Zinke Recommends: Keep 27 Monuments But Modify Some

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Department of the Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is recommending that none of the 27 monuments put under review by the Trump administration be eliminated, but that some may be adjusted.

The Associated Press interviewed Zinke regarding the monuments on Aug. 24, the end date of a 120-day review ordered by the president in April.

Zinke noted that he wished to adjust the boundaries of some wilderness and ocean monuments while protecting tribal interests and land grants.  He did not say whether he will recommend expanding logging, oil and gas drilling, coal mining or other land use in any of the sites.

Zinke also attempted to shut down conservationists' fears that the monuments would be sold off to private interests.

"I've heard this narrative that somehow the land is going to be sold or transferred," Zinke told the AP. "That narrative is patently false and shameful. The land was public before and it will be public after." 

National monuments are allowed to be designated by presidents via the 1906 Antiquities Act.  While presidents can create monuments, it does not explicitly give them the power to shrink them.

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The monument status is typically given to areas of natural or cultural significance -- such as Giant Sequoia National Monument in California or the Statue of Liberty in New York.  

Monument areas don't receive as many protections as national parks but may have limits on certain industrial and recreational activities.  Some people, such as President Donald Trump, have criticized the creation of national monuments for the restrictions they place on those who live in their vicinity.  

Bears Ears National Monument in Utah is one such highly controversial monument among miners and oil drillers, who opposed the monument, and the Navajo tribe, who celebrated its designation by former president Barack Obama in 2016, The New York Times reports.   

 Another Obama-era monument that has generated controversy is Maine’s Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument, which the Bangor Daily News reports was argued over by environmentalists and manufacturers.

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Though Trump's predecessor set aside more national monuments than other presidents, the AP reports that the review includes monuments created by four presidents over the past two decades.

Bears Ears is among the monuments that Zinke is expected to recommend shrinking.  Bangor Daily News reports that Kathadin Woods is likely to remain intact.

According to The Hill, Zinke had previously announced his intention to keep six national monuments untouched: Canyons of the Ancients in Colorado, Craters of the Moon in Idaho, Grand Canyon-Parashant in Arizona, Hanford Reach in Washington, Sand to Snow in California and Upper Missouri River Breaks in Montana.

Zinke expressed his approach to the national monuments to the AP:

"There's an expectation we need to look out 100 years from now to keep the public land experience alive in this country," Zinke said. "You can protect the monument by keeping public access to traditional uses."

The New York Times reports that during the review, Zinke solicited public comments and visited eight national monuments, meeting with business leaders, locals, and Native American tribes along the way.

Environmentalists have remained critical of Zinke's proposal, according to The Hill.

"On the eve the National Park Service’s 101st anniversary, Secretary Zinke is proposing to wipe large swaths of America’s parks off the map," said Jennifer Rokala, executive director of the Center for Western Priorities. 

"Zinke is treating our national monuments like contestants on a reality TV show, and his anti-public lands allies in Congress are enabling this dangerous agenda," said Gene Karpinski, president of environmentalist group The League of Conservation Voters, which spent $100,000 on a pro-monument campaign in August.

Other officials have praised Zinke's idea.

"I am encouraged by the recommendations to revise previous designations that were inconsistent with the law and outside the Act's size limitations," said chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee and Republican Rep. Rob Bishop of Utah.

Zinke's department's recommendations are expected to be delivered to the president on Aug. 24.

Sources: AP via Politico, The New York Times, Bangor Daily NewsThe Hill (2) / Featured Image: Gage Skidmore/Flickr / Embedded Images: Famartin/Wikimedia CommonsJohn Fowler/Flickr

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