BOSTON — When Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke visits the Boston area on Friday, environmentalists plan to greet him by rallying for the preservation of national monuments that are under review by the Trump administration.
The former Montana congressman has an 11 a.m. press event at a Legal Sea Foods location, according to his office. The Bay State visit could also afford the interior secretary a chance to meet with the state’s top Republican, Gov. Charlie Baker, although nothing has been announced.
The fishing industry opposed President Barack Obama’s 2016 designation of the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument on a roughly 4,900 square-mile area south of Cape Cod. The Obama administration had earlier removed Cashes Ledge, which sits about 80 miles off of Gloucester, from consideration as a possible site for the new national marine monument.
State Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Matt Beaton told the News Service in May that he hopes there will be modifications to the Seamounts monument, which restricts fishing in the area about 150 miles off the coast of Cape Cod, but did not specify his preferences.
Environmentalists worry the review ordered by President Donald Trump in April could be a precursor to rolling back restrictions on natural lands and waters.
According to a Zinke press aide, the secretary on Friday will meet with a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officials and officials from the New England Aquarium about marine wildlife around the monument. The secretary will then attend a roundtable meeting with lobstermen and fishermen about the impact of the monument designation on their industry.
The secretary will join the National Park Service for a tour of Boston Harbor and a number of park sites in the afternoon, according to the aide. The oldest commissioned ship in the U.S. Navy, the U.S.S. Constitution, is overseen by the Navy in cooperation with the National Parks Service at the old Charlestown Navy Yard. Zinke’s visit will also coincide with the opening ceremony of Sail Boston, a highly secured event expected to draw scores of onlookers.
Aides to Baker and Beaton did not respond to questions about whether the Bay State officials would be meeting with the cabinet secretary.
The Sierra Club, which is organizing a 1 p.m. “Save Our Public Lands” rally on the State House steps, supports Obama’s designation of the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine Monument.
The Environmental League of Massachusetts (ELM) Action Fund on Thursday launched a campaign “engaging people in their communities, in the halls of power, and online” to keep the marine monument designation. The campaign will involve organizers “hitting the streets” at farmers markets and other events, calls to environmental supporters, and ads on Twitter and Facebook, according to the organization.
“It is essential to protect these areas in order to maintain healthy New England ecosystems and preserve the lands for future generations,” said Joe O’Brien, political director for ELM, in a statement.
The Habitat Committee of the New England Fishery Management Council, which helps regulate the fishing industry, recommended the council submit a formal comment about its concerns for the marine monument review. The full council will meet in Portland, Maine, next Thursday to discuss the committee’s recommendation.
“The councils are the ones that are involved in opening and closing areas to fishing so we really want a seat at the table” of the review, Council Chairman John Quinn told the News Service last month.
Zinke this week has been on a four-day swing through New England, visiting New Hampshire, Maine and Connecticut before Friday’s visit to Boston.
The Conservation Law Foundation on Thursday sent an open letter to Zinke, welcoming him to New England and advocating for preserving the marine monument and the Katahdin Woods and Waters Monument in Maine.
“The Obama Administration listened to commercial fishermen and reduced the proposed boundaries to the minimum area required to sufficiently protect the scientifically important area,” the environmental group wrote. The letter said, “Rolling back protections or shrinking the size of New England’s national monuments would not just be unpopular — it would sacrifice some of our region’s most special and vulnerable lands and waters. Any changes to our monuments would put our natural, cultural, and scientific resources at risk.”
The Trump administration has alleged that Obama and other presidents abused the powers granted under the Antiquities Act and says its review of certain land and marine monuments will give people affected by the designations an opportunity to speak up.
An executive order issued by Trump on April 26 called for a review of all monument declarations made since Jan. 1, 1996, that cover more than 100,000 acres or where the secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior determines that the designation “was made without adequate public outreach and coordination with relevant stakeholders.”