National monument status in danger?

Is the San Juan Islands National Monument in danger of losing its protected status?

There has been some worry lately over an executive order issued by President Donald Trump this April requiring the review of many national monuments created after 1996. The order’s wording has been interpreted differently by various sources, creating some uncertainty over which national monuments might be on the chopping block.

On April 26, Washington state senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell wrote a letter to President Trump, condemning the executive order and expressing “deep concern” due to the understanding that both the San Juan Islands and Hanford Reach (on the Columbia River) national monuments could be at risk.

But this week, county council member Jamie Stephens said he had spoken with federal Bureau of Land Management acting director Michael Nedd and was assured that the San Juan Islands monument is not currently up for review.

“We’re not on the list,” Stephens said, noting that our national monument is just 1,000 acres, not over 100,000, as specified in the order. But mysteriously, meetings by the Citizen Committees that have been working with Stephens to create a management plan for the islands monument have been suspended until the end of September.

“There is a parallel group called the Cooperating Agencies which is comprised of all government entities that have an interest in the plan. It will continue to meet,” said Stephens. “Odd, they are suspending the groups that are open to the public and allowing the ones that hold closed meetings.” Stephens has requested permission from Nedd for the citizen groups to resume meeting. The web page detailing progress on the Resource Management Plan for the San Juan Islands National Monument now shows as “page not found” on the BLM website.

The list of monuments up for reevaluation was released May 5 and is available online here. Hanford Reach national monument is included.

The actual wording of the order is this:

“The Secretary of the Interior (Secretary) shall conduct a review of all Presidential designations or expansions of designations under the Antiquities Act made since January 1, 1996, where the designation covers more than 100,000 acres, where the designation after expansion covers 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, to determine whether each designation or expansion conforms to the policy set forth in section 1 of this order.”