New Report Reveals 100 Years of Fearmongering Over National Parks and Monuments

Feb 16, 2016



FEBRUARY 16, 2016

DENVER—The Center for Western Priorities today released a new report, The Wrong Side of History: 100 Years of Opposition to Our Nation’s Natural Treasures. The report examines past and present opposition to land conservation in the United States, demonstrating that the often colorful language used by opponents of new parks and monuments has changed little over the last century.

Last Friday, President Obama used the Antiquities Act to protect three new national monuments in California. The ink wasn’t dry on the proclamation when Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah), the chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, chimed in to declare the act “presidential bullying” and “an authoritarian act that ignores people under the guise of preservation.” This despite broad-based, bipartisan local support for the national monuments from local elected officials, business owners, Native Americans, veterans, Latino organizations, faith leaders, sportsmen, and conservationists.

Greg Zimmerman, policy director at the Center For Western Priorities said, “Chairman Bishop is carrying on a proud tradition of anti-park naysayers that dates back to the founding of our first national parks, when critics warned that protecting the Grand Canyon from mining was a ‘fiendish and diabolical scheme.’ As history has proven time and again, our newest national monuments will be good for California’s economy, good for local communities, and good for future generations.”

The Wrong Side of History includes similarly outrageous statements made over the past century, including Ronald Reagan’s infamous 1966 declaration about the eponymous giants at Redwood National Park: “A tree is a tree. How many more do you have to look at?” These quotes are contrasted with the economic impact of protecting national treasures like Redwood, which pumps $33 million into the rural California economy each year.

The report goes on to highlight opposition to current monument proposals in Utah and Arizona, where politicians today spout eerily familiar warnings that, when placed in historical context, reveal how baseless that criticism is.

“As the National Park Service celebrates its centennial this year, we thought it was important for Americans to know that what the world now calls ‘America’s best idea’ was not always praised,” said Jennifer Rokala, executive director at the Center for Western Priorities. “Celebrating natural treasures like Yellowstone and Glacier Bay may seem obvious now, but even today, we see politicians determined to exploit rather than protect America’s greatest assets.”

An interactive version of The Wrong Side of History can be viewed at A PDF is available for download and printing

Greg Zimmerman and Jennifer Rokala are available for video and audio interviews about national parks and monuments. To speak with an expert about American public lands, contact media director Aaron Weiss at or 720-279-0019.

The full list of parks and monuments featured in The Wrong Side of History

  • Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

  • Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona

  • Olympic National Park, Washington

  • Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve, Alaska

  • Canyonlands National Park, Utah

  • Redwood National Park, California

  • Rio Grande Del Norte National Monument, New Mexico

  • Greater Grand Ganyon Heritage National Monument (Proposed), Arizona

  • Bears Ears National Monument (Proposed), Utah