Trimming monument in Utah pleases Republicans, angers tribes

Trimming monument in Utah pleases Republicans, angers tribes

An interim report by the Interior Department was due June 10, focused mainly on the designation of the Bears Ears National Monument, a 1.35 million acre site in Utah encompassing Native American land.

Trump signed an executive order in April directing Zinke to review the designation of dozens of national monuments on federal lands, calling the protection efforts "a massive federal land grab" by previous administrations. And though Zinke maintains he approached his task in a balanced and unbiased fashion, when Trump ordered the interior secretary to review a long list of national monuments, he stood with opponents of the monument and used phrases-"give the land back to the people", for example-that implied the president knew which direction he expected the review to take.

In a memo sent Saturday to President Trump, Zinke recommends that Trump use his "appropriate authority" under the Antiquities Act to revise the almost 1.5 million-acre protected area to remove some land that shouldn't be in the monument.

Bears Ears was created after years of lobbying by a coalition of five tribes, who say the area is sacred.

Because of public pressure from Republicans in Utah, Trump expedited the review of Bears Ears. He ignored pleas from the vast majority of Americans who love national monuments and want them protected from oil, gas and mining companies.

He summed up his optimism in two words: "President Trump".

"I'm actually optimistic that at the end of the day we'll make a recommendation that I think will be best for our country and best for preservation", Zinke told him.

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But reports of a possible third meeting between Sessions and Kislyak have occupied congressional investigators since then. Instead he maintained that he was "not stonewalling", but "following the historic policies of the Department of Justice".

As Zinke noted in his report, some residents in San Juan County anxious that keeping Bears Ears a national monument would hurt their ability to use the land and give the federal government too much influence in their lives.

The Mojave Desert Land Trust (MDLT) is a 501 (c)(3) non-profit organization with the mission to protect and care for lands with natural, scenic and cultural value within the Mojave Desert.

"If you look at the Bears Ears as a whole, there's a lot more drop-dead gorgeous land than there are historic, prehistoric objects", the secretary said, adding that he could not provide a specific acreage estimate because it would depend on how Congress would draw the new lines.

"The law is clear: only Congress can modify or erase a national monument", Rokala said.

Whiteskunk argued that a larger monument protects more land and Native Americans' cultural heritage.

"The Trump administration does not have the legal authority to alter or rescind national monuments", Theresa Pierno, president and CEO of the National Parks Conservation Association, said in a statement.

Sen. Orrin Hatch, a Utah Republican, said Monday he was "encouraged" by Zinke's report and heralded the secretary's "thoughtful and inclusive" review. Herbert and other Utah Republicans oppose Obama's designation of the Bears Ears National Monument. The preliminary report is the first step of a larger review of more than two dozen national monuments that protect USA public lands, mostly in the West. "I commend Secretary Zinke for actually listening to local voices on the issue and conducting a thoughtful and deliberative review to help inform the President's ultimate decision". Any attempt to change the boundaries of Bears Ears will be challenged in court.

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