Thirty-seven active and retired Navy SEALs, Special Operations Forces members and other military leaders have sent a letter* to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke expressing grave concern with his decision to advise the president to remove protections from national monuments including Grand Staircase-Escalante and Bears Ears in Utah, and Cascade-Siskiyou in Oregon.
The recommendations from Zinke come at the conclusion of an unprecedented 4-month review of over two-dozen monuments designated since 1996, which was initiated by an April Executive Order from President Trump.
The letter, which is signed by service members from all branches of the military and includes veterans, reservists, and active personnel, was initiated by retired Navy SEAL Brett Myrick, outspoken public lands advocate who hiked through Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument with Zinke last month during his visit to the area.
In the letter, Brett and his fellow service members ask Zinke, himself a former SEAL, to remember that the military has a strong culture of stewardship of natural resources and remind him of the role protected public lands play in getting military families outdoors. As the military leaders put it “Public lands are a physical manifestation of ‘America the Beautiful,’ representing one of the reasons we chose to serve our country.”
For the last 100 years, the Antiquities Act has been used by Presidents on both sides of the aisle to protect lands of great cultural and natural value, including historic military sites. Efforts by the Trump Administration to remove protections from national monuments or significantly downsize them would be unprecedented and are likely to be met with a quagmire of legal challenges.
“We believe that you, an avid outdoorsman and former military leader, must also feel the same way about the value of our nation’s public lands,” the military leaders state in the letter. “That is why we were shocked to hear of your efforts to remove protections for magnificent national monuments like Bears Ears. We strongly urge you to change your current course on public lands and take a longer-term view of your role as Secretary of the Interior and steward of our nation’s public lands.”
You can view the letter online here.