People hate national parks and monuments until they don’t anymore

September 2, 2022

Montana Economy

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Last week, President Trump launched an unprecedented assault on US public lands when he ordered Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to assess whether dozens of national monuments should be canceled or reduced.

Trump was responding to pressure from the Utah congressional delegation, which had long hated the Teddy Roosevelt-era Antiquities Act, the law that gives the president the power to protect lands and waters with physical or cultural attributes. exceptional. Some, but not all, Utahans are upset with President Obama’s creation of the 1.35 million acre Bears Ears National Monument, as well as President Clinton’s 1996 designation of the Grand Staircase National Monument. – Escalante.

The long campaign against the Antiquities Act comes with a lot of searing rhetoric.

When Obama announced the creation of Bears Ears, Utah Senator Orrin Hatch said, “For Utahans in general, and for those in San Juan County, this is an affront of epic proportions and an attack on an entire way of life.

(Never mind that five Native American nations came together to support the monument and that it enjoyed deep support nationwide.)

During the signing ceremony for his new executive order, Trump said he would end the “abusive practice” of establishing national monuments, which he called a “massive federal land grab.”

(The president, who is clearly not a student of history, is apparently unaware that since the Antiquities Act was enacted, every president except George HW Bush has used it. Trump is also unaware of obviously the fact that the lands in question were already under federal control.)

Adding further disinformation to Trump’s statements, Interior Secretary Zinke said some national monuments are “off-limits to public access for grazing, fishing, mining, multiple uses, and even outdoor recreation”.

(Zinke—who, at a White House press conference the day before the order was signed, boasted that “no one loves our public lands” more than he does—should know. national monuments allow public access, and almost all of those in question permit outdoor recreation, including fishing, camping, hiking, and even hunting in some designations Livestock grazing is generally permitted where it existed before. The most commonly prohibited activities are logging, oil and gas drilling, mining, and sometimes areas are closed to off-road vehicles.)

Tell Home Secretary Ryan Zinke that our national monuments were created with overwhelming public support and must remain protected.

If all of Hatch’s, Trump’s and Zinke’s speeches sound predictable, that’s because you’ve heard them before. The anger directed at national monuments is history repeating itself. Secretary Zinke’s statement that “in some cases, monument designation may have resulted in lost jobs, lower wages and reduced public access” echoes arguments long made against parks and monuments. For more than a hundred years, voices have been raised against the “surpassing” of distant authorities.

But the predicted calamities almost never materialize. And the same voices that once warned of economies being destroyed by land protection are coming to understand that there is more value in protecting a place than stripping it of minerals and trees. There have always been people who hate parks and monuments, until they come to love them.

According to Thomas Power, a retired economist from the University of Montana, many people, when they think about land conservation, suffer from a sort of “rear-view mirror” effect. We look at which industries have boosted our economies in the past, but we often don’t know what is currently fueling our economies, let alone what might be important in the future. “Not only are there economic opportunities that come with protected lands, including tourism-related business ventures, but land protection has other less direct economic benefits,” Power wrote. “Wilderness and park designation create quality of life attributes that attract residents whose incomes do not depend on local employment in commercial material extraction activities from the natural landscape, but choose to relocate to a area to take advantage of its amenity values.”

This hindsight effect has always been one of the challenges of the conservation movement. It is only with hindsight that the protection of a place seems obvious; At the moment, any decision to protect the earth from our immediate needs requires a certain amount of courage.

Looking back, it is therefore instructive to look at various parks and monuments and remember how locals reacted to them when they were first established and how they perceive them now. A little history might give Trump, Zinke and others some perspective — and maybe even cool their histrionics.

yellowstone national park

Bison in a snowstorm, Blacktail Plateau, Yellowstone National Park

So: Opposition to parks and other protected lands began with the first-ever federal land withdrawal. When Congress declared the upper Yellowstone River the nation’s first national park in 1872, local reception to the news was negative. Montana’s Editors Helen’s Gazette said: “We consider the adoption of the law [to protect the area] as a great blow to the prosperity of the towns of Bozeman and Virginia City.

Now: Anyone who’s visited Bozeman recently knows it’s a prime location for new businesses and independent entrepreneurs out west, in part because of its proximity to Yellowstone National Park. Indeed, a recent economic study by Headwaters Economics found that visitors to Yellowstone in 2015 generated more than $110,000,000 in revenue for Montana’s economy.

National Monument/Grand Canyon National Park

Inner Colorado River Gorge from Tuweep Overlook, Grand Canyon National Park

So: In the 1880s, three bills to protect the canyon as a national park failed to gain traction in Congress due to local opposition. The Sun Williams A northern Arizona newspaper captured the common sentiment of the time when it editorialized that the idea for the national park represented an “evil, diabolical plan”, and that whoever spawned such an idea must have been ” nursed by a sow and raised by an idiot”. . . . The destiny of Arizona depends exclusively on the development of its mineral resources. In 1908, President Teddy Roosevelt used the Antiquities Act to establish the Grand Canyon National Monument. The Arizona congressional delegation was baffled by Roosevelt’s statement and succeeded in preventing any federal funding for park operations and attempted, unsuccessfully, to legally challenge Roosevelt’s monument designation.

Now: Local attitudes regarding the value of Grand Canyon National Park had reversed dramatically in 1994, when the Republican Congress shut down the federal government, including national park operations. Fearing a loss of tourism dollars, the state of Arizona offered to pay the costs of keeping Grand Canyon National Park open to the public. In 2016, Representative Raul Grijalva and conservation groups were urging President Obama to establish a Grand Canyon National Heritage Monument around the park. Some 80% of Arizona residents supported the idea.

Mount Olympus National Monument/Olympic National Park

Mount Olympus covered in glaciers, Olympic National Park

So: There was significant local opposition when President Teddy Roosevelt established a national monument on Washington State’s Olympic Peninsula in 1909. Commercial logging interests were particularly angry. MJ Carrigan, the Seattle tax collector, railed against the monument, which became a national park under Franklin Delano Roosevelt:[We] would be silly to let a bunch of insane sentimentalists monopolize the resources of the Olympic Peninsula in order to preserve its landscape.

Now: US Representative for the region, Derek Kilmer, has proposed legislation to add additional areas around Olympic National Park. He’s a local and says he can’t imagine the area without the park. “As someone who grew up in Port Angeles, [Washington]I’ve always said that we don’t have to choose between economic growth and environmental protection.

Jackson Hole National Monument/Grand Teton National Park

Mount Moran reflected in Leigh Lake, Grand Teton National Park

So: When FDR used the Antiquities Act to create Jackson Hole National Monument (precursor to Grand Teton National Park), locals went nuts. Some feared that Jackson was becoming a “ghost town”. Wyoming’s congressional delegation introduced legislation to remove the monument.

Now: Today, the “ghost town” of Jackson is home to 22,000 “ghosts” and Teton County is Wyoming’s wealthiest county, with an unemployment rate of 2.6% and a median household income of 75,325. dollars, compared to $58,804 for Wyoming.

Glacier National Park

Mountain goat at Logan Pass Continental Divide, Glacier National Park

So: When Glacier was first protected as a national park in 1910, the Kalispell Chamber of Commerce officially opposed designation of the park, fearing the park would impede oil, gas, and logging operations. Residents submitted a petition to the federal government in 1914 to dismantle the park, arguing that “it is more important to provide homes for a land-hungry people than to lock up the land for a rich man’s playground than no one will or will ever use. .”

Now: Today, the same Kalispell Chamber of Commerce boasts of having the “best backyard in the country.” Half an hour to the east lies the rugged grandeur of Glacier National Park. And contrary to the claim that “no one will or will ever use” the park, according to the National Park Service, nearly 3 million people visited Glacier National Park in 2016.

Arches, Bryce Canyon, Capitol Reef and National Monuments/Zion National Parks and Canyonlands National Park

Looking from the Dollhouse to the Maze in Canyonlands National Park

So: Many national parks that anchor southern Utah’s economy, including Zion, Bryce Canyon, Arches, and Capitol Reef, were first protected in the 1920s and 1930s as national monuments. In the 1960s, efforts to make these places national parks and to create a Canyonlands National Park met with strong resistance from the oil and gas industry, ranchers, and the Utah senator. Wallace F. Bennett, who in 1962 predicted, “All commercial use and commercial activity would be forever banned and nearly all growth in southern Utah would be forever stunted.

Now: When congressional Republicans shut down the federal government in the fall of 2013, Utah state officials raced to keep the state’s five national parks open. The move came with a hefty price tag – around $167,000 a day to run the parks. In a 2014 speech to the Senate, Senator Hatch said, “We owe a debt of gratitude to the people, elected officials and citizens, who had the foresight to recognize the value of Canyonlands and created the park 50 years ago. year.