New analysis finds that 99.2% of the millions of public comments submitted about Bears Ears National Monument and other parks oppose the executive order that placed them under scrutiny.
In April 2017, President Trump signed an executive order to review 27 parks designated since the beginning of 1996, with an eye toward shrinking boundaries and reducing protection for many of them. Shortly after, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke opened a comment period to solicit input from the public, ostensibly to inform his recommendations about what to do with each of them.
99.2% of public comments opposed Trump's anti-parks executive order
Since then, some of the parks on the list have been granted stays of execution, while others, like Utah's Bears Ears National Monument, received word that the Trump administration intends to cut them to pieces. Throughout the summer, Trump and Zinke's review played out as a reality show-like spectacle lacking either transparency or a sense of why it was necessary in the first place.
Now, days before Zinke is scheduled to deliver his final recommendations, on Aug 24., one thing—and only one thing--is clear: the American people decisively reject the parks review and favor the continued protection of natural and cultural landmarks.
Over 2.8 million comments were submitted to Interior during the public comment period and an analysis of 1.3 million comments publicly available on regulations.gov found that 99.2 percent opposed Trump's executive order, with respondents mentioning a wide variety of concerns.
Key take-aways from the analysis:
99.2% of all comments received opposed Trump's executive order reviewing the 27 parks
Percent of comments that opposed review of key parks: 95.6% for Bears Ears National Monument (Utah), 92.1% for Gold Butte National Monument (Nevada), 95.3% for Grand-Stairacse Escalante National Monument (Utah), 92.6% for Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument (New Mexico), 89.4% for Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument (Maine)
80% of commenters who specified their location resided in a state containing a park under review; 90.9% of Utahns, whose home state has been ground zero for many attacks on public lands, opposed the review
Commenters who mentioned concerns about the preservation of cultural artifacts, which has been an ongoing concern in the areas now designated Bears Ears National Monument and Nevada's Gold Butte National Monument, were 98.5% opposed to the review
Key-Log Economics, a consulting firm, analyzed and reviewed comments using a "machine learning algorithm." This algorithm was trained based on the efforts of human volunteers who evaluated thousands of comments.
As we await the Trump administration's recommendations on the 27 parks, the new numbers serve as another reminder that Americans will likely oppose any anti-public lands policies that arise from them, whether through legislative or administrative action. This review, as well as the larger campaign to hand protected places over to fossil fuel interests, mining companies and more, are as deeply unpopular as ever.