Washington, D.C. – In DC, the battle to save public lands has come to the gardens of Capitol Hill. More than 130 neighbors of U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke have put up signs in their front yards calling on the secretary to protect America’s national monuments.
“Americans love hiking, camping and fishing in our national monuments and parks, and we want Secretary Zinke to keep our public lands safe from mining and drilling,” said Christy Leavitt, a Capitol Hill resident and Conservation Outreach Director with Environment America Research & Policy Center. “We are his neighbors here on Capitol Hill and what matters most is whether he is going to be a good neighbor and steward to these treasured lands across the country.”
Ahead of an anticipated decision this week, Secretary Zinke’s neighbors have posted yard signs with the messages “We Love Our Public Lands! Secretary Zinke: Leave Our National Monuments Alone” and “Keep Our Public Lands and Monuments In Public Hands.”
“America is full of beautiful and special places that we should preserve and protect,” said Alan Sherwin, a local resident. “We put a sign out because Secretary Zinke needs to continue to protect the national monuments he’s been entrusted with.”
In April, President Donald Trump directed Secretary Zinke to review 27 national monuments and decide whether the federal government should continue to protect them or open them drilling, mining, and logging.
In advance of the August 24 deadline for Secretary Zinke to make his recommendations to the president, millions of Americans have called on him to keep our national monuments protected. During a 60 day public comment period on the monuments, 2.7 million comments were submitted, 98% of which were supportive of maintaining or expanding current national monument boundaries.
This isn't the first time that Zinke has encountered opposition in his own neighborhood. When he returned home to Whitefish for the Western Governors Association in June, Zinke was greeted by billboards urging him to leave Montana’s Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument alone.
Zinke has since stated that he plans to keep the Missouri Breaks intact, but his review still threatens more than 20 national monuments nationwide, including Bears Ears and Grand Staircase Escalante in Utah, Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks in New Mexico, Giant Sequoia in California, Cascade-Siskiyou in Oregon, and Northeast Canyons and Seamounts off the New England coast.
“We need to keep these lands protected for future generations,” said Tappan Parker, organizer and Capitol Hill resident with Environment America Research and Policy Center. “That is why Secretary Zinke’s neighbors are calling on him to protect our national monuments in the same way that past administrations have protected them: by leaving them just the way they are.”