Joy Villa: Mr. Trump, please hear my heartfelt plea

Those who know me know I love and support this president. They should also know I love America’s greatest natural treasure— our public lands. This includes our spectacular national parks and national monuments. 

I was blessed to grow up on the Central Coast of California just a few hours away from Sequoia National Forest, swimming off “The World’s Safest Beach” in Carpenteria, enjoying the region’s natural bounty at the strawberry and avocado festivals of Lompoc and Santa Barbara and hiking through the stunning hills of Santa Maria.

When I was growing up, I spent a majority of my time around nature appreciating the remarkable diversity of California’s public lands. From eight years old and beyond my life was active and adventurous, using the gorgeous beaches and parks as my playgrounds. I’d imagine myself an explorer finding new worlds in the fresh air and greenery of camping in the Mendocino forests, learning survival skills and gaining physical strength hiking paths, climbing trees and rolling on grassy hills. 

Our wide, open spaces are the basis of American culture, their beauty captured in our music, art and literature. Nature inspired me to write the poetry and music I make today. Like our Constitution these shared landscapes are characteristically and beautifully American.

Our national monuments honor our past and our future but now that is all in jeopardy.

President Trump has a remarkable opportunity to honor our history, our national treasures and our culture. I urge him in this vital time to leave protections for our national monuments in place and to use the Antiquities Act to preserve our lands and waters.

Republican President Theodore Roosevelt designated the first national monuments as a gift to future generations with the Antiquities Act, and in the last hundred years, fifteen other presidents -- Republicans and Democrats alike -- have used it to conserve iconic landscapes.

President Franklin Roosevelt said, "There is nothing so American as our national parks.... The fundamental idea behind the parks...is that the country belongs to the people, that it is in process of making for the enrichment of the lives of all of us."

Without the Antiquities Act we wouldn’t have the Grand Canyon, the Statue of Liberty or the Giant Sequoia National Monument.

Now, however, we are seeing an attempt by egotistical politicians to weaken the Antiquities Act, a landmark law, and strip protections from some of the most valuable lands, a birthright owned by all Americans.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke recently advised the president to significantly shrink two national monuments in Utah, and the beautiful Cascade-Siskiyou is likely next on the chopping block. I love President Trump and truly believe in Making America Great Again, but Secretary Zinke is wrong to think we can do that by weakening one of the bedrocks of our country’s heritage.

Among other monuments, Secretary Zinke previously announced recommendations to strip acreage from Cascade Siskiyou— protected public land which runs from Oregon to California— and open it up for potential extraction and corporate development. And it doesn’t stop there. At least ten more national land and ocean monuments across the nation are at risk to be given up for corporate interest.

Does taking away our lands benefit the American people and their children? Not at all.

Secretary Zinke has been influenced by special interests and out of touch career politicians. I can assure you that Zinke can’t pull the wool over the president’s eyes; many have tried and many have found themselves without a job.

Late last year, over one thousand American military leaders from all ranks and branches signed a letter to President Trump asking him to reconsider his plans to shrink the monuments. Our veterans fight to protect our freedoms and our public lands, places that define American heritage and history.

My family is a strong military family, my father was a Vietnam War Army veteran, my aunt was a Marine captain and many of my cousins and close friends served their country proudly. They and countless other heroes fought to protect our nation from sea to shining sea and I am joining their fight to continue this protection.

President Trump has a remarkable opportunity to honor our history, our national treasures and our culture. I urge him in this vital time to leave protections for our national monuments in place and to use the Antiquities Act to preserve our lands and waters.

I was fortunate enough to grow up in wondrous natural beauty and we can’t let our legacy fade. Let’s ensure America’s children continue to know that this land is our land and it is worth protecting.

Joy Villa is an award-winning recording artist, political activist, and a member of American Monuments Alliance. You can find her at www.joyvilla.com.