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Interior Secretary Calls For Reduction In Size Of Bears Ears National Monument


Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke believes Bears Ears National Monument should be reduced in acreage/BLM

Bears Ears National Monument in Utah is unnecessarily large at 1.35 million acres, according to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, who has recommended to President Trump that the monument be reduced in size, but not abolished.

How much of a reduction in acreage remains to be determined, the secretary told reporters Monday.

“The goal is to protect the historic and prehistoric structures, for sure. It’s a little premature to throw out an acreage," he said.

In an interim report sent to the president Saturday, Secretary Zinke said the monument boundaries should be shifted to focus on preserving cultural and scientific objects in as small an area as necessary, as the Antiquities Act states.

Additionally, he recommended that tribes co-manage the monument, that Congress identify areas within the current monument boundaries that could better serve as national recreation areas or conservation areas, and that Congress clarify "the intent of the management practices of wilderness or WSAs (wilderness study areas) within a monument." That last recommendation was needed, the secretary told reporters, because wilderness protections are more stringent than those provided via a national monument designation.

The Interior secretary told reporters he did not recommend that the monument designated by President Obama near the end of 2016 be abolished because there are cultural and scientific sites that should be protected.

“There is no doubt that there are historic and prehistoric structures and other objects of scientific interest within the Bears Ears Monument. These items and objects can be identified, segregated, and reasonably separated," he said during a half-hour conference call. “Certainly, rescinding the monument was an option, but looking at it, there are some antiquities within the monument that I think deserve to be protected."

Secretary Zinke's recommendation was requested by President Trump back in April. In signing an executive order calling for it, the president said his aim was to "end another egregious abuse of federal power, and to give that power back to the states and to the people where it belongs."

Specifically, President Trump said his predecessor had used the Antiquities Act "to unilaterally put millions of acres of land and water under strict federal control. Eliminating the ability of the people who actually live in those states to decide how best to use that land."

Along with calling for a review of the Bears Ears designation, the president also directed Secretary Zinke to review 26 other monuments designated as long ago as 1996, when President Clinton established the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, which, like Bears Ears, is in southern Utah. 

Secretary Zinke planned to visit Maine later this week to review Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument, which was designated late last year after Roxanne Quimby, the Burt's Bees heiress, donated 87,500 acres of her own land to the Interior Department to create the monument.

By July 10, the Interior secretary is to provide the president with a final report on his views of how the last three presidents have used the Antiquities Act and whether any revisions to monuments they designated should be made.

One key message the secretary made clear in his call with reporters Monday was that the Obama administration had been "heavy handed" in designating Bears Ears without appropriately considering local input. Utah's all-Republican congressional delegation and its governor, also a Republican, had called on President Trump to rescind the monument designation.

Pressed on how small he thought the monument should be, Secretary Zinke declined to give a specific acreage, but focused on the geologic area right around the two buttes known as the Bears Ears, as well as cultural artifacts and sites ranging from Newspaper Rock -- a Utah state historic monument centered on a rock panel with hundreds of Native American petroglyphs on it -- continuing on north an unspecified distance.

"One could argue that those are the areas that stick out among it, and those are the areas we’re going to concentrate on," the secretary said.

He also called for infrastructure that would provide a visitor center, access roads and parking areas, as well as bathroom facilities, and said a management plan needed to be crafted. Law enforcement also was needed to prevent pilfering of sites, said Secretary Zinke.

While the secretary said there was buy-in to his plan from the Utah congressional delegation, the governor, tribal leaders, and local community leaders, others were critical of his decision.

“The Secretary’s report is nonsense. The memo released today doesn’t give any accounting of the public comments the Interior Department received as part of this review process," said U.S. Rep.  Raúl M. Grijalva, the ranking Democrat on the House Natural Resources Committee. "It doesn’t reference any maps or specify legislative language. It doesn’t explain what the president will do regarding Bears Ears. It doesn’t even explain what alleged problem this review is trying to solve.

“If you stack this memo up against the years of administrative work that went into designating Bears Ears, including extensive, detailed consultations with Utah’s elected representatives, it’s not worth the three pieces of paper it’s printed on," the Arizona Democrat added in a written statement. "This is just like health care. Republicans want to wreck everything Barack Obama put in place, but in each case they can’t seem to explain what the real problem is or what they actually plan to do about it.”

Jennifer Rokala, executive director of the Center for Western Priorities, called the secretary's recommendation "an undeniable attack on our national monuments and America's public lands. The decision should be an easy one — more than 1 million Americans, including Utahns by a 9 to 1 margin, have asked President Trump to leave Bears Ears National Monument alone. Instead of reinforcing America’s conservation heritage, Secretary Zinke is recommending President Trump take actions that are both unprecedented and illegal."

"The law is clear: only Congress can modify or erase a national monument. This report, while disappointing, is not a surprise," she added in a statement. "President Trump made it clear the fix was in from the moment he signed the executive order, despite overwhelming public support for national monuments."

Also speaking out against the secretary's recommendations was Trout Unlimited.

“Attempting to remove protections for public lands by diminishing a national monument would be unprecedented in the modern era and may jeopardize other monuments,”said  Corey Fisher, senior policy director for Trout Unlimited’s Sportsmen’s Conservation Project. “President Trump will still need to act on recommendations from the Secretary. We hope that the president sees the folly in such an action and the harm it would cause to our public land legacy and special places.”

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We are in danger of losing a significant portion of our public lands. The Secretary still has not named a new Director and the budget for 2018 is lean and mean. Watch out,      

Cedar Mesa in the Bears Ears NM has thousands of archaeological and cultural sites. How these can be "segregated, and reasonably separated" is beyond me.

This monument, like many others, has always been cast as a "Federal Land Grab" by Orin Hatch and others which it is not.  This is simply a change of federal control and also honors existing treaties, leases and private lands.  The process by which Obama finally made this a monument began back in the 1930s and has involved Utah legislators and the general public; it is not an inpulsive act.  And Zinke's refusal to name a new NPS director is not a good sign--he's doing Trump's dirty work first.  Pathetic. 

Zinke is not the friend of these lands that he tried to convince us of when he first got here.

Good point, Mike Painter.


SHort-sighted. Stingy. Mean spirited. Lack of vision. The Secretary of DOI is from my home state. I am ashamed that he is in a position in D.C. to eviscerate, harm, hurt, chop, knife, and demean our public lands.

"And then they came for me" -

That's the first thing that came to my mind after I heard and read that our secretary of the Interior wants to shrink Bears Ears National Monument in Utah. I had never heard of this monument before.

He'll go after other monument in your state and in my state, in the Southeast where I have been to every national park unit.

Yes, a national monument sometimes turns into a national park - witness Congaree National Park in South Carolina, a jewel in the state.

We need to let our Congress know how dangerous this move might be.

Danny Bernstein 

It appears the oil and gas industry is already drooling over prospects for drilling in Bears Ears area.

From today's Salt Lake Tribune:

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