President Trump has ordered a sweeping review of 27 national monuments created since 1996, calling the designation of these sites by previous presidents a “federal land grab” and stating that the goal of the review is “giving power back to the states and people.” Interior secretary Ryan Zinke has stated that the monuments under review could have their federal protections “rescinded” or that the monuments could be “resized or modified,” opening them up to drilling, mining and other development interests.
The monuments under analysis cover millions of acres of protected lands encompassing all types of landscapes from mountains and deserts to canyons and forests across 11 mostly Western states, plus five marine national monuments. While the public comment period for one of the monuments, Bears Ears, has passed, the Interior Department is currently accepting public comments pertaining to the review through July 10. Read on for why these sites are worthy of their title and why you should visit them before they are revoked, and then submit your comments here.
Jay Gentile is a world traveler and freelance writer whose work has appeared in a variety of publications including SPIN, VICE, Chicago Tribune, Thrillist and Consequence of Sound.
1 of 5
Vermillion Cliffs National Monument
Marble Canyon, Ariz.
Sandwiched between Grand Canyon National Park and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument (which is also under review) just south of the Utah border, Vermillion Cliffs is home to bald eagles and mountain lions who make their home amid the stunning red rock formations that dominate this Wild West landscape. But this remote monument is most well-known for The Wave, an otherworldly sandstone rock formation that requires a permit to visit and is accessible via a fairly strenuous hike along an unmarked trail. The Bureau of Land Management only issues 20 permits a day to this fragile site via a lottery system. While you're here, a visit to the adjacent Grand Staircase-Escalante—America's largest land national monument covering an area larger than Delaware and containing dinosaur fossils over 75 millions years old—is an absolute must.
Photo by tobkatrina/Shutterstock
2 of 5
Giant Sequoia National Monument
Located about an hour south of Fresno in central California's southern Sierra Nevada range, this monument created by President Clinton in 2000 houses the greatest concentration of giant sequoia groves in the world. With 38 giant sequoia groves, about half of those currently in existence, the monument is also famous for its towering Boole tree which, standing at 269 feet high, is the world's sixth-tallest tree. You can hike around the trees with your dog (this land is managed by less restrictive U.S. Forest Service rules) or make the trek to the stunning hidden gem of Jennie Lakes Wilderness, a picture-perfect amalgamation of lakes and forests surrounded by mountains including the 10,365-foot Mitchell Peak. And yes, you can hug all the trees you want.
Photo by Tupungato/Shutterstock
3 of 5
Carizzo Plain National Monument
Santa Margarita, Calif.
Housing the largest single native grassland in California, this remote grassy plain was recently discovered by large numbers of Californians who flocked to the area this spring to gawk at the monument's explosive "superbloom" of vibrant purple, yellow and orange wildflowers carpeting the gentle rolling hills of this oft-overlooked natural attraction. Besides eye-popping spring wildflower displays, the monument is famous for its trippy Stonehenge-like Painted Rock formation created by Native Americans around 2,000 BC. You can also walk the boardwalk around the eerily beautiful Soda Lake, check out Native rock art or hang with weird animals like the giant kangaroo rat in this park that is split by the San Andreas Fault. Or if you just want to pull off the road to gawk at the flowers, that's quite all right, too.
Photo by Glenn Guinita/Shutterstock
4 of 5
Mojave Trails National Monument
San Bernardino County, Calif.
Designated by President Obama in 2016 along with two other Southern California monuments, Mojave Trails protects 1.6 million acres sandwiched between Joshua Tree National Park and the Mojave National Preserve. The rugged landscape features mountain ranges, lava fields, wildflowers and stunning desert sunsets, but its main attraction is its epic sand dunes like the pristine Cadiz Dunes that look like something out of the Sahara. Equally beautiful charms include craters, canyons and caves, in addition to historical sites like a WWII desert training center and the longest remaining undeveloped stretch of Route 66. Whether you're hunting for rare gems or just staring up at the stars, this is the place to get away from it all with nothing but your deep thoughts.
Photo by Sean Higby/Shutterstock
5 of 5
mokuakea Marine National Monument
Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, Hawaii
It's not just public lands that are protected by national monument status. Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument, which was established by President Bush in 2006 and significantly expanded by President Obama in 2016, is a massive marine reserve protecting 583,000 square miles of ocean surrounding 10 of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands and covering an area larger than all of America's national parks combined. The monument is home to 7,000 marine species and 14 million sea birds, in addition to endangered species like the Laysan duck, who make their home amid the monument's extensive coral reefs, lagoons and deep-water habitats. Featuring historical sites like the Battle of Midway National Memorial as well as a large number of sacred sites of spiritual significance to the Native Hawaiian people, the vast space is also home to manta rays and Galapagos sharks swimming amid shipwrecks and sea urchins.
Photo by Mark Sullivan, NOAA Fisheries Hawaiian Monk Seal Research Program, 2014, Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument/Flickr, CC BY-NC-ND