Lawmakers should leave national monuments alone
Thanks to the Gazette-Mail for the July 13 Gazette editorial describing the review of more than two dozen national monuments and the alarming prospect that many could be reduced in size or rescinded altogether. Creation of these national monuments followed a tradition more than a century old in which presidents use their authority under the Antiquities Act to provide special protection for federal lands with exceptional historical, natural and recreational values.
As the Gazette rightly points out, monuments are created with the intention of providing enhanced protections in perpetuity. It is unheard of for a sitting president to attempt to undo the proclamations of their predecessors.
The fact that there are currently no national monuments in West Virginia does not mean voters in the Mountain State don’t support their designation. They do. A poll conducted this spring by the West Virginia Rivers Coalition and National Wildlife Federation bears this out. Eighty-seven percent of respondents in this statewide poll believe that national monument designations for protecting special places should remain in place.
Two thirds of the poll respondents, like the West Virginia electorate, voted for President Donald Trump last November. Clearly, support for public lands in West Virginia runs deep and crosses party lines.
Maybe that’s because public lands in West Virginia are among our best attractions for people who live here and those who visit. The Monongahela National Forest, the Gauley and New rivers, and the Bluestone National Scenic River are among the areas that give our state its Wild and Wonderful moniker. These are not national monuments, but perhaps the idea that politicians, even one that remains popular in West Virginia, could do something to diminish the value of these places runs counter to who we are.
I, like the vast majority of West Virginians, hope our Congressional delegation won’t go along with any attempt to dismantle our system of public lands that are the envy of the world and an important economic driver in West Virginia.
Board member of West Virginians Highlands Conservancy