Keeping public land public is essential to sustaining these jobs, as well as giving all Americans the chance to experience the iconic landscapes that are their birthright.
PRESIDENT Donald Trump has sent a clear message to America’s recreation-business owners: His administration does not care about the millions of American jobs associated with the outdoor economy. His April 26 executive order threatens to undo national monument status for up to 27 sites around the United States, including Washington’s Hanford Reach.
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s recent report recommending reduction of Bears Ears National Monument is a shot across the bow. The Bears Ears region, encompassing the greater Moab area of Southeastern Utah, is a prime example of an area with a thriving economy based on a balance of hiking, climbing, off-road vehicles and mountain biking, with oil and gas extraction. However, the power of the oil and gas lobby in that area has leveraged the Utah Congressional delegation and the Trump administration to portray the process of creating Bears Ears as a land grab by outside interests at the expense of locals. Those simply are not the facts.
Until recently, it’s been a well-kept secret that the recreation economy is a significant job creator in our country. A recent study by the Outdoor Industry Association reported that the recreation economy supports more than 7.6 million jobs and generates $887 billion of annual economic activity, with most of these jobs at small businesses operating in rural communities. Keeping public land public is essential to sustaining these jobs, as well as giving all Americans the chance to experience the iconic landscapes that are their birthright.
People have until July 10 to tell the Department of the Interior what the national monuments mean to them. Go to regulations.gov to express your opinion on all national monuments.
President Trump seems to view most issues from a transactional perspective and simply based on economics. But it’s about much more than money.
We cannot afford to be shortsighted.
The very idea of vast public lands accessible to all Americans was a visionary innovation by our founders. The opportunity to roam our country to hike, climb, hunt, fish and explore is at the foundation of what makes our country great.
My experience growing up in the Pacific Northwest etched those values deeply. I always felt that getting into a forest repairs the mental traumas of city living. And it’s obvious that our state is now one of the most dynamic regions in the country because people from all over the world recognize the quality of life possible here.
It’s up to those of us who truly love these places to stand up and fight to assure they are there for generations to come. And that is what the American people have done.
Public opinion has been overwhelmingly in support of keeping these magnificent landscapes protected. At the close of the comment period for Bears Ears National Monument, an analysis by Center for Western Priorities found that 96 percent of the comments were in favor of preserving this historically and culturally significant national monument in southeast Utah. Yet, that didn’t stop the administration from suggesting the monument should be unprotected. Who are our leaders beholden to if not the American people?
What’s happening in Utah could be emblematic of the fight to come in the Northwest for Hanford Reach and Cascade-Siskiyou National Monuments. Places like these iconic landscapes are what make the Northwest special and deserve permanent protection.
A recent poll by Colorado College found that 94 percent of voters supported improving and repairing infrastructure in national parks and other public lands. Eighty-two percent wanted improved access for hunters, anglers and hikers. These numbers speak for themselves. National monuments should remain protected for all — not shrunken, rescinded or otherwise undone.
President Trump and Secretary Zinke still have a chance to get this right. Preserve the integrity of the Antiquities Act, don’t sell off our children’s’ heritage. Help outdoor businesses provide a powerful economic engine for domestic jobs by supporting outdoor adventures for Americans. To quote Wallace Stegner, “National monuments are the best idea we ever had. Absolutely American, absolutely democratic, they reflect us at our best rather than our worst.” Keep our public lands public.