After conducting a four month review of several national monuments, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has presented his recommendations to make changes to President Trump which would include redrawing the boundaries of many of those monuments. Proponents of Zinke’s plan advocate for the return of the public lands back to the public where it belongs removing unnecessary governmental protections. In addition, proponents see the potential economic benefits of opening that land up to activities such as mining, drilling, or even commercial fishing in the marine based national monuments. Those in favor of the proposal argue that morally, it is the right thing for Trump to return the land back to the public and that the economic gains would help to produce the greatest good for the greatest number of people.
The Public Lands Council is one organization that has vocalized their support of this proposal. Ethan Lane who serves as the Executive Director of the Public Lands Council was recently quoted in a press release on August 24th, 2017 stating that “we are grateful to Secretary Zinke and his team for soliciting feedback from those most effected by executive land-grabs, and look forward to swift action from the White House,” in an effort to return land back to the public (Public Lands Council). The Public Lands Council is an organization whose main purpose has been to “actively represent the cattle and sheep producers who hold public lands grazing permits” since 1968 which is why they are interested in the effects Zinke’s recommendations could have (Public Lands Council). The press release also indicates that the review of the national monuments was in fact “extensive” and it even included “a public comment period” leaving the Public Lands Council feeling “encouraged” by the report that was given to President Trump (Public Lands Council). Morally, the Public Lands Council’s argument seems to appeal to the idea that the current restrictions in national monuments were initially unethical, and the proposed recommendations would provide benefits to many Americans.
National Fisherman is another organization that is in support of Zinke’s national monuments proposal and they too are optimistic about the changes they could see coming their way. Grant Moore, the president of the Atlantic Offshore Lobstermen’s Association was quoted stating that, “there seems to be a huge misconception that there are limitless areas where displaced fisherman can go” and that, “basically with the stroke of a pen, President Obama put fishermen and their crews out of work and harmed all the shore-side businesses that support the fishing industry,” so they welcome the idea of rescinding the commercial fishing ban (National Fisherman). In addition, Eric Reid the general manager of Seafreeze Shoreside in Narragansett, Rhode Island, makes a comment that “the reported recommendations from the Interior Department make us hopeful that we can recover the areas we have fished sustainably for decades” indicating that if Zinke’s recommendations were to be put in place that fisherman would regain some of the rights that had lost from previous administrations (National Fisherman). National Fisherman is an organizations comprised of and a resource for, “commercial fishing professionals,” so it is understandable that they are advocates for regaining access to areas which could in turn provide economic benefits (National Fisherman). The moral reason behind National Fisherman’s argument is that they previously had rights to the fishing areas, but they were taken away, so if Zinke’s recommendations were to pass then they would be recovering rights that had formerly been neglected. This is very similar to the argument that the Public Lands Council makes, however it highlights a unique group of effected individuals, commercial fisherman.
Another group that is in support of Zinke’s national monument proposal is the Americans for Prosperity. The mission of Americans for Prosperity is to, “recruit, educate, and mobilize citizens in support of the policies and goals of a free society at the local, state, and federal level, helping every American live their dream – especially the least fortunate,” which speaks into why they are advocating for Zinke’s recommendations (Americans for Prosperity). Christine Harbin, the Vice President of External Affairs, released a statement that mentions, “we’re pleased that Secretary Zinke has undertaken a review of these large sites from the past two decades to ensure the government is not needlessly encroaching on local economic use, tribal activities, recreation, or simple public access,” which again speaks into the moral argument of human privileges that should be upheld (Americans for Prosperity). In addition, she states that “the government should adhere to the ‘smallest area compatible’ standard laid out in the statute to ensure local communities, who know the area best, can enjoy or utilize the remaining land,” implying that the smart thing to do would be to let local individuals who understand the land use the land (Americans for Prosperity). Overall this argument and its moral reasons are similar to the ones made by the Public Lands Council.
The most persuasive argument that proponents of Zinke’s recommendations make is for the local level benefits individuals could receive if restrictions are taken away, specifically for the commercial fisherman. Advocates for Zinke’s recommendations appeal to a moral argument that they previously had access to certain areas that have since been taken away. Their primary concern with regaining their access to these areas is for the advantages that come as a result. The strong claims made by National Fisherman help to reinforce this idea and encourage the passage of Zinke’s proposal. Ethically speaking, proponents make the claim that it would be unfair to continue to restrict their use of public lands.
This argument made in favor of Zinke’s recommendations is based on the ethics of consequences. The ethics of consequences judge and action based on the results the action achieves, whether they were intended or not. Even though the rights of individuals is referenced by several of the sources, seeking economic gains by shrinking the boarders or many national monuments is strictly grounded in the potential outcomes of the proposed changes. The factual claims made by each of the above sources refer to the moral principal that a greater result can be achieved for a greater number of people.