The nation’s interior secretary has made a commitment not to change the status of the Hanford Reach National Monument, according to Washington state’s two Democratic senators.
Sen. Patty Murray and Sen. Maria Cantwell spoke to Secretary Ryan Zinke in a joint phone call on Wednesday, according to their staffs.
“Today, the Department of Interior confirmed what so many Washingtonians have known all along — that the Hanford Reach, designated after years of collaboration in the Tri-Cities community, is worthy of protection for generations to come,” Murray said.
Murray led efforts in the 1990s to establish the national monument from nearly 200,000 acres of land that had remained undeveloped, and some of it largely untouched, since it was set aside as a security perimeter around the Hanford nuclear reservation in 1943.
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Cantwell, the ranking member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, said “An attack on one of our national monuments is an attack on all of them.”
“Now that Secretary Zinke agrees that the protection of the Hanford Reach National Monument should not be changed, the Trump administration should abandon this review and the ill-advised effort to undermine national monuments altogether,” Cantwell said.
In April, President Donald Trump signed an executive order directing the Department of Interior to review all national monuments created in the past 21 years, which included the Hanford Reach National Monument and 20 others in the West.
It is home to 43 species of fish, 42 mammal species and 258 bird species and is an important cultural resource to many tribes. It is a prime spawning place for Chinook salmon. It is truly irreplaceable.
Trump said the designations amounted to “a massive federal land grab” that should be reconsidered.
Critics of the review said it could lead to reducing the size of national monuments or removing national monument designations signed into law by past presidents under the Antiquities Act.
The Hanford Reach National Monument was created by presidential proclamation in 2000 from shrub steppe land that had been under federal control since at least World War II.
“It’s unconscionable that we even had to have this debate, but thankfully the outcome is the lawful and moral one,” said Gov. Jay Inslee. “These national monuments are treasured legacies for so many — our tribes, conservationists and generations of families and recreational users.”
During a public comment period, the Department of Interior received nearly 1.2 million comments, including nearly 70,000 comments mentioning the Hanford Reach National Monument, including many form letters.
“It is home to 43 species of fish, 42 mammal species and 258 bird species and is an important cultural resource to many tribes,” said one comment. “It is a prime spawning place for Chinook salmon. It is truly irreplaceable.”
I hope this administration continues to find that these legacies are so much more valuable than the business interests seeking to undermine them.
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee
Another commenter called the monument north of Richland “an important and endangered part of the central Washington landscape, in a section of our state that has suffered entirely too much environmental damage over the years since World War II.”
Murray commended those who commented, saying “because of you the Trump administration is getting the message loud and clear that families in our state and around the country are ready to fight back against ill-conceived efforts to roll back protections for our prized public lands.”
The public comment period ended Monday, and a final report to the president is due in late August.
“I hope this administration continues to find that these legacies are so much more valuable than the business interests seeking to undermine them,” Inslee said.
Cantwell said she reminded Zinke on Wednesday that the president does not have the authority to rescind the status of national monuments and that taxpayer dollars should not have been spent on the review.
Washington state’s attorney general, Bob Ferguson, had notified Zinke that if the review harmed the Hanford Reach National Monument, he would take legal action to defend it.