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Defenders' View: National Monuments Vital to Wildlife Conservation

Comment period closes on Zinke’s review of national monuments

WASHINGTON (July 10, 2017) – Defenders of Wildlife today submitted detailed comments on 23 national monuments being reviewed for potential rescission or downsizing by Secretary Ryan Zinke. Over 2 million comments were submitted by the public in support of protecting all 27 national monuments being reviewed.

President Trump directed this unprecedented review in an Executive Order on April 26, 2017. Defenders’ comments highlighted the remarkable resource values and importance for wildlife of each of these national treasures, and called on Secretary Zinke to maintain their full protection.

Jamie Rappaport Clark, president and CEO of Defenders of Wildlife, issued the following statement:

“National monuments are protected for the benefit of all Americans. Ensuring that majestic, vibrant places like these remain available to the public is vital to our national identity.

“The bipartisan legacy of 16 previous administrations, not just the three whose proclamations are under review, hangs in the balance as this rich part of our American heritage faces the threat of being cast aside in favor of politics and industry.

“The value that national monuments provide to wildlife conservation is too great to be compromised by disruptive resource extraction. Secretary Zinke should maintain the protections of national monuments and should not recommend diminishing the boundaries of a single monument.

“From diverse habitat for 135 butterfly species in Cascade-Siskiyou to vital wildlife corridors for bighorn sheep and mountain lions in Gold Butte, each and every national monument provides invaluable resources for wildlife.

“The American people have spoken, submitting over two million comments overwhelmingly in favor of protecting the cultural and scientific values of our national monuments. Revoking or undermining the protections of any of these monuments would be a sellout of our natural heritage for ours and for future generations.”


  • The Antiquities Act of 1906, the federal law that empowers the president to designate national monuments through public proclamation, marked its 111th anniversary this year. For more than a century, presidents have carefully implemented this law to preserve environmental, scientific, historic and cultural values on public lands and waters for all Americans.

  • No president has ever removed a monument designation put in place by a predecessor. Congress has subsequently designated dozens of national monuments as national parks.

Monuments and Wildlife Habitat: Examples

  • Bears Ears National Monument is of great conservation value to many species. More than 15 species of bats can be found throughout the monument and topographic features such as rock depressions collect the scarce rainfall to provide habitat for numerous aquatic species. Bears Ears is world-renowned for its elk population and is also home to mule deer and bighorn sheep. The area’s diversity of soils and rich microenvironments provide for a great diversity of vegetation that sustains dozens of species of birds, mammals, reptiles and amphibians.

  • Canyons of the Ancients National Monument harbors critical habitat for Mesa Verde nightsnake, long-nosed leopard lizard and twin-spotted spiny lizard.

  • Grand Canyon-Parashant National Monument is a remote and varied landscape that provides habitat for many endangered species, such as the Mexican spotted owl and the California condor.

  • Over 200 species of birds are found within the Sonoran Desert National Monument and it contains critical habitat for desert tortoise. Sonoran pronghorn, desert bighorn sheep, mule deer, javelin, mountain lion and gray fox also find habitat in the most biologically diverse of the North American deserts.

Defenders of Wildlife is dedicated to the protection of all native animals and plants in their natural communities. With over 1.8 million members and activists, Defenders of Wildlife is a leading advocate for innovative solutions to safeguard our wildlife heritage for generations to come. For more information, visit Newsroom.Defenders.org and follow us on Twitter @DefendersNews.