Thursday, 24 May, 2018

Interior head suggests reducing Bears Ears National Monument

Francis Olson | 13 June, 2017, 04:33

U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said on Monday he has recommended that President Donald Trump reduce the size of the Bears Ears National Monument in Utah - a move that drew quick fire from conservationists but was supported by mining and drilling interests.

In a release following the call, Zinke said, "Designating a monument that - including state land - encompasses nearly 1.5 million-acres where multiple-use management is hindered or prohibited is not the best use of the land".

He also suggests working with Congress to enable Native American tribes to co-manage cultural areas.

"Specifically, the review shows that rather than designating an entire area encompassing nearly 1.5 million acres as a national monument, it would have been more appropriate to identify and separate the areas that have signficant objects to be protected", the memorandum reads, "to meet the purposes of the (Antiquities Act), including the area reserved be limited to the smallest area compatible with proper care and management of the objects".

The Utah congressional delegation had urged the Trump administration to overturn the Obama designation, and Grand Stairway-Escalante National Monument designated in 1996 by President Bill Clinton.

We look forward to the ongoing partnership with the Department of the Interior to preserve our lands, protect traditional use, increase local management, and secure economic opportunity for all Utah citizens.

The interior secretary was ordered to undertake the review of Bears Ears and several other monuments throughout the nation on April 27, when President Trump issued an executive order demanding a wholesale comprehensive review.

"It's gotten worse and worse and worse, and now we're going to free it up", Trump said at the time.

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As the Guardian noted, since the Antiquities Act was created in 1906, giving the president power to declare areas of land or ocean to be protected, no president in history has ever used it to scale back national monuments. "The man charged with protecting public lands just told the public their voices don't count". No president has previously scaled back or scrapped a national monument, meaning that Trump is nearly certain to face a legal challenge if he chooses to do so.

Zinke was directed by President Donald Trump in an executive order to take a look at the considerations that went into the 1.35 million acre designation made late past year by former President Barack Obama.

Zinke toured Bears Ears last month on foot, horseback and helicopter and met with Utah Gov. Gary Herbert and other state leaders. He did not have an estimate on how much the monument could be reduced.

"I think what we've lost sight of is the process", Zinke said to a teleconference press briefing.

"I have enormous respect for tribes", Zinke said, adding that he supports Native American efforts to restore "sovereignty, respect and self-determination". He also is calling on Congress to give Native American tribes more say in how the new monument is managed.

Because of public pressure from Republicans in Utah, Trump expedited the review of Bears Ears. This larger comment period will remain open until July 10 and includes the review of the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument.

Conservation groups quickly slammed Zinke's recommendations.

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