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Veterans Tell President: Hands Off Our National Monuments

Vermilion Cliffs National Monument in Arizona is one of dozens under review for possible adjustments to their boundaries. (kcconnors/morguefile)
Vermilion Cliffs National Monument in Arizona is one of dozens under review for possible adjustments to their boundaries. (kcconnors/morguefile)
January 25, 2018

PHOENIX – More than 1,200 military veterans signed a letter that was just sent to President Donald Trump asking him to maintain the boundaries of special places such as Ironwood Forest and Vermilion Cliffs national monuments in Arizona, Gold Butte in Nevada and Cascade Siskiyou National Monument on the California-Oregon border.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has been charged with reviewing dozens of national monuments with an eye to unleashing commercial development, including oil and gas drilling, mining and ranching.

Rear Adm. Mike Mathis retired from the Navy after 35 years of service. He says veterans fighting for this country want to protect the land as well as the people.

"You know, they volunteer and they go to war, come back and they expect the national monuments and the national parks to be part of their heritage and what they've gone out to fight for," he states.

More than 1,000 of the veterans who signed the letter to the president are former officers or held other leadership positions.

Zinke has already recommended that two national monuments be shrunk: Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante, both in Utah.

Dozens of other monuments are awaiting a decision by the president.

The administration has called the establishment of national monuments in recent years a "land grab" and argues that the Antiquities Act only requires protection of the smallest area compatible with proper care and management.

But Mathis says the monuments are very important, especially to veterans trying to overcome post traumatic stress disorder.

"It's a quiet place where vets can go and be with nature and kind of get their head back together again, and kind of get themselves out of the war mode,” he explains. “And unwinding in a quiet place doesn't involve an oil rig or a mining machine next door to it."

Mathis also notes that protecting the lands also provides returning veterans more recreational opportunities such as hunting, fishing and camping.


Suzanne Potter, Public News Service - AZ