Trump Administration Wants To Shrink Bears Ears National Monument

Trump Administration Wants To Shrink Bears Ears National Monument

Trump Administration Wants To Shrink Bears Ears National Monument

At noon on Monday, June 12, Secretary of the Interior, Ryan Zinke, briefed the press on his interim report on the Bears Ears National Monument which he delivered to President Trump over the weekend.

Sec. Zinke added, "Co-management will be absolutely key going forward, and I recommend that the monument, and especially the areas of significant cultural interest, be co-managed by the Tribal nations".

But Zinke's 45-day review of the monument that Trump requested in April found that some areas in Bears Ears would be better protected by congressional designations for wilderness or recreation areas.

A public comment period for Bears Ears and the other national monuments will be open until July 10, to be followed by Zinke's final recommendations to Trump.

"Specifically the review shows that rather than designating an 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 significant objects to be protected to meet the purposes of the Act", the document read.

Zinke's interim review of Bears Ears, which is named after a pair of mesas in south-eastern Utah surrounded by land considered of historical and cultural importance by local tribes, does not suggest a size the monument should be reduced to but notes that the area could be used for activities including mining, grazing, logging and hunting.

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Because of public pressure from Republicans in Utah, Trump expedited the review of Bears Ears.

He indicated that the actual Bears Ears geological structure, numerous historic tribal dwellings and historic artifacts in proximity to the structure, and the area of Newspaper Rocks and north would all likely be kept as national monument land. "Bears Ears was deserving of national monument designation, just as the Grand Canyon, Statue of Liberty and Muir Woods were, and remains so today". President Trump had called for a review of that decision, and Zinke's recommendation is being watched closely as an indicator of how the Trump administration will treat public acres. "I find that the Bear Ears National Monument does not fully conform with the policies set forth" in Trump's executive order. "I may be the most popular individual in the world, or I may be the most unpopular position in the world, but it's a job that - I can't be more thrilled being the secretary of interior", Zinke said.

Experts questioned the president's authority to change a standing monument's designation, but they said Congress has full authority to modify, revoke or rescind a national monument.

The secretary did not say how much of the land would be removed under his proposed recommendations, despite repeatedly being pressed for specifics. Although Bears Ears National Monument is over 1.3 million acres, Sec. Zinke said there are some antiquities within the monument that he believes deserve to be respected, but he thinks those drawings, archeological sites, etc. can be "reasonably separated" from the rest of the monument area. Under the original Obama proclamation, tribes only had an advisory role in managing Bears Ears. "Our people and our leaders have spent endless hours working to protect these lands through monument designation".

Conservation organizations Earthjustice, the National Wildlife Federation and Patagonia voiced their strong opposition to Zinke's recommendation, with NWF CEO Collin O'Mara saying that the decision was "disappointing and baffling". The administration's recommendations are directly against the wishes of the overwhelming majority of Americans - and also in direct conflict with the Antiquities Act and the Wilderness Act - making a mockery of the claimed public process and the good faith of these recommendations.

Maine's monument is one of 27 across the country designated by the Obama administration that Trump ordered Zinke to review.

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