Sunset in Bears Ears National Monument (Katherine Frey/The Washington Post)
The Washington Post
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke recommended Thursday that President Trump alter at least three national monuments established by his immediate predecessors, including two in Utah, a move expected to reshape federal land and water protections and certain to trigger major legal fights.
In a report Zinke submitted to the White House, the secretary recommended reducing the size of Utah’s Bears Ears National Monument and Grand Staircase-Escalante, as well as Oregon’s Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument, according to multiple individuals briefed on the decision. President Bill Clinton declared the 1.9 million-acre Grand Staircase-Escalante in 1996, while President Barack Obama designated the 1.35 million-acre Bears Ears last year. Cascade-Siskiyou, which now encompasses more than 113,000 acres, was established by Clinton shortly before leaving office and expanded by Obama in January.
Trump had ordered Zinke to examine more than two dozen sites established by three presidents under the 1906 Antiquities Act, including Republican George W. Bush. The nearly four-month process pitted those who have felt marginalized by federal actions over the past 20 years against backers who see the sites as bolstering tourism and recreation while safeguarding important relics, environments and species.
The Interior Department did not release specifics on Zinke’s recommendations, instead releasing a report summary that described each of the 27 protected areas scrutinized as “unique.”
But the secretary’s proposal takes direct aim at a handful of the nation’s most controversial protected areas out West, according to several individuals who asked for anonymity because the report has yet to be made public. Zinke, who had called for revising Bears Ears’ boundaries in an interim report in June, is recommending a “significant” reduction in the size of the monument, an administration official said.
“No President should use the authority under the Antiquities Act to restrict public access, prevent hunting and fishing, burden private land, or eliminate traditional land uses, unless such action is needed to protect the object,” Zinke said in a statement. “The recommendations I sent to the president on national monuments will maintain federal ownership of all federal land and protect the land under federal environmental regulations, and also provide a much needed change for the local communities who border and rely on these lands for hunting and fishing, economic development, traditional uses, and recreation.”