09/21/2017 - Regulatory Rollback

National Monuments, Marine National Monuments & Marine Sanctuaries

by EELP Staff

The Environmental & Energy Law Program is tracking the environmental regulatory rollbacks of the Trump administration. Click here for the list of rules we are following. If you’re a reporter and would like to speak with an expert on this rule, please email us.

Why it Matters

Our national monuments, marine national monuments, and marine sanctuaries are under threat of being eliminated, reduced in size, opened to commercial fishing, or developed for logging and mineral or energy extraction.

Current Status

In early June 2018 it was reported that NOAA is considering opening marine national monuments to commercial fishing as early as September. The proposal was reportedly included in a “Vision Setting Summit” presentation by Rear Adm. Timothy Gallaudet, acting administrator of NOAA. The monuments likely to be subject to fishing are the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts, Pacific Remote Islands, and Rose Atoll monuments for which Sec. Zinke’s memorandum released on December 5, 2017 recommended eliminating the prohibition on commercial fishing and handing fishery management authority to the regional fishery management councils under the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act.

Oct. 5, 2018 the state of Utah officially moved to join a lawsuit challenging the establishment of the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments. Utah seeks to join the Trump administration in arguing for a reduction in the size of the monuments. Utah cited economic impacts as well as “sovereign interests” in its decision to join the lawsuit.

Oct. 5, 2018 a D.C. court held that President Obama did possess the proper authority under the Antiquities Act to establish Canyons and Seamounts Monument in 2016. In response to the question of whether the marine monuments qualified for the sort of protections created by President Obama, the court held that “The Antiquities Act reaches lands both dry and wet.”


June 8, 1906  President Theodore Roosevelt signs the Antiquity Act. This revolutionary act authorizes the president to protect public lands without having to go through Congress. Since then, presidents of both parties have established 117 national monuments in 31 states, Washington, DC, and several territories.

Trump Era

Feb. 6, 2017 An environmental law firm submits a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to the Department of Justice (DOJ) seeking “‘final legal advice’ relating to the president’s authority to designate, withdraw, expand, or modify national monuments under the Antiquities Act.”

April 26, 2017 President Trump signs Executive Order 13792, directing the Secretary of the Interior to review all National Monuments (including Marine National Monuments) designated since Jan. 1, 1996 that are at least 100,000 acres or were made “without adequate public outreach and coordination.”

April 28, 2017 The president signs Executive Order 13795 ordering the Secretary of Commerce to review all Marine National Monuments and Marine Sanctuaries designated or expanded since 2007, to assess “the opportunity costs associated with potential energy and mineral exploration and production from the Outer Continental Shelf, in addition to any impacts on production in the adjacent regions.” In total, 27 National Monuments and six Marine Sanctuaries are under review. Of the 27 monuments, 21 are listed for review under EO 13792 since they are at least 100,000 acres, and one – Katahdin Woods, in Maine, is called out to “determine whether the designation or expansion was made without adequate public outreach and coordination with relevant stakeholders.” Five of the 27 Monuments are Marine National Monuments.

July 10, 2017 Department of Interior (DOI) allows public comment on Executive Order 13792 through July 10, 2017 (after initially only allowing 15 days). Public comments total nearly three million, and are overwhelmingly in favor of maintaining current borders and protections. Interior Secretary Zinke dismisses them as a “well-orchestrated national campaign organized by multiple organizations.”

July 26, 2017 National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), ordered by the Secretary of Commerce, allows public comment on Executive Order 13795 through July 26, 2017, which it later extends to Aug. 14, 2017. Nearly 100,000 comments are submitted.

Aug. 24, 2017 Secretary Zinke submits his final recommendations for closing or shrinking monuments to the White House. The report is not made public, prompting environmental groups to submit multiple FOIA requests for the report and related documents.

Oct. 12, 2017 An environmental law firm sues DOJ for failing to respond to its FOIA request from Feb. 6, 2017.

Oct. 25, 2017 While recommendations on the marine sanctuaries are due on this date, the Department of Commerce says the report is undergoing review, but has not been released publicly.

Nov. 2, 2017 Environmental groups sue DOI for failure to respond to multiple FOIA requests (dated from March 3, 2017 – Sep. 1, 2017) relating to Bears Ears, Grand Staircase-Escalante, and Zinke’s Aug. 24, 2017 report.

Dec. 4, 2017 President Trump announces that he is reducing Bears Ears National Monument area by 85% and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument by almost half. That same day, lawsuits are filed by Earthjustice, on behalf of eight conservation organizations, and by a coalition of five native American tribes in the D.C. District Court, stating the president’s proclamation is unlawful. Cases 1:17-cv-02587 and 1:17-cv-02590.

Dec. 5, 2017 Interior Secretary Zinke’s report to President Trump on monument and sanctuary recommendations, which was issued in August 2017, is finally made public. His recommendations include changing the management plans to, and boundaries of, several monuments to allow for more extractive uses (such as logging, mining, and hunting), changing the boundaries and opening to commercial fishing two marine monuments (Rose Atoll, Pacific Remote Islands), and opening Northeast Canyons and Seamounts to fishing as well. Zinke also recommends creating new monuments in Kentucky, Montana, and Mississippi.

June 2018 It is reported that NOAA is considering opening marine national monuments to commercial fishing as early as September 2018. The proposal is reportedly included in a “Vision Setting Summit” presentation by Rear Adm. Timothy Gallaudet, acting administrator of NOAA. Sec. Zinke’s memorandum, released on Dec. 5, 2017 and outlining his monument and sanctuary recommendations, included the recommendation to eliminate the prohibition on commercial fishing and give fishery management authority to the regional fishery management councils under the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act for the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts, Pacific Remote Islands, and Rose Atoll marine monuments.

For more information

Learn more about specific monuments and sanctuaries below.