Downsizing Utah monument pleases Republicans, angers tribes

Interior Sec. Ryan Zinke is recommending President Trump scale back portions of the Bears Ears National Monument, saying that the Antiquities Act should be used to protect the "smallest area" needed to cover important sites.

The report and review of Bears Ears National Monument are the result of an Executive Order signed by Trump in April aimed at revoking or shrinking 27 national monuments.

While Zinke wasn't explicit in specifying to what extent he believed Bears Ears should be reduced, the reaction to his recommendation to the President was immediate from the outdoor community, with many criticizing the fact that the decision to resize Bears Ears goes against a majority of the public input the government has received on the matter.

Sen. Orrin Hatch, a Utah Republican, said Monday he was "encouraged" by Zinke's report and heralded the secretary's "thoughtful and inclusive" review.

"Diminishing protections for the Bears Ears National Monument is an affront to the sovereign Tribal Nations whose cultural heritage is at risk". Every part of the Monument holds "historic landmarks, historic and prehistoric structures, and other objects of historic and scientific interest" as called for by the Antiquities Act. He also suggests working with Congress to enable Native American tribes to co-manage cultural areas.

Zinke's final recommendations on Bears Ears and 26 other national monuments in the administration's review aren't expected until later this summer.

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.

It's not like Zinke didn't have the raw materials for a full report; he visited the site and solicited public comment on Bears Ears, receiving 76,500 comments.

The Interior Department's press office did not respond Tuesday to KUER's request for comment. Not only is this entire national monument review process unnecessary and a waste of taxpayer dollars, President Trump does not have the legal authority to act on these recommendations.

President Donald Trump ordered the monument review based on the notion that presidents increasingly are protecting areas that are too large and do not fit the law's goal of shielding particular historical or archaeological sites.

In total, the Interior Department will review 22 monuments which are greater than 100,000 acres and where questions exist over whether the designations by previous presidents were appropriate and consistent with the Antiquities Act of 1906.

A number of groups have said they intend to sue the Trump administration if they rescind the national monument status. "Our people and our leaders have spent endless hours working to protect these lands through monument designation".

But just as there has been a vocal push to de-list the monument, there has been an equally vocal opposition, made up of Native American tribes and environmental and conservation groups.

Noting the contentious nature of the monument designation, Zinke called on Congress to approve a land-management bill for Bears Ears and other federal lands.

  • Zachary Reyes