In late April, we showed you the 25 United States National Monuments whose size and existence was under review by Department of Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. One of the most well known and discussed was Bears Ears National Monument, a 1.3 million acre parcel of protected land in Utah. President Obama created the Monument in his waning days as president, and the monument quickly became the central battleground between environmental groups and the current administration.
President Trump ordered Zinke to review the 25 National Monuments looking for evidence of “an egregious abuse of power” and a “massive federal land grab.” Based on the controversy surrounding Bears Ears, Zinke immediately made this his first Monument review. His initial recommendation came down today, and it’s not good.
If you don’t want to read the whole post, essentially, Secretary Zinke has determined that, while the land is beautiful, 1.3 million acres of protection is overkill. He recommends that Congress “revise the existing boundaries” of Bears Ears and asked Congress to lay out how the remaining parts of the monument will be managed.
In the report, he asks that Congress grant tribal officials co-management of “designated cultural resources”. Not believing the entire monument should be conservation land, he also asks that Congress “make more appropriate conservation designations.”
The announcement has sent an immediate backlash to the Secretary’s Facebook page as well as the Department of Interior Facebook page, which is being managed by social media employees who miss the days when their job was to share photos of America’s beautiful protected lands, not be caught in the middle of this deeply unpopular recommendation.
Strangely, after the recommendation has already been handed down, the Department of Interior has extended the public comment period, leading people to wonder what good commenting their opinions will do with a administration that has clearly already made up their mind about the future of Bears Ears.
Lawsuits were promised by both environmental and Native American groups, setting up the stage for a lengthy battle, which is already beginning despite the fact that Secretary Zinke asked for the decision to be put on hold until the formal review of all of the Monuments is completed.
What do you think of Zinke’s recommendation? Do you think the lawsuits have a chance of halting the downsizing of Bears Ears National Monument? Let us know in the comments.
All photos by Bob Wick, used under Creative Commons from the Bureau of Land Management Flickr page.