Department of the Interio Draft Report Leaves Giant Sequoia and Other National Monuments at Risk

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Department of the Interio Draft Report Leaves Giant Sequoia and Other National Monuments at Risk

PORTERVILLE, Calif. - Late Sunday, a leaked copy of the Department of the Interior (DOI) Secretary Zinke’s recommendations on national monuments was obtained by The Washington Post and revealed his plan to vastly reduce the boundaries of at least four. The recommendations came after Zinke received more than 2.8 million public comments about our national monuments — with over 99 percent of Americans urging for their current and future protection. Zinke’s recommendations are unprecedented in American history and could boost drilling, mining and timber harvesting in some of our nation’s most ecologically and historically important lands.

In California, Zinke recommended eliminating vast portions of the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument, which crosses the state border into Oregon, opening it up to “traditional uses” like mining, logging and drilling. However, aside from Cascade-Siskiyou, none of the six other California monuments, including the Giant Sequoia National Monument, are addressed in the draft report, leaving them open to future boundary or management changes. The release expressed DOI’s intent to review management plans and alter the protective nature of the monuments, potentially impacting all of California’s national monuments. The recommendations signal the Trump administration’s consistent favoring of harmful extractive industries, putting places like the Giant Sequoia National Monument, threatened by logging, very much at risk. Residents across the Central Valley and throughout California continue to oppose the administration’s arbitrary review process and disregard for the economic, environmental and historical value of protected public lands.

“This is an attack on public lands, on our climate, and on communities,” said Sarah Friedman, Senior Campaign Representative at Sierra Club. “The recommendations were made without logic, transparency, or respect for science. We expect our representatives in Congress to fight back on behalf of fishermen, scientists, families, teachers and so many other diverse groups who cherish and rely on our national monuments.”

“Secretary Zinke is monumentally out of touch with the American public. Giant Sequoia National Monument, which Secretary Zinke’s recommendations leave in limbo, is emblematic of the incredible outdoor wonders and wildlife found in California and preserved for all Americans, present and future generations alike,” said Kim Delfino, California program director for Defenders of Wildlife. “From the giant sequoias themselves — the largest trees on the planet — to a rich diversity of wildlife, including the potential return of the California condor, Giant Sequoia National Monument was established to protect one of the most precious landscapes in the country. Secretary Zinke’s recommendations threaten the protection of these irreplaceable resources and wildlife and communities that depend on them.”

"Giant Sequoia National Monument has a special connection for me and my family,” said Lori de Leon, Business Manager of the Dolores Huerta Foundation. “Growing up, our family didn’t have a lot of money for expensive travel. My mother, Dolores Huerta, Cesar Chavez, other leaders in the labor struggle, and our families used the Giant Sequoia National Monument as a place to recharge and gain strength for the fight. Today, our Giant Sequoia National Monument continues to provide inexpensive outdoor recreation opportunities for local, underserved and ‘park-poor’ communities. These beautiful spaces give families and communities an opportunity to enjoy all the benefits of recreation and to create memories that will last a lifetime.”

Local businesses are pushing the Trump administration to consider the financial impact of erasing so much protected land.

"As investors in California’s economy, we know the value of public lands in attracting visitors and supporting plenty of local businesses,” said Steve Frisch, President of Sierra Business Council. “The Giant Sequoia and Kings Canyon region attracts millions of visitors a year who stay in hotels, buy gear, eat in local restaurants and patronize local businesses. Leaving Giant Sequoia in limbo risks that income.”

  • In California, outdoor recreation accounts for more jobs than the wine, television and film industries combined.
  • Since designation in 2000, average earnings in the Giant Sequoia region have increased on average by $625 annually, greater than the five year average before designation.
  • Total employment in surrounding counties has also increased over the same period — averaging more than 13,100 jobs annually.
  • Research from VisitCA found tourism is a $2.23 billion dollar industry in California’s Central Valley, generating almost 24,00 jobs. In Tulare County alone, travel dollars generated $37.8 million in local and state sales tax receipts.
  • Since 2001, service jobs in the Giant Sequoia National Monument region have grown by 35 percent, with travel and tourism making up 16 percent of total private employment in 2015.
  • Outdoor recreation in California generates $92 billion in consumer spending annually, supporting 732,000 direct jobs, $30.4 billion in wages in the state, and $6.2 billion in state and local tax revenue.

Immigrant groups are joining business and environmental groups in denouncing the federal administration’s sham process.

“Local immigrant communities in Tulare County have often been left out of the conversation on environmental issues,” said Fernando Serrano, Vice-Chair of CAPS (Coalition Advocating for Pesticide Safety). “However, the threat to the Giant Sequoia National Monument has awoken many of us to the importance of participating in the defense of our public lands. Our communities will not stand by as Secretary Zinke takes private industry more seriously than communities. Public lands should stay in public hands.”

“This monument, like others, was created with broad local and statewide support, and full public engagement,” said Soapy Mulholland, President and CEO of Sequoia Riverlands Trust, rancher and long-time resident of the Southern Sierra. “Local communities have worked many years to protect these places for future generations.”

The attempt to reduce or eliminate protections for our public lands continues the federal administration’s pattern of undermining the Antiquities Act, one of the nation’s most important conservation tools. The Antiquities Act was signed by President Teddy Roosevelt in 1906 to safeguard and preserve U.S. public lands and cultural and historical sites for all Americans to enjoy. Sixteen presidents — eight Republicans and eight Democrats — have used this authority to protect many of California’s iconic landscapes, from Muir Woods National Monument in Northern California, to Joshua Tree National Park in Southern California.

In June, the California State Legislature passed a resolution (Assembly Joint Resolution 15) demonstrating the commitment of state leaders to protecting California's national monuments. The measure was introduced in direct response to Trump's Executive Order, and passed with bipartisan support. The resolution sends a strong message that California does not want its monuments changed or rescinded, and that state leaders will stand firm against attacks on our public lands.

“National monuments like Giant Sequoia help define who we are as a nation and as Californians. The Giant Sequoia National Monument provides a place for residents of the Central Valley to experience nature for the first time. WildPlaces, Audubon chapters, and Sequoia ForestKeeper regularly bring youth from the region to the national monument and their experiences are transformative. Reducing these public lands protections to benefit extractive industries destroys this opportunity,” said Mehmet McMillan, founder and Executive Director of WildPlaces.

“The Giant Sequoia National Monument includes most of the Kern and Tule Rivers, which support downstream whitewater rafting and fishing in local towns like Kernville and Springville where rafting companies, guides, outfitters, and local hospitality businesses have sprung up in the last twenty years. Changes to the monument will hurt the anglers, sportsman and local businesses that rely on the monument and river,” said Steve Evans, Wild & Scenic Rivers consultant for CalWild.

“The recommendations in this leaked report undermine the statewide goal of making our communities and our forests more resilient to climate change. Our research has shown that the giant sequoia and its relative, the coast redwood, sequester more carbon per acre than any forest on the planet. Weakening protections of these ancient giants and surrounding forestlands threatens our natural resources and the local communities that depend on them,” said Sam Hodder, President and CEO of Save the Redwoods League.

“Americans have stood up in record-breaking numbers to show their overwhelming opposition to the assault on national parks, public lands and waters. More than 2.8 million comments poured in during the DOI’s 60-day public comment period, and more than 99 percent of the comments expressed support for maintaining or expanding national monuments. In Bakersfield, approximately 150 citizens stood up in 95ºF heat to rally to show support for the Giant Sequoia National Monument outside Kevin McCarthy’s office,” said Ara Marderosian, Executive Director of Sequoia ForestKeeper®.

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Defenders of Wildlife is a national, nonprofit membership organization dedicated to the protection of all native animals and plants in their natural communities.

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