March 21, 2018

Interior Secretary Endorses Shrinking 6 National Monuments

19 September 2017, 01:17 | Rex Hubbard

Interior Secretary Endorses Shrinking 6 National Monuments

The Wassataquoik Stream flows through Township 3 Range 8 through land that's now part of the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument

While the antiquities law enables a president to permanently declare certain places of historic or scientific interest a national monument, a few US presidents have reduced the size of some such areas.

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".

"Now we must recommit our effort to protect these precious public lands in the courts and send a strong message to Zinke and Trump to keep their hands off our monuments", Titus said.

A leaked memo from Zinke to the president, coming after a four-month review, recommends that two Utah monuments - Bears Ears and Grand Staircase Escalante - be reduced, along with Nevada's Gold Butte and Oregon's Cascade-Siskiyou. That memo was obtained by news organizations that included the Wall Street Journal, the Associated Press and the Washington Post.

Bears Ears, designated for federal protection by former President Barack Obama, totals 1.3 million acres in southeastern Utah on land that is sacred to Native Americans and home to tens of thousands of archaeological sites, including ancient cliff dwellings. The restrictions aren't as stringent as for national parks, but include limits on mining, timber cutting and recreational activities such as riding off-road vehicles.

Clair, whose family donated the 87,500-acre parcel to the National Park Service past year, said he was "still waiting for the details" on the recommendations after language from Zinke's closely guarded recommendations to President Trump were leaked. Grand Staircase-Escalante, in southern Utah, includes almost 1.9 million acres in a sweeping vista larger than the state of Delaware.

A spokeswoman for the Interior Department referred all questions about the recommendations to the White House.

Left to right Lucas St. Clair local business owner Matt Polstein and U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke tour Maine's Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument in June

And significant reductions in the size of the monuments, especially those created by Mr Obama, will be seen as another example of Mr Trump seeking to overturn his Democratic predecessor's legacy.

During the 120-day review, Zinke visited eight of the 27 national monuments under review, traveling to six states.

National monuments can be so designated through the power of the Antiquities Act of 1906.

The view from Comb Ridge is pictured in Utah's Bears Ears area of the Four Corners Region, Utah, U.S., December 18, 2016.

Zinke suggested amending the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument "to, among other things, to lift motorized restrictions in areas close to the U.S".

He also recommended changes to Katahdin Woods and Waters in Maine.

"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. "We believe the Trump administration has no legal authority to alter or erase protections for national treasures".

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