Trump Administration Wants To Shrink Bears Ears National Monument

Terry Joseph
June 13, 2017

Zinke recommended that the new national monument in Utah be reduced in size and said Congress should step in to designate how selected areas of the 1.3 million-acre site are managed.

Bears Ears, totaling 1.35-million-acres and designated a National Monument in December by President Barack Obama, was hotly contested well before the designation.

Zinke said he will issue a final report in late August, when he is due to make recommendations on Bears Ears and 21 other national monuments on federal land in 11 states, including Grand Staircase-Escalante in Utah, Giant Sequoia in California, Nevada's Basin and Range and Katahdin Woods and Waters in Maine.

"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, including that the area reserved be limited to the smallest area compatible with the proper care and management of the objects", Zinke wrote.

The Bears Ears designation was supported by environmentalists and the leaders of many native tribes in the region, including the Navajo Nation, but was opposed by Utah's governor, the state's congressional delegation and some local residents.

He called on Congress to approve a land-management bill for Bears Ears and other federal lands.

Zinke sent the interim report suggesting that BENM's boundaries be redrawn consistent with the 1906 Antiquities Act. The preliminary report is the first step of a larger review of more than two dozen national monuments that protect USA public lands, mostly in the West.

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"There is a lot more drop-dead gorgeous land than there is historic landmarks, historic structures and other objects", Zinke said.

Zinke visited Bear Ears in May, meeting with different stakeholders in the fight over Bears Ears, including a host of Native American tribes who have long viewed parts of the land sacred.

Zinke's proposal basically revives Congressman Rob Bishop's Public Lands Initiative, with legislation in the works for expanding national conservation areas and tinkering with wilderness. Under the original Obama proclamation, tribes only had an advisory role in managing Bears Ears. 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.

Zinke will also ask Congress to explore using other designations on some of the land, including the establishment of designated recreation areas or conservation areas.

Zinke did not make recommendations on the 27 other national monuments now under review, including Gold Butte and Basin and Range in Nevada.

Zinke said on a call with reporters Monday that rescinding Bears Ear's status "was an option", but that he believes there are "some antiquities within the monument that deserve protecting".

A letter signed by 71 environment and natural resource lawyers said a White House executive order that authorized the review incorrectly implied the Trump administration has the authority to rescind or modify national monuments created by previous presidents.

Other reports by Free-Prsite

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