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Interior Secretary Zinke Proposes Shrinking Bears Ears Monument

13 Juin 2017

Ryan Zinke, the USA interior secretary, has recommended to Donald Trump that Bears Ears national monument in Utah be reduced in size to the "smallest area compatible" with its conservation.

Zinke's report also included several recommendations directed at Congress, including enabling tribal co-management of the monument.

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. The Democratic attorney general's statements supporting the 87,500-acre monument also puts her squarely at odds with Republican Gov. Paul LePage, who successfully lobbied the Trump administration to review the designation.

Zinke said on a conference call that he had submitted his report on Bears Ears to the White House on Saturday, under an executive order calling for reviews of 22 national monuments and five marine monuments around the country created by the Antiquities Act.

Despite broad public support from Native American tribes, business leaders, the outdoor recreation industry, conservationists, many elected officials and more than a million Americans from coast to coast, the Trump administration is recommending actions that could threaten the future of the Bears Ears National Monument in Utah. He did say the boundary would still include the actual Bears Ears geological formation and cultural sights that receive the most traffic. In the century since its passage, presidents have used the law to protect millions of acres of public lands, from the Grand Canyon to the Muir Woods in Marin County.

"Certainly, rescinding the monument was an option, but there are some antiquities within the monument that deserve to be protected", Zinke said Monday.

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Kathleen Sgamma, president of the Western Energy Alliance, representing oil and gas companies, said Zinke's approach was sensible.

Zinke added, "Co-management will be absolutely key going forward and I recommend that the monument, and especially the areas of significant cultural interest, be co-managed by the Tribal nations".

But Congress has not proven their ability to pass legislation to protect Bears Ears. Rob Bishop (R) and Jason Chaffetz (R) meant to protect Bears Ears legislatively, was a years-long effort that didn't even make it out of the House. In the weeks that followed, Rep. Grijalva (D-AZ) also tried to receive further clarification on this front but failed to get a response. It doesn't reference any maps or specify legislative language. He referenced a memo that noted there would be a more detailed report to come. But he suggests holding off on a final decision on the region until a review of 26 other monuments is complete in late August.

Mills on Monday issued a news release and a copy of the comments filed with the Department of Interior about the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument, less than 36 hours before Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke's Wednesday visit to ME, as part of a federal review of whether it was created legally.

For that reason, Utah leaders pleaded with the Obama administration to refrain from a monument designation and instead allow protections for antiquities to play out in some other fashion.