Posts Tagged ‘monuments’

With monument reductions, Trump enflames century-old debate

December 5, 2017

America’s unique relationship with public lands has long been a source of pride – and strife.

Andrew Cullen/Reuters
Staff writer |

President Trump unleashed the latest salvo Monday in a long-running battle over how America’s public lands should be treated.

In a stark contrast to recent presidents who have sought to leave a lasting legacy by creating national monuments, Mr. Trump plans to drastically reduce two of the monuments created by his predecessors. His action – which is expected to be challenged in court – will be a test of whether, in fact, he has the power to do so.

But, while Trump’s actions tread new legal ground, the underlying tensions at play in this current battle over America’s public lands stretch back more than a century. At the heart of these tensions lies both a shared sense of pride in America’s so-called natural cathedrals and a fundamental disagreement over how land use should be regulated.

“This is a reflection of the ongoing tug-of-war over preservation of resources and lands, and multiple-use activities” on those lands, says Robert Keiter, a law professor at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City and director of the Wallace Stegner Center of Land, Resources, and the Environment.

National parks are often cited as “America’s best idea,” but Professor Keiter notes that simply reserving vast tracts of lands in the public domain as national forests, an action which began in the late 19th century, was also a pretty radical step at the time. But while Americans historically have had a great deal of pride in those public lands, there has also been long-standing pushback from some Westerners both about the amount of land in the public domain and the way in which it’s used – a battle over use that Trump is wading into with the Utah monuments.

Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

Trump’s announcement Monday in Salt Lake City has been long anticipated, and affects two national monuments in southern Utah, both of which have been controversial: Bears Ears, a 1.35 million-acre monument designated by President Barack Obama a year ago at the urging of five area Native American tribes; and Grand Staircase-Escalante, a 1.9 million-acre monument designated by President Bill Clinton in 1996. The presidential proclamations that Trump signed Monday turn Bears ears into two small monuments of 130,000 acres and 72,000 acres (an 85 percent reduction) and divide Grand Staircase-Escalante into three smaller monuments of 210,000 acres, 550,000 acres, and 240,000 acres, cutting the total protected space nearly in half.

A century-old dispute

Since the Antiquities Act was signed in 1906 by President Theodore Roosevelt, monuments have occupied a unique niche in American lands. They’re the only means by which a president, rather than Congress, can opt to protect lands, and 16 presidents have used the act to create more than 150 monuments, many of which later became some of America’s most iconic national parks.

The tension over how America’s public lands are used has its roots in the Western expansion of the 19th century, when settlers and companies hoping to make a profit looked to the vast mineral deposits and forests and grazing lands in the West as a potential bonanza, without many checks on use – practices that often led to rapid overgrazing, clearcutting, and degradation of lands that at one point seemed limitless. The notion that land should be set aside for something other than economic use was a fairly radical one at the time, and reflects the degree to which many Americans viewed their breathtaking vistas as a point of national pride: natural cathedrals as their answer to Europe’s treasured cathedrals.

“There was appropriate concern, maybe even despair, in the late 19th century over the outcome of full-out resource extraction and unrestrained land use,” says Patty Limerick, director of the Center of the American West at the University of Colorado in Boulder. But there was also, she notes, plenty of opposition among some Westerners to the idea of setting aside land for preservation, or even keeping such large tracts public. “There were some unmistakable currents of resistance 120 years ago,” says Professor Limerick. “Episodically, those currents of resistance seem to surge, and a movement that seems to echo previous movements comes into view.”

These tensions tend to bubble up anew at regular intervals, albeit with different constituencies and triggers each time. There was the Sagebrush Rebellion of the 1970s, the “wise-use movement” that gained traction in the late 1980s and ’90s, and the recent altercations over grazing rights that have been symbolized by the Bundy family and the standoff at the Malheur Wildlife Refuge in Oregon in 2016. The common element tends to be a growing sense that Westerners’ rightful use of public lands is being curtailed by a federal government overstepping its bounds. “Traditional users often see public lands as ‘their’ lands,” notes Mark Squillace, a professor of natural resources law at the University of Colorado Law School in Boulder.

While the context and circumstances have changed over the decades, at its heart, the tensions revolve around a fundamental disagreement over how land use should be regulated. Should public lands be exploited for “multiple use” – which often means mining, drilling, grazing, forestry, and other traditional extractive activities? Or preserved for natural beauty and low-impact recreational activities, as has increasingly been the emphasis in recent decades? While monuments – including Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante – are open to the public and often allow some traditional uses like grazing and hunting to continue, they generally close off the protected area to new drilling or mining leases. (The restrictions are specific to each particular monument.)

“Over the last half century we have moved progressively and noticeably toward the protection of public lands in the West, as reflected in the Wilderness Act of 1964 and all the various national parks and [monument] designations that have occurred,” says Keiter. Currently, he says, close to 40 percent of the public land in 11 Western states is in some sort of legally protected status: parks, monuments, wilderness areas, wilderness study areas, roadless areas, refuges. The general public has endorsed that shift, Keiter says. But “that sentiment and action has been met with mixed results in various Western states.”

Conflicted pride?

Utah has been an epicenter of the latest battle over monuments, and its legislators have been the most vocal in urging Trump to shrink or eliminate certain monuments. But Professor Squillace and others note that four of Utah’s “mighty five” parks – which are a foundation of the state’s tourism industry and a source of great pride for Utahns – started as monuments.

When former Utah Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R) introduced a bill in January to sell 3.3 million acres of federal lands in the West, he was forced to withdraw it days later by his Republican constituents, many of whom regularly hunt and fish on those lands. Perceived threats to federal lands over the past year have resulted in huge rallies at statehouses in conservative states – including Idaho, Montana, Utah, and Wyoming – as local residents, many of them anglers and hunters, voiced their support of public lands.

On Saturday, thousands turned out in Salt Lake City to protest Trump’s anticipated actions on Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante, while a smaller rally gathered at a different location to thank Trump for those actions.

What remains unclear is whether Trump actually has the power to reduce these monuments. While some conservative legal scholars say he does, other law experts don’t believe that’s the case. The conservative argument claims that the Antiquities Act – in giving broad powers to create monuments – implies those powers can also be used to reduce or eliminate monuments. And it looks at the precedent of several past presidents, including Woodrow Wilson, Dwight Eisenhower, and Howard Taft, who reduced monuments.

None of those reductions were ever challenged in court, however, and none have occurred since passage of the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976, which many legal experts believe even more explicitly limits presidential powers to revoke or reduce monuments.

“It’s a relatively straightforward legal issue the court will have to confront, about whether the president has the authority to alter a decision on a national monument by a predecessor,” says Squillace. “The Antiquities Act appears to grant only that one-way authority to grant the land.”

Squillace and others say the outcome of the court challenge will have long-range impacts not just for Bears Ears and Grand Staircase and their surrounding communities, but also for how monuments are approached in the future. In particular, they worry about a scenario in which subsequent Democratic and Republican administrations opt to create and un-create each other’s monuments, with the lands becoming a sort of partisan yo-yo. “It creates a real potential roller coaster with respect to managing these public lands,” says Squillace.


Australia’s PM says changing statues, rewriting history is ‘Stalinist’

August 25, 2017

SYDNEY (Reuters) – Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said on Friday that calls to replace or modify statues of English colonialists, including explorer Captain James Cook, were tantamount to a “Stalinist” rewrite of history.

Pressure has grown in the wake of the furor over Confederate monuments in the United States to reconsider statues in Australia that some deem offensive to the country’s indigenous people.

Sydney, Australia’s largest city, is deciding whether to alter a monument erected in Hyde Park, 1879, to commemorate Cook, who charted Australia’s east coast for the first time.

A statue of Captain James Cook in Sydney's Hyde Park
The prominent statue is located in Sydney’s Hyde Park. Getty Images

At issue is the engraving on the base of the statue, which says “Discovered this territory, 1770”.  Aboriginal people had lived on the continent for an estimated 60,000 years before Cook dropped anchor in Botany Bay.

Sydney City Council has referred the issue, along with a second statue of Governor Lachlan Macquarie, the administrator who turned the British penal colony into a free settlement, to an indigenous advisory board.

The council has not yet indicated what changes it might make.

Turnbull played down the issue as a preoccupation of the “left sort of fringe” in politics.

“We can’t get into this sort of Stalinist exercise of trying to white out or obliterate or blank out parts of our history,” Turnbull told radio station 3AW.

“Trying to edit our history is wrong,” he said. “All of those statues, all of those monuments, are part of our history and we should respect them and preserve them – and by all means, put up other monuments, other statues and signs and sights that explain our history.”

The debate has intensified since the political battle in the United States over whether to remove statues of pro-slavery Confederate Civil War leaders turned violent.

Sydney commemorates its Gadigal and Eora traditional owners with public artworks and Welcome To Country ceremonies before official meetings, but Lord Mayor Clover Moore said the community needs to talk about how to tell its history.

“I think that’s a conversation that really needs to have federal leadership, because it’s about Australia, it’s about who we are,” she told reporters on Friday.

Indigenous people are campaigning for constitutional recognition in Australia and debate has raged over whether to change Australia Day from January 26 which commemorates the day British colonists first settled Aboriginal land.

Editing by Jane Wardell and Nick Macfie


From The BBC

In a column for The Australian, historian Keith Windschuttle wrote that the inscription was “perfectly accurate” if the word “territory” was defined as the east coast of Australia.

“Cook was in fact the first person in history to traverse the whole of this coastline and view its 2,000 miles (3,200km) of shores and hinterland,” he wrote, describing the debate as “wanton provocation”.

Dancers from East Arnhem Land at the summit's opening ceremony
Dancers at a landmark summit to discuss indigenous recognition in May. Getty Images

Others have suggested keeping the monument but finding better ways to publicly acknowledge indigenous Australians.

“What is wrong with telling both stories, rather than rewriting history and obliterating a plaque to James Cook?” one commentator, Tim Webster, told Channel Seven.

What does Sydney’s council say?

Ms Moore said the issue would be discussed by its indigenous advisory board before the council took any position.

“There have been too many people in mainstream Australia ready to make judgement on these issues without consulting indigenous communities, and whether well-meaning or not, it’s often done more harm than good,” she said in a statement to the BBC.

She said the council had undertaken several initiatives to recognise indigenous culture.

Is this an isolated debate?

No, discussion about how to better recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians has stepped up in recent months.

In May, a landmark summit of indigenous leaders called for a formal representative body in parliament and a pathway to a treaty.

The national Australia Day celebration, an anniversary of the arrival of Britain’s First Fleet, has also sparked controversy.

Two Melbourne councils in the last week have voted – one unanimously – to shift their celebrations over indigenous cultural sensitivities.

Read it all:

Confederate monuments to stay at Gettysburg battlefield

August 18, 2017

Image may contain: one or more people, people standing, sky and outdoor

GETTYSBURG, Pa. — Officials with the National Park Service said the Confederate monuments at Gettysburg National Military Park in Pennsylvania will not be removed from the battlefield.

Katie Lawhon, senior adviser for the park service’s Gettysburg battlefield office, told the Reading Eagle ( ) the site-specific memorials are important, and the park service’s job is to historically and objectively tell the stories the monuments commemorate.

Her reassurance comes after a heated debate over Confederate monuments spread across the U.S. Three people died amid turmoil in Charlottesville, Virginia, Saturday over the planned removal of a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. Four protesters have been arrested in connection with the toppling of a Confederate statue in Durham, North Carolina, and Baltimore dismantled four monuments under the cover of darkness late Tuesday night and early Wednesday.

Barb Adams, a volunteer at the Gettysburg battlefield, said the removal of the statues is breaking her heart.

“It’s just so upsetting to me — these men, these soldiers fought for what they believed in,” she said.

Area tour guide Elaine Leslie suggested putting up statues honoring abolitionists Harriet Tubman or Frederick Douglass.

The Gettysburg battlefield has more than 1,300 monuments that tell the story of the deadliest engagement in the Civil War. Thirty of them are dedicated to Confederate states, military units and individuals. More than 7,000 soldiers died in the Battle of Gettysburg from July 1 to July 3, 1863.

About 3.7 million tourists visit the area each year, according to a nonprofit that promotes tourism in the county.

Trump says US culture, history being ‘ripped apart’

August 17, 2017


© ProPublica/AFP/File / by Chris Lefkow | Workers load statues of Confederate generals Robert E. Lee and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson on a flatbed truck after they were removed from a public park in Baltimore, Maryland

WASHINGTON (AFP) – A defiant President Donald Trump shrugged off a barrage of bipartisan criticism on Thursday and said US culture and history were being “ripped apart” by the removal of Confederate statues.Trump waded back into the charged racial debate over monuments to the pro-slavery South with a volley of tweets doubling down on his controversial remarks of the past few days.

Trump has come under fire from Republicans and Democrats alike for saying that anti-racism protestors deserved equal blame for violence last weekend at a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, held to protest the planned removal of a statue of Confederate general Robert E. Lee.

A 32-year-old woman was killed and 19 other people injured when a man suspected of being a white nationalist drove his car into a crowd of counter-protesters.

Moves to remove statues honoring leaders of the Confederacy have gained momentum since the Charlottesville violence with monuments coming down in Baltimore and other cities.

Trump, echoing remarks he first made earlier this week, made it clear he opposed the campaign.

“Sad to see the history and culture of our great country being ripped apart with the removal of our beautiful statues and monuments,” Trump said.

“You can’t change history, but you can learn from it. Robert E Lee, Stonewall Jackson – who’s next, Washington, Jefferson? So foolish!” he said.

“Also the beauty that is being taken out of our cities, towns and parks will be greatly missed and never able to be comparably replaced!” he said.

Lee and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson were Confederate generals while George Washington and Thomas Jefferson were among the Founding Fathers of the United States.

Trump critics were quick to point out the difference.

“Dear @realDonaldTrump: Robert Lee and Stonewall Jackson are not the same as Washington and Jefferson. Can’t believe I had to write that sentence,” said Ted Lieu, a Democratic congressman from California.

– Trump hits critics, media –

Trump’s chief strategist, Steve Bannon, told The New York Times that he believed the president’s views were shared by many Americans.

“President Trump, by asking, ‘Where does this all end’ — Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln? — connects with the American people about their history, culture and traditions,” Bannon said.

“The race-identity politics of the left wants to say it’s all racist,? Bannon said. “Just give me more. Tear down more statues. Say the revolution is coming. I can’t get enough of it.”

Trump on Thursday also lashed out at two leading Republican critics in the Senate and accused the media of distorting his views.

“The public is learning (even more so) how dishonest the Fake News is,” he said. “They totally misrepresent what I say about hate, bigotry. etc. Shame!”

On Monday Trump singled out the Ku Klux Klan and neo-Nazis as “repugnant,” but on Tuesday he said counter-protestors in Charlottesville had been “very violent” and equally responsible for the violence.

Trump’s weak condemnation of the racist far-right set off a political firestorm across the US political spectrum. World leaders also criticized Trump’s response.

Trump was forced to scrap two White House economic advisory councils on Wednesday as top businessmen began abandoning him to protest his stance on the racial debate.

The president took aim at two fellow Republican senators, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Jeff Flake of Arizona, in a series of tweets.

“Publicity seeking Lindsey Graham falsely stated that I said there is moral equivalency between the KKK, neo-Nazis & white supremacists… and people like Ms. Heyer,” Trump said.

Heather Heyer, 32, was the woman killed by the suspected white nationalist in Charlottesville.

Graham had said the US president “took a step backward” Tuesday “by again suggesting there is moral equivalency between the white supremacist neo-Nazis and KKK members who attended the Charlottesville rally” and people like Heyer.

Trump also blasted Flake, one of the few Republicans openly critical of the president, saying he was “WEAK on borders, crime and a non-factor in Senate.”

“He’s toxic!” Trump tweeted.

Flake, who is running for re-election in Arizona, wrote Tuesday: “We can’t accept excuses for white supremacy & acts of domestic terrorism. We must condemn. Period.”

by Chris Lefkow