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Interior head suggests reducing Bears Ears National Monument

Interior head suggests reducing Bears Ears National Monument”

Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke talks to reporters before departing Kanab Airport on May 10, 2017, in Kanab, Utah.

The recommendation comes as part of an executive order Trump signed in April calling for a review of all national monument designations signed since 1996.

"The review shows that rather than designating an area encompassing nearly 1.5 million acres as a national monument, it would have been more appropriate to identify and separate the areas that have significant objects to be protected" the secretary's report reads.

Despite the almost unanimous sentiment among the general public who commented, Zinke chose to ignore the findings entirely in his official report to the president and instead pointed to the handful of comments received from industry-friendly Utah politicians who oppose Bears Ears to justify his bold recommendations. Obama did so after the failure of the Utah delegation to pass their own legislation to further preserve the federal lands around the Bears Ears region. President Obama designated the 1.3 million acre monument in December.

No president has ever used his authority to eliminate a monument, or to reduce one at the scale proposed by Zinke.

Well, now I think it's safe to say Ryan Zinke has made up his mind about a president's legal authority under the Antiquities Act to redraw the monument boundaries.

In his findings, which he presented to Trump on Saturday, Zinke says that many areas of the monument merit protection, such as areas of importance to tribes for traditional cultural practices, but that those areas should be separated out and the monument should be reduced to the "smallest area compatible with proper care and management of the objects to be protected".

"If the administration moves forward with that plan, this decision will be challenged in court and if they put this plan before Congress I will fight him every step of the way", said Udall, who called Zinke's "recommendations and the lack of transparency leading up to this point ... deeply disrespectful and insulting".

Zinke said he will ask Congress to authorize the tribes co-manage the land.

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

"That's a slap in the face of Native Americans", said Mark Maryboy, a former San Juan County commissioner. This maneuver clearly exposes the actual motivation behind the review: to erode protections for these lands and open them up for extractive degradation and private profit. The administration's recommendations are directly against the wishes of the overwhelming majority of Americans - and also in direct conflict with the Antiquities Act and the Wilderness Act - making a mockery of the claimed public process and the good faith of these recommendations.

The review also targets five marine monuments in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.

Instead of the monument designation, which prevents a range of development, Zinke said some of the sprawling, 1.3 million-acre site should be designated for conservation or recreation.

The former Montana congressman's decision was awaited as an early test of how the administration will treat public lands issues, in this case balancing the interests of Native Americans, who consider Bears Ears sacred land, and other locals who oppose tough restrictions on other activities. The Republican-controlled Congress has failed to approve a significant public lands bill in recent years, but Zinke said that was because of veto threats by Obama.

Zinke said he will give a final recommendation, with specifics regarding acreage, when he has completed his review of the other monuments, as directed by the presidential executive order.

Associated Press writes Brady McCombs in Salt Lake City contributed to this story.

Be Civil - It's OK to have a difference in opinion but there's no need to be a jerk.



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