Editor’s Note: U.S. Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich released the following joint statement on Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s report on national monuments, which was leaked to the media late Sunday.
During Secretary Zinke’s review process, almost 3 million Americans — including thousands of New Mexicans – made their opinions clear. They believe our existing national monuments are vitally important to our economy, community and culture, and they don’t want them changed.
The Department of Interior’s report to the president completely ignores New Mexicans’ overwhelming support for the monuments, and doesn’t even offer specifics and meaningful data to back up their vague recommendations. It doesn’t come as a surprise that local voices were not taken into consideration, since Secretary Zinke declined to attend a town hall meeting on Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks and never even set foot in Rio Grande del Norte. It’s clear this report is a politically driven attempt by Washington to justify the administration’s extreme position that public lands should be privatized, leased or sold to the highest bidder.
In stark contrast to the rushed politically driven review the Trump administration holds in their hands, local communities, Tribes, lawmakers and previous administrations spent years working with local constituents and stakeholders to craft the most inclusive proposals possible. This administration took the opposite approach — they declined public hearings, made decisions behind closed doors, and kept their final recommendations hidden. What they have ended up with is a sloppy, inaccurate, and Washington-first work product devoid of local engagement. And even now, New Mexicans — and all Americans — are in the dark about what is going to happen to these treasured places. The public deserves better than predetermined political conclusions based on hearsay and claims that are easily disproven if the department had actually taken the time to listen to and work with local communities.
A decision to move forward with these recommendations would be both exceedingly unpopular and very likely illegal. We strongly urge the president to reject this sham report, honor the work by New Mexicans, and confirm that he will leave intact Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks, Rio Grande del Norte and all the other national monuments.
By Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich
Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich are U.S. Senators serving New México.