President Donald Trump is making headlines this week for his plans to reduce the number of acres designated in national monuments, including the 1.35 million acre Bears Ears National Monument, designated at the end of President Barack Obama’s term, and the 1.9 million acre Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, set aside by President Bill Clinton during his time in office.
According to The Salt Lake Tribune, “Trump plans to visit Utah in December to announce that he will trim the boundaries of the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments, a move that is likely to spur an instant court battle.”
Trump, working alongside Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, is planning to review all monuments declared under the Antiquities Act since January 1996.
President Obama went on a frenzy in his final months of office, placing 553.3 million acres in national monuments, which is far more than any other president in our nation’s history. For reference, George W. Bush placed 218.8 million acres, followed by Jimmy Carter with 56 million acres. Theodore Roosevelt only designated 1.5 million acres.
Already, politics are in full play, with environmental groups and Native American tribes offering opposing opinions on Trump’s move. It’s going to be a hotly contested decision, one that I could see escalating to the heated protests of the Dakota Access Pipeline.
From my vantage point as a cattle producer, I’m pleased to see some common sense when it comes to federal land and national monument designations. There is a delicate balance that must be met to consider the environment and wildlife, but we also must factor in the agribusinesses and economic benefits such as timber and livestock grazing.
Some argue that those final two elements hinder considerations of the first two; however, many consumers don’t realize the important role that cattle play in land management. Closing access to so many acres where cattle could graze would be a travesty. Cattle not only prevent the spread of wildfires by grazing the land, but they also aerate the soil with their hooves, fertilize the land, and promote a diversity of grass species, which is beneficial to both livestock and wildlife.
In fact, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) recently shared a positive story of how cattle grazing is playing a part in conservation efforts to rid the Santa Teresa Park in Santa Clara County, Calif., of non-native grasses and restoring its threatened butterfly habitat.
According to Byrhonda Lyons for USFWS, “Santa Teresa Park covers more than 1,600 acres in Santa Clara County, and many of those acres are filled with native grasses that thrive in serpentine soils. The thin, rocky soils are comprised of decayed minerals that don’t have many nutrients, but years of pollution from nearby cities has changed the soil and serpentine grasses.”
In a nutshell, smog from the Silicon Valley leaves atmospheric nitrogen deposits in the soil, which promotes the growth of non-native annual grasses and impacts the serpentine grasslands critical to the bay checkerspot butterfly population. The butterflies are on the Endangered Species list, but local scientists have realized that cattle play a large role in grazing back the non-native grasses that are choking out the serpentine grasslands, which the butterflies need to thrive.
It took years to convince the public that cattle grazing was an appropriate use of the public park, while also maintaining access to people and maintaining park operations; however, now cattle are an integral part of the Santa Teresa Park, and the 490 acres of serpentine soil grasslands have been enhanced through grazing by controlling invasive grasses, increasing biodiversity and reducing the risk of fire.
This is a perfect example of why I believe there should be fewer acres designated into national monuments. When we do that, we close access to livestock grazing, amongst other beneficial uses of the land.
What environmentalists don’t realize is it’s often better to have human interaction and management on land instead of just letting it run wild. With proper management, we can improve the land, foster a great environment for wildlife, promote sustainability for future generations and bring an economic boost to the area.
What do you think? Should Trump reduce the number of acres designated as national monuments? Let me know in the comments section below.
The opinions of Amanda Radke are not necessarily those of beefmagazine.com or Farm Progress.