Preserve Our Public Lands

Editor, News-Register:

On Dec. 4 President Trump announced he would drastically reduce the acreage of two national monuments out West: Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante.

Bears Ears alone contains more than 100,000 archaeological sites. The land is sacred to the five tribes that formed a coalition to protect it.

Both monuments are home to some of our nation’s most charismatic animals: bighorn sheep, mule deer, black bears, and threatened native fish.

I, like most West Virginians, treasure our public lands. How can you not look at a photo or travel a roadway through West Virginia and not revel at the beauty of the hills and valleys?

Nearly every modern president has used the Antiquities Act to set aside existing federal lands to assure that the very best of the nation’s public lands stay that way.

Some lawyers say the president doesn’t have the authority to rescind another president’s monument designations.

Nevertheless, such executive action in Washington not only will change the acreage in Utah, but also, eventually, could affect public lands in West Virginia. For example, a provision in the proposed federal tax overhaul would open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil exploration. West Virginia’s Senators Manchin and Capito both voted to support that measure. How fast will public lands in West Virginia face similar threats?

Our senators listen routinely to energy companies, rather than their land-preserving constituents.

Our public lands are at the heart of what it means to be a West Virginian. We relish the beauty of our Mountain State. We need our leaders in Washington to stand up for West Virginians. Please, don’t mess with our public lands.

Pat DeFrancis