As you’ve probably heard, our President Donald Trump, under the advisement of Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke, recently made the executive decision and order to significantly reduce the size of the federally protected Bear’s Ears and Grand Escalante National Monuments. This order essentially transfers the land that was previously protected by the federal government over to the custody of the state government in which the land is located. Historically, when federal land is transferred to a state, the land will be sold to private interests and development 70% of the time, usually because the state government does not have the budget to continue its protection.
Politicians such as President Trump and Secretary Zinke want this land to be sold off to private interests, because more often than not, they themselves or their associates are the buyers. Donald Trump is a real estate mogul, and opening up these valuable tracts of land exposes them to real estate development - otherwise known as money is his pockets. Secretary Ryan Zinke is a property management and business consulting executive, having formed his own company Continental Divide International in 2005. He has also served on the board of the oil pipeline company QS Energy. Both of Zinke’s companies could substantially benefit from mining and development in the Bear’s Ears and Grand Escalante regions.
Patagonia is currently leading the fight to sue the Trump administration for this act, citing that Article IV, Section 3, Clause 2 of the Property Clause of the US Constitution states that while the President can designate a monument as protected via executive order, the power to reverse such protection remains vested in Congress alone. We at Ridj-it absolutely support Patagonia in their efforts to set things right and hope that they are successful.
But, as we all know, there is a chance that Patagonia will not succeed. There is also no reason to think that Secretary Zinke will stop at Bear’s Ears and Grand Escalante. So, for the past few weeks, we at Ridj-it have been asking ourselves the following: what can we do to stop the further destruction of America’s national reservations should Patagonia’s lawsuit fail?
The answer came in perhaps the most unlikely of places: the core of Secretary Zinke’s stated philosophy on the matter. He claims that this move to lift federal protections from these monuments is about traditional Republican-style states’ rights - giving state governments more authority. This is what inspired us to say, “Why can’t we push for a law in our state that mandates the protection of any federally protected lands that do get transferred over to state jurisdiction?” It’s perfect. It is the ultimate middle finger to the Trump administration. And we’re doing it.
We were going to start this fight in our own home state of Massachusetts, only to discover that the law essentially already exists here! While it is possible for state protected lands to be sold in Massachusetts, it’s a very, very difficult process requiring a ⅔ majority approval in the state Congress. We see that as fair - there should be some way for state land to be re-purposed in case of emergency, but it shouldn’t be easy. In any case, only 1.2% of Massachusetts landmass is currently protected by the federal government, which is relatively little compared to other states.