Trimming monument in Utah pleases Republicans, angers tribes

Cheryl Sanders
June 14, 2017

Interior Department Secretary Ryan Zinke has submitted an interim report to President Donald Trump recommending to delay a final decision to rescind, alter or maintain the Bears Ears National Historic Monument until later this year, a spokeswoman said Monday.

National monument designations add protections for lands revered for their natural beauty and historical significance with the goal of preserving them for future generations.

To view the full article, register now. Monuments have been downsized by presidents before, but only in special circumstances: In 1915, Woodrow Wilson reduced the size of the Mount Olympus National Monument to create a timber supply for WWI.

This time around, however, the so-called Public Lands Initiative, a similar kind of omnibus compromise that aimed for both robust public land protections and development opportunities, faltered in Congress. That's also for weighing in on 26 other national monuments that Zinke is reviewing and on possible changes to the Antiquities Act, the law that allows presidents to create national monuments without input from Congress.

Tucked between existing national parks and the Navajo Nation, the monument is on land considered sacred to a coalition of tribes and is home to an estimated 100,000 archaeological sites, including ancient cliff dwellings. 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.

He said he hopes the president takes the recommendation to reduce the size of Bears Ears seriously.

Many of Utah's elected officials have been beating the anti-monument drum since Day 1, so it's no surprise then that the state delegation, as well as Gov. Gary Herbert, met this news with glee.

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

Monday's recommendations from Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to revise the boundaries of the Bears Ears National Monument strike an important balance and align with the original intent of the Antiquities Act.

But Zinke's memo appears to presume that Trump has that authority, since it recommends that the boundary "be revised through the use of appropriate authority, including lawful exercise of the president's authority granted by the Act".

"The recommendations were not made in a bubble in Washington D.C".

Zinke did not specify how much he'd like to see the boundaries of the monument reduced, calling that premature.

The group called Zinke's recommendation "illegal" and meant "to turn back the clock one hundred years on tribal relations and Utah's economy".

Designated by President Barack Obama in September 2016, the Atlantic Ocean's first marine national monument consists of almost 5,000 square miles of underwater canyons and mountains off the New England coast. But in defending the decision to shrink Bears Ears, Secretary Zinke told reporters that "If you look at the Bears Ears as a whole, there's a lot more drop-dead gorgeous land than there are historic, prehistoric objects". This action sets in motion what many legal scholars agree is an illegal attempt to remove protections for the national monument in Utah.

Jennifer Rokala, executive director of the conservation group Western Priorities, called the suggestions an "undeniable attack on our national monuments and America's public lands". A national monument designation under the Antiquities Act of 1906 has never been rescinded.

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