Speed Reads

Trump v nature

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke recommends shrinking Bears Ears National Monument, with more federal lands to come

On Monday, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke released an interim report recommending that President Trump shrink the 1.3 million–acre Bears Ears National Monument in Utah by a presumably large but unspecified amount, and urged Congress to pass legislation allowing local Native American tribes to co-manage "designated cultural resources" inside the monument's reduced boundaries and reclassify other parts of the monument. Zinke advised Trump to withhold any final action until he released his final report in late August on Bears Ears and 26 national monuments created since 1996, but strongly suggested his recommendations will call for significantly scaling back other national conservation areas besides Bears Ears.

Zinke argued that former President Barack Obama had overshot when he created Bears Ears in December because the 1906 Antiquities Act calls for designating the smallest area necessary to preserve culturally or scientifically significant areas. He said that allowing tribes to "co-manage" some parts should allay concerns over sacred areas, but it did not seem to do so. "Bears Ears is not for sale," said Natalie Landreth, a Native American Rights Fund lawyer. "It's not up for trade." "Protection of these lands is non-negotiable," said Ethel Branch, Navajo Nation attorney general, adding that Bears Ears is sacred land that contains "critical plants, minerals, and powers" important to numerous tribes.

Utah Republicans, oil and gas companies, and some people who live near the new monument are urging Trump to revoke the national monument designation entirely, which would be unprecedented and sure to be challenged in court, but they seemed pleased with what Zinke described as a compromise. Environmental groups said they would sue if Trump accepted Zinke's recommendation, arguing that presidents don't have any legal authority to significantly shrink monuments created by their predecessors; presidents and Congress have slightly reduced national monuments before, but not by the huge amount Zinke is suggesting.