Continuing the Trump administration’s strategy of reversing the initiatives of President Obama, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke wants to shrink four national monuments and modify six others, some of which were created by Obama just before he left office.
According to a 19-page report leaked to the New York Times and Washington Post, Zinke calls for cutting back four monuments, including Utah’s Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante (which comprise more than 3.2 million acres), Nevada’s Gold Butte and Oregon’s Cascade-Siskiyou. The memo doesn’t say how many acres would be cut.
Zinke also calls for ten sites to allow currently restricted hunting, grazing and “active timber management,” and to resume commercial fishing in portions of the Pacific Ocean near Hawaii and the Atlantic Ocean near Massachusetts. He notes that the 1.8-million-acre Grand Staircase-Escalante contains “several billion tons of coal and large oil deposits.”
Zinke’s report was produced after Trump gave an executive order to review national monuments created since 1996 that are more than 100,000 acres.
The 1906 Antiquities Act, passed during the presidency of Theodore Roosevelt, allows presidents to create national monuments from federal lands that are considered historic, geographically or culturally important. The Trump administration argues that past presidents have overreached.
President Obama created the Bears Ears and Gold Butte monuments and expanded the Cascade-Siskiyou (which was designated by President Bill Clinton) in December 2016, just weeks before leaving office.
Wilderness Society President Jamie Williams called Zinke’s recommendations “an unprecedented assault on our parks and public lands” and told USA Today that the Trump administration had no authority to make the cuts.
Zinke also recommends creating three new national monuments, including Camp Nelson in Kentucky, where African-American soldiers were trained during the Civil War; the home of slain Civil Rights leader Medgar Evers in Jackson, Mississippi; and the Badger-Two Medicine area in the Lewis and Clark National Forest in his home state of Montana.
But environmental groups plan court challenges to any efforts to shrink or deregulate current monuments. “If President Trump accepts Zinke’s advice, and moves to eviscerate monument protections, he’d be ignoring the law — and the will of the American people,” Natural Resources Defense Council president Rhea Suh told USA Today. “We stand up for the nearly 3 million people who urged the administration to protect these monuments — in court, if necessary.”