Attorney General Bob Ferguson last week sent a letter to Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke opposing the unprecedented review and potential rollback of national monument protections ordered by President Donald Trump. Ferguson asserts that neither Zinke nor Trump have the legal authority to revoke national monuments.
Despite its permanent designation as a national monument in 2000, Hanford Reach National Monument is on the Interior Department’s list of monuments to review under President Trump’s Executive Order 13792, signed April 26. Based on the broad language of the order, other national monuments, such as San Juan Islands National Monument, could be under threat as well.
“I ask President Trump and Secretary Zinke to respect the legal limits of their powers,” Ferguson said. “If President Trump attempts to harm Washington’s National Monuments, my office will defend them.”
Ferguson’s letter explains the Antiquities Act of 1906 delegates to the president narrow authority to establish national monuments.
“No President, however, has ever claimed the authority to revoke National Monument status,” Ferguson’s letter states. “The reason is simple: the Act does not contemplate any such revocation, and to do so would be contrary to the language of the statute and the structure in which the law delegates Congress’s constitutional authority. It also would contravene later congressional action.”
Ferguson’s letter expresses grave concerns about the broad scope of the order.
The Interior Department’s May 5, 2017 list of monuments under review expressly includes the Hanford Reach National Monument, created in 2000.
By its plain language, the order also permits the Secretary to review any other recent designation he believes “was made without adequate public outreach and coordination with relevant stakeholders.”
Thus, the order may also apply to the San Juan Islands National Monument, created in 2013.
In his letter, Ferguson states he has a team ready to act to defend both Hanford Reach National Monument and San Juan Islands National Monument, if necessary.
Ferguson concludes his letter by inviting both President Trump and Secretary Zinke to join him in a visit to Washington’s National Monuments.