California’s attorney general has vowed to protect designated public monuments in a letter warning the Trump administration that it would be “illegal” to dismantle them.
“National monument designations protect the irreplaceable natural and cultural heritage that belongs to all Americans, ensuring that the haste or greed of one generation does not squander those gifts at the expense of future generations,” wrote Attorney General Xavier Becerra in a letter dated Thursday to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke.
“Any attempt by [the] Trump Administration to reverse decisions past Presidents have made to safeguard our most treasured public lands is as unwise as it is unlawful. I am determined to take any and all action necessary to protect the American heritage which has become part of our monument lands.”
Six protected national monuments in the state were targeted for review by President Donald Trump in an executive order in April. Reviews could open up the public areas to oil and gas drilling and even private development. The six are the Giant Sequoia, Mojave Trails, Berryessa Snow Mountain, Carrizo Plain, Sand to Snow and San Gabriel Mountains national monuments. The Giant Sequoia land contains nearly two-thirds of all the giant trees remaining in the world.
The six were among 27 spanning 1.1 million acres that Trump chose for review, after he called the designation system to protect public lands in place since 1906 “another egregious abuse of federal power.”
“Zinke and the Trump administration want to gut the power of the Antiquities Act to shore up the fossil fuel industry,” said May Boeve, executive director of environmental group 350.org, in a statement after Trump called for the review. “On top of all the attacks on our climate, now we’ll have to defend our parks and monuments from Big Oil as well.”
Becerra declared in his letter that Trump “simply has no legal authority to question monument designations made by a predecessor under the Antiquities Act.” He added: “Tellingly, no President has ever attempted to undo preservation of America’s historic, cultural, and scientifically valuable landscapes by revoking a monument designation.”
There was no immediate response from the White House.