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Efforts continue to quell the backlash over President Donald Trump’s changing statements on the Russia summit. Also on the Thursday rundown: protestors are out for Mike Pence’s visit to Missouri; and nobody wants to go, but one option is green burials.

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Conservation Advocates Cheer New National Monuments

Public-lands advocates are praising the creation of new national monuments this week. President Obama used the Antiquities Act, just as he did for the Organ Mountains/Desert Peaks National Monument. (Lisa Mandelkern)
Public-lands advocates are praising the creation of new national monuments this week. President Obama used the Antiquities Act, just as he did for the Organ Mountains/Desert Peaks National Monument. (Lisa Mandelkern)
January 13, 2017

SANTA FE, N.M. - President Obama has taken a major stand for public lands, designating three new national monuments and expanding two others late Thursday. He also issued a presidential memorandum encouraging diversity in the national parks and monuments.

Thursday's action brings to 34 the total number of monuments Obama has created or enlarged using the Antiquities Act. Maite Arce, chief executive of the Hispanic Access Foundation and a native New Mexican, noted that during the Obama presidency, the Land of Enchantment has gained two new jewels: Organ Mountains/Desert Peaks and Rio Grande Del Norte national monuments.

"New Mexico is an incredible example of open space and beautiful land," she said, "and a strong connection by New Mexicans to their heritage and what it means."

The three new national monuments all are related to the civil rights movement, including two in Alabama - the Birmingham and Freedom Riders national monuments - and Reconstruction Era National Monument on St. Helena Island in South Carolina. Obama also expanded California Coastal and Cascade Siskiyou national monuments on the Oregon-California border.

While the presidential memorandum isn't binding, said Carolyn Finney, author of "Black Faces, White Spaces" and a member of the National Park System Advisory Board, it advises agencies to consider diversity in how they engage the public.

"We need our public lands to survive," she said. "It's not simply about going and having a place to recreate, but that our public lands actually tell us something about who we are as Americans, what our history is."

Next week, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee is to consider President-elect Donald Trump's nominee for Interior secretary. U.S. Rep. Ryan Zinke, R-Mont., has opposed use of the Antiquities Act to create new national monuments.

Suzanne Potter, Public News Service - NM