NOBODY needs the lessons protected in our National Monuments more than President Trump. If it goes into effect, the Executive Order he signed last week requiring a “review” of national monuments could wipe out more than 50 places of great beauty and history from less than 10 to almost 2 million acres, protected for the enjoyment and benefit of the American people.
These monuments give us a realistic picture of the evolution of our country, honoring the contributions of non-white Americans, women and the LGBT community alongside white Americans. They protect artifacts and sacred lands and help defend us against the effects of climate change.
Our president might be considered clueless in many circles, but the way I see it, he is marching inexorably towards a totalitarian government with him as our strongman leader: Yale Historian: President Trump will attempt to take full control of the US government.
Many think President Trump is just ignorant of history as he conflates himself with President Andrew Jackson. But when you realize that Andrew Jackson led the most massive displacement of Americans in a vile atrocity now poetically termed The Trail of Tears, and Trump is similarly removing untold numbers of people from our country, you might conclude differently. AndrewJackson’s crimes against humanity are documented in the Trail of Tears National Historic Trail stretching from Alabama to Oklahoma, as a cautionary tale to America. And this is the role model our debased leader is choosing.
The President keeps telling us his intent, and we keep parsing his words to find logic and some adherence to our American values. As an ardent fan of our public lands that contain our history as part of the planet, part of the continent and as a nation, I can find no precedent for President Trump in our history. Given that he’s challenging the very foundation of our government, there can no longer be any equivocating about whether you’re Republican, Democrat or other – you’re either an AMERICAN standing up for the values we’ve pursued in 241 years since we declared independence from Britain or you’re Un-American.
The President’s order specifies monuments created since 1996 that are more than 100,000 acres “…or where the Secretary determines that the designation or expansion was made without adequate public outreach and coordination with relevant stakeholders…” Based on this administration’s record, you can interpret that to mean EVERY monument established since 1996.
Monuments of less than minimal acres (such as the African Burial Ground National Monument (less than 10 acres ;) Belmont-Paul Women’s Equality; Birmingham Civil Rights; Stonewall) are as vulnerable as Katahdin Woods and Waters (87,563 acres) Grand Staircase Escalante (1.9 million acres) or San Gabriel Mountains (346,177).
As a member of the Next100 Coalition of environmental, social justice, conservation and spiritual leaders who supported the designation of Bears Ears as a National Monument, I know the rigorous process that has to be followed to determine the national significance of a site before it can be deemed a federal monument. The President’s Order impugns that process even as he is unfit to carry the legacy of the valiant Americans who are honored in them.
If you’ve ever had the privilege of walking in Giant Forest in Sequoia National Park among the 2,000-year-old trees that were alive when Jesus walked the Earth, you can thank Col. Charles Young and the Buffalo Soldiers, and learn more about them at the Monument that honors their contributions to America. Col. Young, the third American of African descent to graduate from West Point (he said he wouldn’t wish that experience on his worst enemy) was not only a distinguished military leader and international attaché but a man of extraordinary determination. Sidelined from a race-breaking promotion with a diagnosis of high blood pressure, Col. Young rode his horse 500 miles to Washington DC from his home in Wilberforce, OH to prove his fitness.
The intent of the Executive Order is ambiguous at best. We must ask the Secretary of the Interior to clarify it. How will we know what stakeholders are engaged in the “review?” In the case of Bears Ears which appears to be a particular target, how will we assure that the tribal leaders who were instrumental in securing the protection of their sacred lands are involved?
Instead of “reviewing” our national monuments with a view no doubt to gutting them, maybe the President can direct the Secretary to get more information about our system of parks and monuments into the public. Maybe we could focus on identifying new areas that can become monuments and fill in the gaps of our American story.
Who will save our America? We the people that know our history will! We the people must!
Check out the websites of advocacy organizations including the NPCA, the Sierra Club, the Wilderness Society and the Next100Coalition to learn more and take immediate, convenient action.