A leaked copy of the Department of Interior's recommendations to the President regarding changes to several national monuments, including Gold Butte in Nevada and Cascade-Siskiyou straddling the California and Oregon border, reveals an unprecedented effort to undermine protections for some of our most treasured public lands. The lack of immediate changes to national monuments neighboring the Mojave Nationals Preserve, including Mojave Trails and Castle Mountains, is no cause for relief.
If the President acts upon the recommendations and alters the boundaries of any national monument, or changes the original proclamations that guide how each monument should be managed, he will set a precedent that makes all monuments vulnerable. Unless the courts overturn such changes, we would have to expect that this President and future presidents will again alter our national monuments to cater to extractive industries, such as mining and energy companies. Previously, legal scholars have interpreted the laws governing the establishment and alteration of monuments to limit the President to creating new monuments, and reserving to Congress the right to reduce or eliminate monuments.
Mojave Trails and Castle Mountains remain under particular threat. Although the leaked Interior memo does not recommend immediate changes to these monuments, Congressman Paul Cook has asked the Trump administration to reduce both monuments to make way for expanded mineral and water mining. If this happens, Mojave Trails could be cut by nearly a half million acres and Castle Mountains would be reduced to make room for a Canadian company's gold mine. Water pumping would imperil natural springs that wildlife depend upon, and habitat would be destroyed.
Many of the Mojave Nationals Preserve Conservancy's supporters submitted comments urging Interior not to recommend any changes to national monuments. It is a shame that Interior ignored the overwhelming majority of public comments that urged continued protections for our national monuments. We urge the President not to take any action on these misguided recommendations.