Devils Postpile National Monument

What is the Antiquities Act?

The Antiquities Act of 1906 allows the President to designate federal lands (or waters) containing objects of historic, scenic, or scientific significance as national monuments, to prevent them from potential harm and provide permanent protection.

AKA: The Antiquities Act lets presidents make monuments!

Did you know?

  • The Antiquities Act was originally enacted to address issues with looting of cultural artifacts, particularly in the Southwest.
  • President Theodore Roosevelt was the first to designate national monuments – he created 18!
  • Only three presidents haven’t used the Antiquities Act to create new national monuments.
  • President Barack Obama protected over 500 million acres of public lands and waters using the Antiquities Act, the most protected via monument designation by any president.
Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument by Backroad Packers on Unsplash

How does the Antiquities Act work?

  1. A landscape is identified by the local, Native or national community as a place that merits permanent protection for its natural, historical, or scientific resources.

2. Under the powers granted by the Antiquities Act, the President issues a unique proclamation designating that area as a National Monument.

3. The proclamation describes the specific resources and values embodied in the newly created Monument.

4. A management plan is created to assure that use of the area will match the stated values of the proclamation which created the new Monument.

Why does the Antiquities Act matter?

By empowering the president to create national monuments without Congress, the Antiquities Act provides one of our most valuable tools for protecting public lands when lands are threatened and Congress fails to act. In the United States, we lose a football field worth of natural area every 30 seconds to human development, affecting fresh water, clean air, and wildlife. Special places across the country are in urgent need of protection.

Sources

Created in collaboration with Outdoor Advocacy Project and Public Land Solutions.

What is a National Monument?

Public lands in the United States fall under many different types of protections and management. There are national parks, wilderness (and Wilderness), county parks, Tribal parks, state lands, and many more types of public lands. It can be confusing to keep track of it all, so today, we’re taking a look at national monuments!

So, what exactly is a National Monument?  

National monuments are permanently protected federal public lands for all people. This designation is given to landscapes and places of cultural, historic and scientific significance. There are currently 129 national monuments in the United States.

How are new national monuments established?

The Antiquities Act of 1906 grants the President authority to designate national monuments in order to protect “objects of historic or scientific interest.” While most national monuments are established by the President, Congress has also established national monuments to protect natural and historic features.

Colorado National Monument. Photo: Intricate Explorer

Fun facts about national monuments:

  • Monuments are managed by eight federal agencies, including the National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, and even the US Air Force. Some are co-managed.
  • The first national monument was Devils Tower (aka Bear Lodge) in Wyoming, established by President Theodore Roosevelt in in 1906.
  • Some our most iconic national parks, like the Grand Canyon and Joshua Tree, were first protected as national monuments.
  • Both Republican and Democratic presidents have used the Antiquities Act to create national monuments.

Why do national monuments matter to outdoorists? 

National monuments are a critical tool for protecting public lands and cultural resources. In addition to safeguarding landscapes, monuments provide recreation access for millions of outdoorists and boost local outdoor economies. Monuments are protected from fossil fuel extraction, and new management plans are written to accommodate visitors while protecting these outdoor places.

SOURCES:

Created in collaboration with Outdoor Advocacy Project and Public Lands Solutions

What is Protecting America’s Wilderness Act Plus?

If the Protecting America’s Wilderness Act sounds familiar–it’s because you’ve heard of this public lands policy package before. Last year, the outdoor community advocated hard for the first iteration of then-called PAWA, a group of six bills that promised to protect 1.3 million acres of public lands and more than 1200 river miles. Unfortunately, PAWA fell short in 2020–but now in 2021 it’s back, better, and in need of your support.

What is Protecting America’s Wilderness Act Plus? This newly introduced package now includes eight bills:

This will be the first major public lands/outdoor related vote of this new Congress, and the first vote happens in the House on Wednesday 9/24/21. It is imperative that outdoorists raise our voices on this issue to set the stage for protecting public lands and prioritizing the health of our environment during this new Congress.

Here’s two ways to take action:

  1. Tell your lawmakers to pass these public land protections using Outdoor Alliance’s FastAction tool here. Outdoor Alliance also has excellent resources and context to learn more about PAW+.
  2. Use American Alpine Club’s Phone2Action letter writing tool to write your reps here.

Why is it so important to take action right now? We’ll leave you with these words from our friends at Outdoor Alliance: “It’s incredibly important that the outdoor community shows up in force to support these efforts. Our support now not only promises to protect important outdoor landscapes, but also greases the skids for future protections. For new members of Congress especially, these early votes are a litmus test for public lands issues. Lawmakers need to hear right off the bat that their voters are enthusiastic about conservation and the outdoors – let’s make this public lands package the beginning, not the end, of what we accomplish together this Congress.”

Have any resources on PAW+ we’re missing? Send us an e-mail at team@outdooradvocacy.com. and we’ll add ’em to this post!

What is the Roadless Rule?

The Roadless Rule has worked in favor of conservationists since 2001. According to the US Forest Service definition of the rule, it was intended to “provide lasting protection for inventoried roadless areas within the National Forest System.”

Image: Sam Ortiz

The rule protects roughly 58.5 million acres of roadless areas, ensuring that wild and undeveloped forests are safe from future development. There are many benefits to having large expanses of land that are undisturbed or unfragmented by human development. One benefit is that this undeveloped land can be utilized for various forms of human-powered recreation. In addition to the outdoor recreation perks, these lands protect many valuable ecosystem services like animal and plant biodiversity, clean air, fresh water, and even aid in climate stability through carbon capture and storage. 

Here’s a great infographic on the roadless rule and how it affects recreation via Outdoor Alliance– head to their website for an interactive map of Roadless areas in the US:


Where are we now and how can I take action?

Both Alaska and Utah are attempting to change or roll back roadless protections of National Forest Lands in their states. As soon as one state decides it is a good idea to create a state-specific Roadless Rule, it can be expected that many other states will follow suit. This is a slippery slope when it comes to conservation and protecting recreation spaces nationwide. Let’s look a bit further into what Utah and Alaska are proposing:

Utah: 

  • Utah is a fierce proponent of local control over public lands, so it was no surprise that the state petitioned the Forest Service to create a “Utah-specific Roadless Rule” in order to roll back protections on forests under the Roadless Rule.
  • Approximately 50% of Utah’s Forests are designated as “Roadless”
  • According to Outdoor Alliance: 9% of Inventoried Roadless Areas would be released from protections entirely, 79% would have protections from logging drastically reduced, and only 12% of existing areas would retain current protection, 0% would be given heightened protections.
  • The petition is vague, unspecific, and there is no site-specific analysis.
  • In response to a report published by Defenders of Wildlife, the organization’s Director of Federal Lands said it showed “how shortsighted it would be to accept the state’s proposal to sacrifice millions of acres of intact habitat and healthy watersheds for more logging and roadbuilding. Utah’s national forest roadless areas, like roadless areas across the National Forest System, are sanctuaries for fish and wildlife as well as magnets for human recreation.”

Sign the petition to protect Utah’s backcountry forests through Outdoor Alliance’s easy-to-use letter writing tool.

Alaska:

Tongass National Forest in Alaska. Photo: Sam Ortiz
  • Alaska is home to one of the largest coastal temperate rainforests, some of the world’s oldest trees, and a long history of logging
  • More than half of the Tongass’ 17 million acres of land are protected by the Roadless Rule
  • With the support of a powerful timber lobby, Alaska is hoping to release 9 million acres of the Tongass National Forest for logging through an exemption of the Roadless Rule

Defend the Roadless Rule and the Tongass National Forest through the Outdoor Alliance easy-to-use letter writing tool: Comment by December 17, 2019.


Resources:

NOTE: THIS IS A LIVING RESOURCE! As with all resources on Outdoor Advocacy Project, there is always room to continue the conversation, add a new perspective, bolster the resources, and share new findings. Got something you want to add, change, challenge or amplify? Let us know in the comments, or e-mail team@outdooradvocacy.com to write your own.

Amelia Howe
Amelia Howe

Amelia Howe is an environmental advocacy and policy professional based in Salt Lake City. She analyzes complex legislation, creating digestible summaries that inspire thoughtful engagement. Coffee and climbing fill her time when she isn’t nerding out over the latest policy news. 

Photo by Max Kukurudziak on Unsplash

So What the Hell is Climate Change Anyways?

Photo by Max Kukurudziak on Unsplash
Photo by Max Kukurudziak on Unsplash

You’ve heard about climate change on the news, in devastating social media posts, and as a hot topic in major political debates. You’ve witnessed the wildfires in California, hurricanes in Puerto Rico, and flooding in Nebraska in real life or on TV. You know that fossil fuels are bad and are the main cause of climate change. But, have you ever wondered HOW climate change is causing crazy weather events and WHY fossil fuels are contributing to these disasters? 

It’s all about carbon, the element that makes up most of you and me. Carbon is essential to life, but can also be detrimental to all living beings. That’s extremely confusing, so let’s break it down.

Fossil fuels. There are three main types of fossil fuels you may have heard of: coal, oil and natural gas. All of these are primarily made of carbon from algae and plants that have been pressurized underground for millions of years (like a mega instant pot). During the industrial revolution, we found that digging up fossil fuels and heating them up releases a BUNCH of energy, which we now use to move our cars, turn the lights on in our homes, heat our water, make our clothes, package our food, and manufacture our bikes, skis and hiking boots. We use fossil fuels to make our morning coffee and our afternoon beers, we use it to make roads and fly to awesome places. Fossil fuels allow us to use computers, call our moms, and facetime our siblings. The list could legit go on forever and ever, but the main point is that we use fossil fuels for EVERYTHING.

Oh, and plastic is made of fossil fuels too.

The Problem. Although fossil fuels have made the Western World possible, paved the path for globalization, and make our lives 876,587,364 times more convenient, they also have a dark side. You’ve probably heard of it too: Carbon Dioxide (aka CO2). It’s what you, me, and all other living animals exhale. But when we burn fossil fuels, a GIGANTIC amount of CO2 is released into the atmosphere, which creates a thick layer of gas that doesn’t allow heat to escape into space. Atmospheric gasses that trap heat are called greenhouse gases and if you remember how Frosty the Snowman died in the classic holiday cartoon, you remember that greenhouses are fab at making things hot. 

Greenhouse gasses ultimately cause higher global temperatures (emphasis on global because excess CO2 doesn’t necessarily mean that temperatures in your particular city will rise). Overall increases in temperature allow more clouds to form because warmer air holds more water, and more clouds change weather patterns. This is why we can have gnarly polar vortexes in one place and record low snowfall in another. It’s also why we can have crazy rain and hurricanes in one area and extremely hot, dry, and wildfire-prone weather in another. 

Our weather is changing for the worse and our fossil fuel consumption is to blame.

Other factors. There are other greenhouse gasses besides CO2. Methane (CH4), which is also termed the nice and pretty name of “Natural Gas”, traps heat in our atmosphere 30 times better than CO2. There are benefits of Natural Gas, but it regularly leaks out of storage facilities and pipelines into the atmosphere.  Nitrous Oxides (NOx) are produced when nitrogen from the air is heated up in our car engines and it traps 290 times more heat than CO2. Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) are chemicals that we’ve invented to keep our refrigerators cold, the AC on in the house, and to make our pots and pans “non-stick” (aka Teflon). CFC’s get into our oceans and atmosphere and traps heat a whopping 1,000 – 10,000 times more heat than CO2.

If you’re thinking, “Well, crap!”, you’re not alone. I’m right there with ya, along with 99.9% of all other scientists.

Some good & bad news. When it comes to CO2, plants use it to grow. This means that we could potentially reduce the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere by planting trees and conserving open green spaces because the plants will turn it into sugar and incorporate it into their leaves, roots, branches, and trunks (aka photosynthesis). Scientists often call this carbon storage because CO2 is removed from the atmosphere and collected in the plant. BUT, we don’t have enough time, money, people power, or land to plant the number of trees needed to reduce an adequate amount of CO2 that will reverse climate change (source). 

So… what can we do? This is the question of the century (and probably the next few centuries). As of now, science points to a few solutions:

  1. Stop using so many damn fossil fuels. This is the BEST way we can prevent climate change from getting worse. We can do this individually, but VOTING for government officials and laws that will regulate the industrial use of fossil fuels will help even more. (Fun fact: 100 companies are responsible for 71% of total greenhouse gas emissions)
  2. Plant trees & preserve green spaces. Although planting trees won’t solve all of our climate change problems, it will still help. Especially since clear-cutting forests and destroying natural landscapes actually releases CO2 (source). Restoring forests and other ecosystems won’t just reduce CO2, but will also increase biodiversity, air quality, and water quality, along with overall human health. To put this together, planting native trees in your backyard and advocating for the protection of places like Bears Ears National Monument and the Boundary Waters Wilderness Area are essential to fighting climate change.
  3. Invent carbon capture and storage technologies. Honestly, this climate change solution is the one we should have the least hope in. Carbon capture and storage is essentially a way of taking CO2 out of the atmosphere and storing it underground. There have been recent advances in this technology, but since we don’t have a way to implement it around the world, it’s an unreliable solution and we don’t have the time to wait around for it.

Thoughts to take with you. You CAN make a difference. Although big industry is the biggest contributor to climate change, you can educate yourself, you can vote, you can change your consumer habits, and you can talk to your family and friends. TOGETHER we can create a movement of change.

Let’s do this fam. We’re all in this together (cue the High School Musical soundtrack). 


NOTE: THIS IS A LIVING RESOURCE! As with all resources on Outdoor Advocacy Project, there is always room to continue the conversation, add a new perspective, bolster the resources, and share new findings. Got something you want to add, change, challenge or amplify? Let us know in the comments, or e-mail team@outdooradvocacy.com to write your own.

<strong>Savannah Adkins</strong>
Savannah Adkins

During some daylight hours, Savannah is a climate change scientist studying how dirt makes all of our lives possible. But her real profession is as a house plant addict, mountain biker, & attempter of skiing down mountains. In her free time, Savannah enjoys dancing around the house, drinking wine, and listening to the Grateful Dead. Oh, and making poop jokes… always making poop jokes.

What is the Central Wasatch National Conservation and Recreation Area Act?

Photo by NOAA on Unsplash – Big Cottonwood Canyon, Utah

According to Central Wasatch Commission (CWC), the Central Wasatch National Conservation and Recreation Area Act is a “locally driven, consensus-based bill” that has been worked on over the past four years by a wide range of local government agencies, businesses, transportation officials, nonprofit and environmental groups, recreation interest groups, and residents. The act has several goals: 

  • “protecting water sources
  • preserving recreational opportunities for the future, 
  • and ensuring enjoyment of the Central Wasatch Mountains in the face of pressures from a growing population”.

Nestled between Salt Lake City and Park City, the Central Wasatch Mountains are a haven for recreationalists of all kinds, and the area is becoming increasingly more populated. Home to four world-class ski resorts, skiers, trail runners, hikers, and rock climbers, will travel to the Wasatch Front from all over the country in order to recreate on these lands. Not only is this area high trafficked by tourists, but hundreds of local recreationalists come into these mountains from Utah’s metropolitan hub to spend time on public lands on any given day. According to the CWC, “The Central Wasatch Mountains are more heavily used than all five of Utah’s National Parks combined.” If you have ever visited Zion National Park or Arches National Park during peak season, you can imagine how crowded that must make the canyons during the middle of the ski season. 


At this point, the act is still a working draft, but in its current state, it intends to preserve approximately “80,000 acres of US Forest Service land including watershed, scenic ridgelines, treasured landscapes, and recreation areas” while also helping ski resorts to better utilize and own more land in their established base areas. Some specific points made in the bill are outlined on the CWC’s website:

  • “All existing recreational uses and permits will continue;
  • Natural resources and watersheds will be protected;
  • Existing Wilderness Area boundaries will be adjusted for the Bonneville Shoreline Trail alignment and for transportation improvements.
  • Approximately 8,000 acres of wilderness will be added;
  • The U.S. Forest Service will maintain ownership and management of the lands;
  • Land exchanges between the U.S. Forest Service and the four Cottonwood Canyons ski resorts are authorized;
  • Ski resort permit boundaries on U.S. Forest Service land will be fixed permanently after some adjustments through the existing permitting process;
  • New roads for automobiles will be prohibited on U.S. Forest Service land;
  • No restrictions will be placed on U.S. Forest Service management for fire suppression, vegetation maintenance, avalanche control or other emergency measures;
  • Private land within the area or adjacent to the area being designated will not be affected;
  • Future transportation improvements are anticipated. The legislation enables transportation improvements to meet growing demand”

What’s happening now and how to take action:

While the Central Wasatch National Conservation and Recreation Area Act is still in the drafting phase, state representatives John Curtis and Ben McAdams have been weighing in to tweak the language and help prepare the draft to be taken to Washington and shared with Congress. While the Act is on its way to being solidified and taken to Washington, there is still reason to act in support of the legislation. As a Utah resident living near the Wasatch, it is especially important to make yourself heard throughout this process. The easiest way to stay up to date on meetings that are accepting public comments is by following the CWC website as well as checking the Utah Public Notice Website. Keep an eye out for when this important public lands bill hits the floor of the House in the coming year. 

Resources:


NOTE: THIS IS A LIVING RESOURCE! As with all resources on Outdoor Advocacy Project, there is always room to continue the conversation, add a new perspective, bolster the resources, and share new findings. Got something you want to add, change, challenge or amplify? Let us know in the comments, or e-mail team@outdooradvocacy.com to write your own.

Amelia Howe
Amelia Howe

Amelia Howe is an environmental advocacy and policy professional based in Salt Lake City. She analyzes complex legislation, creating digestible summaries that inspire thoughtful engagement. Coffee and climbing fill her time when she isn’t nerding out over the latest policy news. 

Photo by Holly Mandarich on Unsplash

What is Forest Planning?

Photo by Holly Mandarich on Unsplash

The National Forest Management Act of 1976 (NFMA) requires that every national forest develop and follow a Land Management Plan, or a Forest Plan. Forest Planning is the process that dictates where particular uses may occur and how the different zones of the forest will be managed. For example, a forest plan will reserve certain areas for extractive activities like logging, while other areas will be zoned for “sustainable recreation” described by the Outdoor Alliance as being “a range of recreational settings, opportunities, and access that can be sustained over time.” The implications of this process are very important to the outdoor recreation and conservation communities. It has a huge impact on the future of access for recreation and is the first step in the development of new Wilderness areas, Wild and Scenic rivers, or even National Recreation Areas.

Stages of Forest Planning

The process of forest planning is broken up into three stages: assessment, plan development, and implementation and monitoring. The Forest Service starts the process in the assessment phase by examining how the forest is currently being used and how that use impacts wildlife, air quality, economic benefits, and other important factors. Based on the data collected in the assessment phase, they decide what needs to change. They revise the old plan or develop a completely new plan that is then entered into a NEPA process to consider the environmental impacts of the proposed changes. Once the plan is approved, the Forest Service enters into the final stage and will make changes dictated by their new forest plan and begin to monitor whether or not these changes are positive for the forest as a whole.

How can you take action and impact forest planning?

There are so many ways citizens can be involved in the planning process. Outdoor Alliance does a good job summarizing the planning process while also noting how you as a forest user can be involved in the process during each stage in this graphic below:

click to download this graphic

Currently, forest planning is happening in five different National Forests and the Outdoor Alliance has set up a website to keep the public in the know of where each process stands and when they need the outdoor community to engage. Check out this Forest Planning site to see if your National Forest is in the midst of its planning process and how you can be involved.

Resources:


NOTE: THIS IS A LIVING RESOURCE! As with all resources on Outdoor Advocacy Project, there is always room to continue the conversation, add a new perspective, bolster the resources, and share new findings. Got something you want to add, change, challenge or amplify? Let us know in the comments, or e-mail team@outdooradvocacy.com to write your own.

Amelia Howe
Amelia Howe

Amelia Howe is an environmental advocacy and policy professional based in Salt Lake City. She analyzes complex legislation, creating digestible summaries that inspire thoughtful engagement. Coffee and climbing fill her time when she isn’t nerding out over the latest policy news.

Photo by Christopher Jolly on Unsplash

What is the Land and Water Conservation Fund?

Photo by Christopher Jolly on Unsplash

If you remember only three things about LWCF, let it be this:

  • LWCF funds have been invested in every county in the United States
  • For every $1 spent on LWCF, communities receive $4 in economic benefit
  • LWCF DOESN’T USE ANY TAXPAYER DOLLARS

History

Established in 1964, the National Park Service states that the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), “was established to fulfill a bipartisan commitment to safeguard our natural areas, water resources, and cultural heritage, and to provide recreation opportunities to all Americans”. In a thoughtful move by congress, the LWCF is not funded by taxpayer dollars, but instead is funded by royalties from offshore oil and gas leasing. This method makes sense as the program intends to repurpose funds from a destructive activity that is harming the environment in order to support the conservation of lands and waters elsewhere. Specifically, the money raised from this fund can either be used to support smaller-scale state or local community proposed projects or larger scale federal projects that focus on land acquisition. 

LWCF State and Local Grants Program

“Provides matching Grants to state and tribal governments for the acquisition and development of public parks and other outdoor recreation sites

  • Grants have funded projects in every county in the country
  • 40,000+ projects since 1965
  • Funding provided $3.9 billion
  • Grants have supported purchase and protection of 3 million acres of recreation lands 
  • 75% total funds obligated have gone to locally sponsored projects to provide recreation opportunities that are readily accessible to all people”

LWCF Federal Land Acquisition

“Supports the protection of federal public lands and waters – including national parks, forests, wildlife refuges, and recreation areas – and voluntary conservation on private land”

Forest Legacy Program:

“Provides grants through state partners to protect environmentally sensitive forest lands while maintaining private ownership and working forests”

  • Total acres protected = 2.37 million.
  • Funding provided =$1.4 billion.

Cooperative Endangered Species Conservation Fund:

“Grants provide funds to states and territories to work with private landowners, conservation organizations, and other partners to protect and conserve the habitat of threatened and endangered species.”

  • Number of grants = 246 
  • Funding provided = $394 million.

Where are we now?

The goal of this program is to “strengthen communities, preserve history, and protect our national endowments of lands and waters.” $900 million is put into the LWCF annually, but rarely does this money end up protecting public lands, waters, and offering grant funding for communities. Instead, Congress breaks its promise of allocating funds to projects rooted in conservation and recreation, and instead diverts it to other uses. In fact, since the creation of LWCF, $22 billion has been diverted. This is especially frustrating as there is more than $11 billion of backlogged work to be done in National Parks alone due to budget cuts, and it is increasingly obvious that public land maintenance, preservation, and upkeep is not being prioritized by the current administration. In March of 2019, legislation was passed that permanently reauthorizes LWCF. While this was a big win for fans of LWCF, there is still an uphill battle at hand. Many organizations like LWCF Coalition, Outdoor Alliance, and Outdoor Industry Association, have demanded that Congress fully fund LWCF, meaning pass legislation dictating that the full $900 million will be allocated to LWCF annually. 

Related Legislation

  • S.47 John D. Dingell, Jr. Conservation, Management, and Recreation Act: The public lands package that included the permanent reauthorization of LWCF, passed on March 12, 2019
  • HR 3195 Land and Water Conservation Fund Permanent Funding Act: 
  • S. 1081 Land and Water Conservation Fund Permanent Funding Act

How to take action:

  • On November 19, 2019, the Energy and Natural Resources Committee voted to advance S. 1081, the Land and Water Conservation Fund Permanent Funding Act. If voted into law, the $900 million will be required to fund conservation and recreation projects and will not be allowed to be reallocated. Send your lawmakers a note telling them why it is imperative they support S. 1081 when it comes to senate vote using the easy-to-use letter writing tool below. 
  • Stay up to date on the latest LWCF news and action alerts by checking out LWCF Coalition

Resources:


NOTE: THIS IS A LIVING RESOURCE! As with all resources on Outdoor Advocacy Project, there is always room to continue the conversation, add a new perspective, bolster the resources, and share new findings. Got something you want to add, change, challenge or amplify? Let us know in the comments, or e-mail team@outdooradvocacy.com to write your own.

Amelia Howe
Amelia Howe

Amelia Howe is an environmental advocacy and policy professional based in Salt Lake City. She analyzes complex legislation, creating digestible summaries that inspire thoughtful engagement. Coffee and climbing fill her time when she isn’t nerding out over the latest policy news.

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

What is NEPA?

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash
Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash



NEPA, the National Environmental Protection Act, is the most important tool we have to hold accountability on the decisions made on public lands. It gives us, as citizens, a voice and allows environmental justice to be held as a top priority. With NEPA, Americans can advocate for, and protect their neighborhoods. Due to longstanding systemic environmental racism, development, and infrastructure projects harm Black, Indigenous, and People of Color at a disproportionate rate to predominately white communities. NEPA is a check and balance that allows communities and their allies to speak up on behalf of their own backyard, and work to combat environmental racism.

Throughout this year, attempts to stifle public comment is SILENCING citizens while giving a megaphone to corporations who profit from the destruction of public lands and pollute neighborhoods across the country.

NEPA utilizes data and scientific evidence to consider the environmental impact of development projects and requires developers to consider climate change as an effect. The Trump administration is yet again silencing science, and continuing to prioritize profit over people.

History

Prior to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), there was a clear separation of the federal government, the public, and the environment. Decisions were made based on convenience and financial gain, the public had no say, and impacts on the environment could go unmentioned. Thankfully, that decision process changed when NEPA was signed into law on January 1, 1970. NEPA requires the federal government to “use all practicable means to create and maintain conditions under which man and nature can exist in productive harmony”. It holds the government accountable to this by requiring federal agencies to “incorporate environmental considerations in their planning and decision-making through a systematic interdisciplinary approach.” The policy offers a comprehensive framework that agencies can utilize in order to “prepare detailed statements assessing the environmental impact of, and alternatives to, major federal actions significantly affecting the environment.” Essentially, the NEPA process forces the government to do the following things prior to making decisions on whether or not to complete a project:

  • Identify potential issues within the proposed project
  • Determine viable project alternatives that would alleviate issues 
  • Complete in-depth studies through a scientific process that look into the cumulative impact of a project and its environmental issues (ex: climate change impact)
  • Comply with environmental regulations 
  • Involve the public in all decision making

EA vs EIS

There are two different NEPA statements, Environmental Assessments (EA) or Environmental Impact Statements (EIS). An EA is far less complicated and takes less time than the EIS. This documentation process is only followed if it is unclear that the anticipated impacts will be significant. Occasionally while going through the EA process it becomes obvious that there will be a large impact on the environment and an EIS process will be born out of the EA process. If from the start it is clear that the project is going to cause significant negative impacts on the environment, or if there is a lot of public controversy over the project, the EIS process is required. 

Public Engagement

NEPA ensures that the public gets to have a say in decision-making processes. Both the EA and the EIS provide multiple touchpoints for the public to participate. Depending on which government agency is going through the NEPA process, the public involvement process will vary a bit, but many agencies will offer an initial 30 day comment period for both an EA or EIS process. Some projects, especially those that are highly controversial, will even hold public forums to hear from stakeholders. Regardless of the severity of the project, the review process for both offers the ability to make your voice heard by offering thoughts on how the agency went about its study, which alternative you think is best, or even by proposing your own alternative. Many nonprofit advocacy organizations like Outdoor Alliance, American Alpine Club, the Wilderness Society, and more utilize the NEPA process to give a voice to the issues that they, alongside their supporters, are fighting for when it comes to public lands protections.    

Proposed changes to NEPA:

Having the chance to weigh in on important land management decisions or various project proposals to the federal government is part of what makes the NEPA process great. It allows people to have a say when it comes to local issues such as forest management plans, or national issues like fighting off drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Unfortunately, there are interest groups who would like to see NEPA rolled back in order to make it easier to develop on public lands, and the Forest Service is considering making changes to how it implements NEPA. One of the first things under attack: public engagement. According to Outdoor Alliance, the proposed changes would limit public engagement on Forest Service Projects up to 93%, “and in some cases, eliminate public notice all together”. If these changes are made, they would create loopholes to allow speedier and larger-scale resource extraction projects on public lands. 

How to take action:

During the summer of 2019, the Forest Service accepted public comment regarding the proposed changes. Many organizations and individuals alike took the time to reach out to lawmakers and the Forest Service in order to voice concerns about the attack on the public process. At this point, the Forest Service is compiling data and considering the received comments and hopes to release proposed directives in January 2020. After they release their proposed plan, they will be offering an additional public comment period. Please check back as January draws near to learn more about how you can offer comments opposing these changes to its application of NEPA.

Resources:

NOTE: THIS IS A LIVING RESOURCE! As with all resources on Outdoor Advocacy Project, there is always room to continue the conversation, add a new perspective, bolster the resources, and share new findings. Got something you want to add, change, challenge or amplify? Let us know in the comments, or e-mail team@outdooradvocacy.com to write your own.

Amelia Howe
Amelia Howe

Amelia Howe is an environmental advocacy and policy professional based in Salt Lake City. She analyzes complex legislation, creating digestible summaries that inspire thoughtful engagement. Coffee and climbing fill her time when she isn’t nerding out over the latest policy news. 

What is the Antiquities Act?

Photo by Patrick Hendry on Unsplash in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument

History

The Antiquities Act, enacted in 1906, gives the President the ability to proclaim National Monuments on federal lands that contain “historic landmarks, historic and prehistoric structures, or other objects of historic or scientific interest.” Originally created to prevent looting of Indigenous artifacts from archaeological sites, this powerful tool allows the President to bypass the slow-moving legislative process in order to protect large swaths of land that are under critical threat. The White House typically spends time collaborating with local stakeholders to decide what the protected area should look like and how it will function prior to designation giving local communities a strong voice in the process. Additionally, the designation can be used to protect public lands from impending oil and gas extraction and commercial development and instead aid in generating “economic growth through tourism, recreation, and improved property values” in the towns surrounding the National Monuments. 

National Park vs National Monument

A National Monument differs from a National Park in a few ways. Several critical differences according to Outside Online are:

Why the land is being protected:

  • “National Parks protect land that offers “scenic, inspirational, educational, and recreation opportunities.” 
  • National Monuments protect land that is “historic, cultural, or scientific nature” 

Management Structure

  • “National Parks are managed by the National Park Service 
  • National Monuments can be managed by a myriad of agencies such as the Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, or US Fish and Wildlife Service” 

Designation Power

  • “National Parks must be voted on, approved, and designated by Congress
  • National Monuments can be established by the President through a proclamation”

Attack on the Antiquities Act

According to the Center for Western Priorities, “For over 100 years, presidents of both political parties have used the Antiquities Act to protect national monuments. Since 1906, 16 presidents have protected 157 monuments under the law.” However, in the recent political era, many designations have been highly contentious between political parties. During the Obama administration, 29 new National Monuments were established in 17 different states protecting a total of 553 million acres of federal lands and waters. One Monument designated during the Obama era is Bears Ears National Monument. This Monument is considered highly controversial as the Trump administration proclaimed a reckless reduction of the area in 2017. Many organizations such as the Natural Resources Defence Council, Access Fund, Patagonia, Utah Dine Bikeyah, and others have banned together to sue Donald Trump claiming that this reduction is a direct attack on the Antiquities Act. The organizations claim the Antiquities Act gives the president the ability to create National Monuments, but only Congress has the authority to revoke or revise the protected area. 

How to take action

It seems the battle for the protection of the Antiquities Act is just beginning. It is more important than ever to tell your representatives that you support the Antiquities Act and hope to see it upheld in perpetuity. Click on the National Parks Conservation Association’s easy-to-use letter-writing tool to support the Antiquities Act. 

Resources:


NOTE: THIS IS A LIVING RESOURCE! As with all resources on Outdoor Advocacy Project, there is always room to continue the conversation, add a new perspective, bolster the resources, and share new findings. Got something you want to add, change, challenge or amplify? Let us know in the comments, or e-mail team@outdooradvocacy.com to write your own.

Amelia Howe
Amelia Howe

Amelia Howe is an environmental advocacy and policy professional based in Salt Lake City. She analyzes complex legislation, creating digestible summaries that inspire thoughtful engagement. Coffee and climbing fill her time when she isn’t nerding out over the latest policy news.