What would Theodore Roosevelt do? Executive order calls for review of public land protections

A hiker takes in the splendor of the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument in New Mexico. 

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Caddis fly blizzards on the Arkansas River in Browns Canyon National Monument. Strongholds of native redband trout in the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument. Fishing with the ghost of Henry David Thoreau in the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument.

These are just a few of the reasons Trout Unlimited supports the Antiquities Act and the ability for presidents to use the act to designate national monuments. As long as they remain protected as national monuments, each of the places will be kept just the way they are today and continue to provide world-class coldwater habitat and fishing opportunities for future generations.

On April 26, President Trump issued an executive order, Review of Designations Under the Antiquities Act, calling for a review of national monument designations "made without adequate public outreach or coordination", or those over 100,000 acres designated since 1996. The executive order instructs the Secretary of the Interior to provide “recommendations for such Presidential actions, legislative proposals, or other actions” to carry out the policy set forth in the order.

This action could have far reaching implications for America’s public lands and hunters and anglers. Trout Unlimited cautions against any action that could lead to the weakening of national monument protections and the Antiquities Act, a law championed by Theodore Roosevelt and used by sixteen Presidents – eight Republican and eight Democratic – to protect some of America’s most iconic landscapes.

On May 5, the Department of the Interior issued a list of national monuments under review and announced that a formal comment period would start on May 12, providing fifteen days for the public to comment on Bears Ears National Monument and sixty days to comment on all other monuments. Now more than ever, it is important for hunters and anglers to make their voices heard and ensure that locally-driven conservation initatives in places like Rio Grande del Norte National Monument are preserved and celebrated.

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The Antiquities Act has historically been a bipartisan tool for conserving public lands that are part of our natural heritage and important for America’s sportsmen and women. After signing the act into law, President Theodore Roosevelt designated over 1.5 million acres of public land as national monuments, both large and small.  Since then, the act has been used to enable long-term conservation of some of the best fish and wildlife habitat and hunting and angling opportunities in the country.  

When Congress has been unwilling or unable to enact widely supported conservation initiatives, the Antiquities Act has provided a path forward to see these efforts through to fruition. The Antiquities Act is a powerful tool for conservation. Like any tool, it must be used appropriately, but it is important to keep this tool available for those times and places it is needed.

For this reason, hunting and fishing groups have been calling on elected officials to uphold the legacy of Theodore Roosevelt and set an example for how the Act can be used responsibly, rather than attacking national monuments and the Antiquities Act. These efforts have included a letter from the CEOs of five national sporting groups expressing opposition to any executive action to overturn a national monument.  

An angler looks to hook up with a trout while fishing Rio Grande del Norte National Monument. Joshua Duplechian/Trout Unlimited

It remains to be seen what final actions will stem from the review mandated by President Trump’s executive order, but one thing is clear: we must remain vigilant to ensure that some of America’s most cherished landscapes remain protected as national monuments.

Updated: May 8, 2017

Take action - tell the Secretary of the Interior why monuments matter.

Read more about national monuments and the Antiquities Act.

Read a press release from Trout Unlimited and partners in response to the Executive Order.

Corey Fisher is the Senior Policy Director for Trout Unlimited. He can be reached at CFisher@tu.org


said on Friday, April 28th, 2017

While I agree that TU vigilence is appropriate and necessary, the Trump administration's review of the apparent recent creation of very large National Monuments without meaningful local input is also problematic. Some of these set asides, in fact, could be characterized as Executive overreach in terms of size alone according to affected state representatives. My advice, therefore, is to monitor, yes, but don't jump to conclusions at this point in the process.

said on Saturday, April 29th, 2017

I recently took up Fly Fishing at 70 after a lifetime of trout fishing as a "bait plunker" in upstate New York and the Sierras in California. I have had some fly fishing people tell me I wasn't a "real fisherman" unless I fly fished. I took it up because I want to be able to release trout and not damage them as I had with bait and the technical aspects of the sport which I find fascinating. I treasure the lakes and streams of our country. I would point out that we need broad general public support from those people who don't fish or hunt to preserve our wilderness heritage. Someone who is put out of a job because vast sections of the country are preserved from any development or commercial fishing is not going to want to hear about a few "elitist fly fishermen" crying about keeping places wild. That was the message of the last election. I believe we at TU need to take a cooperative approach with the new administration. To lobby effectively by taking a balanced approach and realize that in many cases we can have controlled development and great fishing as well. It would be up to us to suggest what that compromise might be. I fished plenty of nice streams in Westchester County, NY surrounded by houses and farmland!

said on Sunday, April 30th, 2017

As with the tone of the comments by Flyman615 and ronsky471110, a review isn't an assault. Any proposed changes should provide for public reveiw and comment in accordance with existing federal regulatory policy (e.g., National Environmental Policy Act). An offer to provide TU insights and perspectives to the Interior Department throughout the reveiw process might be more constructive.

said on Wednesday, May 3rd, 2017

I became a TU lifemember because I believe in what TU stands for and is doing; however, saying that I, as a member of TU, oppose the "Review" of how previous administrations have use the Antiquity Act, is an overstatement.  My suggestion to the TU leadership is aligned with dlamrickett, ronsky47110, Flyman615, and I'm sure quite a large number of othe TU members.  I would ask that TU leadership ask for input from its membership before taking such a hardline stance, and offer assistance in the review to make sure what we hold dear is considered in the "Review".


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