Since grazing is already allowed under the proclamations for both OMDP and RGDN, and there’s no commercial fishing or logging in our monuments, what other “traditional uses” could be permitted if Trump were to act on Zinke’s recommendations? In the Organ Mountains, mining is likely on top of the list.
“All Federal lands and interests in lands within the boundaries of the monument are hereby appropriated and withdrawn from all forms of entry, location, selection, sale, leasing, or other disposition under the public land laws, including withdrawal from location, entry, and patent under the mining laws, and from disposition under all laws relating to mineral and geothermal leasing, other than by exchange that furthers the protective purposes of the monument.”
Obviously, we do not want to see our national monuments covered in drill pads and pipelines and so we must continue to be vocal and engaged as this process continues. There are likely legal challenges coming from all corners of the US to defend both the size and scope of national monuments around the country, but it’ll be the continued pressure of folks like you who will help shape the future of our monuments here in New Mexico.
Show your support for our public lands and we’ll alert you the minute these recommendations become official so you can fight back!