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Americans asked to weigh in on national monument status

Bree Zender
Carrizo Plain wildflowers photographed during the early 2017 superbloom.

In late April, the Trump administration announced a new executive order that directs the Interior Department to review the designations of certain national monuments, like the Carrizo Plain National Monument in southeastern San Luis Obispo County. 

The order authorizes Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke to recommend either shrinking them in size or eliminating them entirely. As worded in the executive order, the review is a prelude to possibly revoking national monument status if Zinke determines the designation was made “without adequate public outreach and coordination with relevant stakeholders.”

The Trump administration is seeking to open up federally owned public lands to more resource extraction and national monument status hinders that effort. Secretary Zinke will report back to the president in August with his conclusions.

On May 5, the Interior Department announced the first ever public comment period on monument designation. Ever since Teddy Roosevelt signed the Antiquities Act into law in 1906, monument designation has been strictly within the purview of the president. Now the administration says it wants the public to weigh in.

On the Central Coast, the Carrizo Plain made headlines recently after this winter’s rain caused a spring “superbloom” of flowers on the plain and surrounding hills. Its national monument status protects the land from new oil leases while retaining existing drilling rights, and also bans target shooting and off-road vehicles. The Carrizo Plain was designated a national monument in 2001.

As of Friday, May 12, the public can submit comments online or by mail about whether to keep or revoke national monument status. For the controversial Bears Ears National Monument in Utah, comments must be submitted within 15 days after the opening of the public comment period. For all others under review, the public comment period is 60 days.

Almost two million acres in the Grand Canyon area included as national monuments are under review. In California, the national monuments currently under review are the San Gabriel Mountains; Southern California's Sand to Snow National Monument; Mojave Trails; Giant Sequoia; Berryessa Snow Mountain; and the Carrizo Plain.

Those who wish to submit comments on national monument designations may submit a comment online here. The mailing address is: Monument Review, MS-1530, U.S. Department of the Interior, 1849 C Street NW, Washington, DC 20240. 

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