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Interior head suggests reducing Bears Ears National Monument

13 Juin 2017

After a 45-day review, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said on a conference call Monday his office is recommending that President Donald Trump re-draw Bears Ears National Monument's boundary-though it's still up in the air how much land he wants to shave from the 1.3-million-acre monument. The order directs a special review of over 20 National Monuments designated since 1996, which could lead to the elimination of protections for millions of acres of public land, including Bears Ears and the newly expanded Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument in southern Oregon.

On Monday, Zinke told reporters he didn't hastily come to his recommendation, but rather came it after traveling the land "by air, by vehicle, by foot and by horseback".

A coalition of Native American groups and outdoor industry retailers such as Patagonia were in favor of the monument.

The Mojave Desert Land Trust (MDLT) is a 501 (c)(3) non-profit organization with the mission to protect and care for lands with natural, scenic and cultural value within the Mojave Desert. Trump called the Bears Ears designation an "egregious abuse of federal power" and a "massive federal land grab".

Kathleen Sgamma, president of the Western Energy Alliance, representing oil and gas companies, said Zinke's approach was sensible. Additionally, none of these changes have taken place since the passing of the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976, which affirmed that only Congress has the authority to modify federal lands.

Comey, who at the time was the nation's top criminal investigator, made a decision to take notes after his unusually frequent meetings with Trump, he said, because of the "nature of the person" he was dealing with. "For the Administration to then ignore that broad showing of support and recommend reducing the boundaries of Bears Ears is both disappointing and baffling".

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A final report with recommendations for all 27 monuments, including Bears Ears, identified in the Executive Order is due to Trump on August 24.

Herbert and other Utah Republicans oppose Obama's designation of the Bears Ears National Monument. He also met for a shorter time with supporters of the site.

"They say that all the access will be the same, that we'll be able to get our wood, that the grazing rights will stay the same", Nicole Holliday, who comes from a ranching family in nearby Blanding, Utah, previously told CBC News. Lastly, Zinke asked Congress to clarify the legal relationship between wilderness study areas that exist within a monument and the management practices of the monument itself. Zinke also would like Congress to review which lands should be national conservation areas and which should be set aside for recreation.

Looting and desecration of these sites was one of the primary reasons the previous administration cited for adding additional federal protections in the area.

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. CNN reported at the time that the Federal Bureau of Investigation denied Priebus' request, although White House press secretary Sean Spicer said at the time that the White House was simply asking the Federal Bureau of Investigation "to tell the truth" in response to reports about Trump campaign communications with Russian officials.

Asked Monday if the White House thought Sessions should invoke executive privilege to avoid answering questions about his conversations with Trump, presidential spokesman Sean Spicer replied, "It depends on the scope of the questions".