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Military Groups Push Trump to Protect Public Lands

Veterans' groups say they hope the president will call for protections for public lands in his State of the Union address. (Kurt Kuznicki)
Veterans' groups say they hope the president will call for protections for public lands in his State of the Union address. (Kurt Kuznicki)
January 30, 2018

PHOENIX, AZ – As President Donald Trump gets ready to deliver his State of the Union speech, more than 1,200 veterans have just sent him a letter, urging him to protect boundaries of national monuments such as Gold Butte.

U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke delivered a report to the president advocating that multiple monuments be shrunk to pave the way for commercial development, including oil and gas drilling, mining and ranching.

Retired Air Force Staff Sergeant John Dalla from Las Vegas lives near Gold Butte and says veterans who fought for this country want to protect the land as well as the people.

"As a veteran, we all took the oath seriously as far as 'protect and defend' – not only the Constitution, but our country," said Dalla. "Part of our country and our heritage is the land, and I'd like to see the land kept as public as possible and as pristine as possible."

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

Zinke already has recommended that two national monuments be shrunk: Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante, both in Utah. Dozens more are awaiting decisions by the president.

The administration has called the establishment of national monuments in recent years a "land grab," and has argued that the Antiquities Act only requires protection of the smallest area compatible with proper care and management. But Dalla believes the monuments are very important, especially to vets trying to overcome post-traumatic stress disorder.

"There's kind of a healing quality to it," he explained. "They need time to process the rigors that they have been through, and one of the best places you can actually do that is in nature. It kind of puts everything back in perspective for you."

Dalla also noted that protecting the lands also provides returning vets more recreational opportunities, such as hunting, fishing and camping.

Suzanne Potter, Public News Service - NV