With recently designated national monuments under review, Washington’s natural resource agencies are advising Washington DC not to mess with the Hanford Reach.
Letters from both the Departments of Fish and Wildlife and Natural Resources urge Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke not to downsize the 194,000-acre zone around the last free-flowing stretch of the Columbia as well as former buffer to the Hanford site.
“WDFW would like to echo Governor Inslee’s response, which recommends no action to rescind or alter the Hanford Reach Monument’s border. Our recommendation is based on the Monument’s importance to the quality of life for citizens of Washington relative to recreation and the state’s economy, as well as the unique and critical habitat protected by the HRNM for fish and wildlife species,” reads a July 7 letter from the agency’s regional director, Mike Livingston.
He says the publicly accessible 68,000 acres of the monument provide “exceptional recreation opportunity” for anglers, hunters and others, as well as “supports spawning and rearing habitat for the largest fall Chinook salmon population in the lower 48 states.”
“Chinook produced in the HNRM support a world-class freshwater sport fishery as well as offshore commercial and recreational fisheries that extend as far away as southeast Alaska,” Livingston wrote.
The 2015 fishery yielded a record harvest of 35,432 upriver brights for 48,000 angler trips in the Reach alone, and along with steelhead fisheries, these waters annually pump $2 million to $3 million into the local economy.
“Changes to the boundaries of the HRNM could increase erosion and sedimentation, reduce public access, alter nearshore water quality and habitat, and result in negative impacts to these fish populations and public recreation,” Livingston warned.
In her July 10 letter, perhaps taking note of Zinke’s time in Utah to investigate a new national monument there, DNR Director Hillary Franz invites him to “come toss a line in the water.”
“You’ll find yourself among the Americans that come here annually with their loved ones and families. Reeling in your first sturgeon will be as surprising as it is exhilarating. The prehistoric nature of this fish is emblematic of what was preserved here; history, culture, recreation and the American way of life,” Franz wrote in her letter.
Yesterday was the final day for public comment on the Trump Administration’s review of 27 national monuments created since the mid-1990s and which are more than 150 square miles in size.
That includes Oregon’s 100,000-acre Cascade Siskiyou.
Recent days have seen increasing pushback from sportsmen.
Last week, Andrew McKean, editor of Outdoor Life, published an open letter to Zinke that was subheadlined “A call to defend, celebrate, and cherish national monuments.”
It appears the purpose of your review is to confirm your own support for monuments. That’s the only way I can understand your order, as a clever (and slightly subversive) way to call attention to these special places that are reservoirs of the American qualities of equality, adventure, self-reliance, and democracy.
After all, you have repeatedly identified yourself as a “Teddy Roosevelt Republican.” The father of the Antiquities Act—the legislation that enables the creation of National Monuments —Roosevelt recognized that monuments are a tool to elevate the very best of our best public lands by giving them a status that allows true multiple use while protecting the integrity of remarkable landscapes for future generations. While I think it’s healthy to periodically review government decisions, I think you—especially if you emulate TR—would agree that national monuments are among America’s best ideas and entirely worth celebrating, not eliminating.
This morning, the Spokane Spokesman-Review‘s long-time outdoor editor Rich Landers — recently recognized by the Outdoor Writers Association of America with the organization’s highest award for adherence to conservation principles — posted a blog asking “Can Zinke be trusted as Interior steward of federal public lands?”
Dave Mahalic, senior advisor to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, speaking recently at the Outdoor Writers Association of America 2017 Conference in Duluth, Minnesota, defended the review of 27 monuments that have been designated since 1996 and the potential for rescission or downsizing.
He said the Antiquities Act was designed to include “the least amount of land necessary to accomplish the protection.”
The former supervisor of Yosemite National Park said the review is needed because “some people feel they don’t have a voice.”
I asked him directly, “Who are those people?”
“I don’t know,” he said.
OK, so much for transparency. Mahalic should know who’s pushing for the review if he’s making appearances to officially support if not pimp the mission. So should Secretary Zinke.
And they should reveal who those people and interests are to more than 1.3 million people who commented during the review period.
Landers also pointed towards a scathing story posted yesterday by Ted Williams in Hatch magazine headlined “With friends like Ryan Zinke, who needs enemies? It’s time for sportsmen to get real about our Secretary of Interior.”
Wrapping his piece around a metaphor from the Jungle Book, Williams writes, ” … (When) politicians and appointed officials work against fish and wildlife, sportsmen need to get loudly on their cases, then vote the right way,” he wrote.
For his part, in a BLM press release out today, Zinke said he and President Trump had opened comment on the monuments “in order to give local stakeholders a voice in the decision-making process.”
He said that even if monument boundaries were tweaked, the land would still remain federal.
After touring the new Bears Ears National Monument, Zinke advised the White House it should be shrunk.
Now that Washington state officials as well as some 1.3 million others have had their say, it’s up to Washington DC to make the next move.