Concern Expressed as Hanford Reach is Included in U.S. Monument Review

By:  Hal Bernton
Source: The Seattle Times

The Hanford Reach National Monument appears certain to be included in a national review set in motion by an executive order signed Wednesday by President Donald Trump.

But a small number of acres in another protected monument area in the San Juan Islands could escape the scrutiny.

The order calls for reviews of all national monuments, created since 1996, of more than 100,000 acres. The Hanford Reach is 195,000 acres.

Smaller ones, such as the roughly 1,000-acre San Juan Islands National Monument, would go under review only if Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke determines the designation “was made without “adequate public outreach” or coordination with stakeholders. That monument, designated in 2013, encompasses numerous rocks and island tracts within the San Juans.

The order calls for a 120-day review, followed by a report from the Interior secretary recommending what actions should be taken.

In decades past, presidents, on occasion, have trimmed the boundaries of monuments created under the 1906 Antiquities Act. But they have never outright tried to remove that designation, according to Phil Hanceford of The Wilderness Society.

“We are confident if that happens, there will be litigation,” Hanceford said Wednesday.

Washington Sens. Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray also have weighed in on the executive order. They joined with other Democratic senators to express “deep concern,” and requested — in a letter to Trump — that the review be an open process that includes consultation with tribes.

Cantwell, in Senate floor remarks Tuesday, accused Trump of “trying to illegally roll back these national monuments,” a move she called “a terrible precedent for future conservation efforts.”

Zinke, in remarks to reporters Wednesday, described the review as a way to give rural communities more of a voice in public-lands management. He said he would talk to governors and other stakeholders, and that “it’s a false narrative that we are going to predispose any particular action …”

The Hanford Reach encompasses an undammed stretch of the Columbia River that is prime spawning grounds for chinook salmon as well as federal lands that helped to buffer the Hanford site where plutonium was developed for atomic bombs.

It was formed after years of debate and discussion that included a congressionally mandated study and talks among tribes, farmers and local officials. The creation at the tail end of the Clinton administration was championed by Murray, but did not sit well with some in the region.

“All of a sudden, one individual in the United States makes the determination of how that land is going to be protected,” Max Benitz, then a Benton County commissioner, told an Associated Press reporter in 2000.

But Benjamin Greuel, Washington state director for The Wilderness Society, said the Hanford Reach monument has not been a source of controversy over the past decade.

“There is a rich bipartisan history of conservation in Washington state, with believers on both sides of the aisle,” Greuel said.