Trump and National Monuments

President Trump has made his first national monument designation as President of the United States. Last Friday, it was announced that Camp Nelson in Kentucky has been designated as a national monument. Camp Nelson began as a Union Army supply depot and hospital during the Civil War. It became one of the largest recruitment and training centers for African American soldiers who joined the Union Army during that period. Many of those who enlisted escaped slavery in the south and risked their lives to go to Camp Nelson in order to fight against the Confederacy. The designation will transfer care and responsibility for the carefully preserved site from the county government to the federal government for administration and oversight by the National Park Service (NPS), which oversees all national monuments. The designation of a national monument is made under the authority of the Antiquities Act and is announced through a Presidential Proclamation.

Camp Nelson was first designated as a national historic landmark, under the Historic Preservation Act, in 2013. In late 2017, Secretary Ryan Zinke identified Camp Nelson as one possible new site to designate as a national monument. The NPS accepted public comment on designation of Camp Nelson as a national monument in August of 2018. In preparation for a national monument designation, the ownership of the property was transferred from Jessamine County Kentucky to the American Battlefield Trust, who in turn donated the land to the National Park Service. The ownership transfers were an important part of the process, since the Antiquities Act requires federal ownership of lands that are designated as national monuments.

This move to add to the national monuments is in stark contrast to previous decisions of the Trump Presidency in regards to national monument lands. Back in December of 2017, the administration reduced the size of two national monuments by about 2 million acres in southern Utah. The Bear Ears National Monument and the Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments. The move created five separate smaller national monuments and reduced the amount of protected federal land. The Administration claimed that the reduction in size was a correction for an overreach by previous Presidents in creating the national monuments and would provide more local control for the region.

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