On March 13, the President of the United States declared a national emergency over the novel coronavirus, COVID-19. Since that date, America has confronted a crisis of historic extent and peril. COVID-19 has infected over a million Americans. Despite the heroic efforts of our doctors, nurses, and first responders, the disease has killed tens of thousands of our fellow citizens. Because of its deadly and highly contagious nature, our country has taken extraordinary measures to limit the spread of the disease, including shuttering schools, museums, businesses, places of worship, performance venues, social gatherings, and even entire States, towns, and local communities. This nationwide effort to staunch the contagion has resulted in unprecedented economic disruption, with millions of Americans losing their jobs and businesses left reeling from a lack of customers.
The Lincoln Memorial holds a special place on the list of America's revered and iconic national monuments. Inside the Memorial, above a statue of our 16th President, are inscribed the following words: "In this temple, as in the hearts of the people for whom he saved the Union, the memory of Abraham Lincoln is enshrined forever." The Memorial serves as an enduring symbol of the strength and permanence of our federal union, as well as a testament to the character and resiliency of the American people in the face of tragedy. In this grave time of national crisis, the Memorial is a uniquely appropriate place from which our President can communicate an official message to the American people.
The Property Clause of the United States Constitution gives the federal government complete authority over the management of its own land. As the Secretary of the Interior, I am charged with the supervision of public business relating to a wide range of subjects and agencies, including the National Park Service (NPS).
Acting pursuant to the broad authority granted to the Secretary of the Interior by Congress in the NPS Organic Act, 54 U.S.C. § 100101 et seq., the National Park Service has promulgated various regulations governing the administration of federally owned lands and waters and certain other lands and waters within units of the National Park System. Those regulations include 36 C.F.R. § 1.5, which provide for the establishment of public use limits, including closures in appropriate circumstances.
Given the extraordinary crisis that the American people have endured, and the need for the President to exercise a core governmental function to address the Nation about an ongoing public-health crisis, I am exercising my authority to facilitate the opportunity for the President to conduct this address within the Lincoln Memorial, by directing a partial security-based closure of portions of the Lincoln Memorial, consistent with the regulations at 36 C.F.R. § 1.5. This record of determination documents the planned use by the President (and associated closures to the general public, for reasons of Presidential security) of portions of the Lincoln Memorial during the evening of Sunday, May 3, 2020. I have concluded that 36 C.F.R. §7.96(g)(3) and (4) are inapplicable.
Understandably, the President has, very deliberatively, made the decision to address this national crisis at the Lincoln Memorial. I anticipate his doing so will illuminate and reflect the values of our Nation during an unprecedented public-health crisis. Such an action will allow the President and the Nation to use Lincoln's powerful presence and the solemnity of the Memorial to reflect on and draw from our Nation's better angels, and to remind all of us that we can knit our often-divided Nation together in a time of trial.
Other than restrictions that either (1) have been specifically requested by the Secret Service for purposes of Presidential security, or (2) are already in place as a result of the ongoing pandemic, there will be no additional changes to public access to the areas surrounding the Lincoln Memorial. To that end, without the need for any permit, the public may assemble in small groups immediately outside the area of the regulatory restricted zone and outside the overlapping security closure area temporarily requested for the evening of May 3 by letter dated May 1, 2020 from the Secret Service, on the conditions set forth in the Superintendent's Record of Determination for the Temporary Closure of Public Facilities, Parking and Roads to Prevent the Spread of COVID-19, dated April 28, 2020. These closures are necessary to effectuate the security of the President during his communication with the American people and are consistent with local and Federal guidelines regarding the ongoing public-health crisis. The closure effectuated here will allow this important ceremonial occasion to occur while protecting the public's and the President's health and safety.
This temporary closure is not of a nature, magnitude and duration that will result in a significant alteration in the public use pattern. The temporary closures will not adversely affect the park's natural, aesthetic, or cultural values, nor require significant modification to the resource management objections.
The Secretary determines publication of this determination as rulemaking in the Federal Register is unwarranted under 36 C.F.R. § 1.S(b). Pursuant to 36 C.F.R § 1.S(e), notice of this temporary closure will be provided in accordance with section 1.7 of that chapter. This will include a media advisory and an alert posted on the park webpage. Finally, pursuant to 36 C.F.R. § 1.S(c), this determination is available to the public upon request.
Secretary of the Interior
Last updated: May 3, 2020