Silence from the talking heads on the alphabet networks.
President Donald Trump on Friday used his executive powers for the first time to designate a national monument, establishing a 380-acre site in Kentucky to honor African-Americans’ role as soldiers during the Civil War.
The move won praise from local activists and conservationists but also criticism from several environmental groups, which noted Trump had used this same authority under the 1906 Antiquities Act last year to downsize two existing national monuments in Utah.
Republicans had pushed for more than a year to establish a national monument at Camp Nelson in Nicholasville, Ky., which served as one of the largest recruitment and training depots for United States Colored Troops. While Kentucky was the last state in the Union to allow the enlistment of African-American men, the camp sent 23,000 of the roughly 180,000 black troops who fought on the Union’s side during the Civil War.
“During the war, thousands of enslaved African Americans risked their lives escaping to Camp Nelson, out of a deep desire for freedom and the right of self-determination,” Trump declared in the proclamation he signed Friday.
Jim Fryer, a retired Navy senior chief petty officer and descendant of men who fought in the U.S. Colored Troops, said in a statement Saturday, “These are hallowed grounds here, let it be a park, let it remain a park.”
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, who last year recommended that Trump designate the site as a national monument, celebrated the announcement Saturday in an event in Kentucky attended by dozens of activists and Rep. Garland “Andy” Barr, R-Ky., who authored legislation to recognize it.
“Camp Nelson, and all the patriots who have ties to it, holds an incredible place in America’s history, and President Trump’s action to designate Camp Nelson as a national monument will ensure the ongoing protection of the site and the story,” Zinke said in a statement, adding that he thanked the president “for using the Antiquities Act as it was truly intended.”
Barr hailed the news in a tweet Saturday, sharing photos of himself and Zinke at the ceremony. “I am proud to advocate for Camp Nelson, a site which has the ability to unite the American people,” he said.