WASHINGTON - Today, U.S. Senator Tom Udall, vice chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs and lead Democrat on the Senate Appropriations subcommittee that oversees funding for the Interior Department, released the following statement on President Trump's executive order directing the Interior Department to review, and possibly reverse, national monument designations. The order affects monuments created after 1996 that are over 100,000 acres, and it would include the Rio Grande del Norte and Organ Mountains Desert Peaks national monuments in New Mexico, as well as the newly created Bears Ears National Monument in Southeastern Utah:
"I do not believe that President Trump has the legal authority to rescind a national monument designation, and if he attempts to do so, I will fight him every step of the way. This executive order is nothing more than a political move that will waste limited resources and unnecessarily add uncertainty for growing businesses and communities around these monuments, including two in New Mexico.
"Our national monuments are treasured by New Mexicans and Americans, hold enormous significance for Tribes, and help fuel an $887 billion outdoor recreation industry that creates and sustains millions of jobs. If Secretary Zinke decides to review Organ Mountains Desert Peaks and Rio Grande del Norte, he will find strong, vibrant monuments that are driving new recreation and tourism-oriented businesses and jobs and that are the pride of the surrounding communities. These monuments are luring thousands of outdoor enthusiasts to New Mexico and invigorating local economies - from retirees and outdoor enthusiasts visiting Las Cruces for OMDP, to tourists drawn to the breathtaking attractions in Taos and the historic Village of Questa, which is hoping to diversify its economy as a gateway to Rio Grande del Norte.
"At Bears Ears National Monument in Utah, Indian Tribes are, for the first time ever, co-managing lands, preserving centuries-old sacred areas that contain troves of antiquities and tell the history of early peoples in the Southwest. Monuments like Grand Staircase, Bears Ears, OMDP and Rio Grande del Norte are huge assets to their communities and the economy in New Mexico, Utah and the Mountain West.
"Today's order represents yet another broken promise from President Trump. On the campaign trail, the president pledged to carry on the conservationist legacy of Teddy Roosevelt. But today he is beginning the process of going where no president before him has: using never-tested and dubious legal authority to try to reverse national monument designations. As a member of the Appropriations and Indian Affairs committees, I will fight to protect and elevate these cherished monuments, and I won't stand by if the Trump administration tries to open the door to selling them off to the highest bidder."