USA national monuments under threat after Trump review

Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke hikes along the Butler Wash Indian Ruin trail alongside Utah Gov. Gary Herbert during a tour of the Bears Ears National Monument on Monday

Zinke also wrote that former President Obama's proclamation establishing both New Mexico monuments should be amended to "protect objects and prioritize pubic access, infrastructure repairs, fix and maintain traditional uses, tribal and cultural use and hunting and fishing rights". Zinke is not recommending elimination of any of the 27, but has proposed shrinking several - most notably Utah's Bears Ears National Monument - and opening others to additional uses. That memo was obtained by news organizations that included the Wall Street Journal, the Associated Press and the Washington Post.

The president ordered the review earlier this year after complaining about improper "land grabs" by former presidents, among them Clinton, George W. Bush and Obama. The restrictions aren't as stringent as for national parks, but some policies include limits on mining, timber cutting and recreational activities such as riding off-road vehicles.

U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, a 1st District Democrat who strongly supports the monument designation, criticized the Trump administration for a lack of transparency in the review process.

In his draft report to the White House, submitted in August but only recently made public, Zinke recommended unspecified boundary changes to the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase Escalante National Monuments in Utah, the Gold Butte National Monument in Nevada, and the Cascade Siskiyou National Monument in Oregon. Grand Staircase-Escalante, in southern Utah, includes almost 1.9 million acres in a sweeping vista larger than the state of Delaware.

The recommendations cap an unprecedented four-month review based on Trump's claim that 1906 Antiquities Act has been misused by recent presidents to create oversized monuments that hinder energy development, grazing and other uses.

By contrast, Zinke's memorandum discussed creating three new national monuments. He also said that Bears Ears monument in Utah should be downsized.

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The head of the U.S. Department of the Interior called for changes to the management of 10 national monuments that would lift restrictions on activities such as logging and mining and shrink at least four of the sites, the Washington Post reported.

Although the details of Zinke's report to Trump did not become public until Sunday night, he was widely expected in ME to recommend changes to allow some timber harvesting within Katahdin Woods and Waters.

The Wilderness Society, a land conservation and environment group, suggested that if Zinke's overall report recommendations are finalized the matter could end up in court.

"This callous proposal will needlessly punish local, predominantly rural communities that depend on parks and public lands for outdoor recreation, sustainable jobs and economic growth", Williams said, vowing to challenge in court any actions by the Trump administration to reduce the size of national monuments.

The Natural Resources Defense Council believes the Trump administration is using a classic negotiating tactic in its review of national monuments: threatening the worst and spinning the ultimate outcome, however outrageous, as a reasonable result.

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