Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke on Thursday passed along to the White House a draft report on his recommendations for the boundaries of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments in Utah, but released no specific information. In over a century, no president has attempted to reshape national monuments in the way Trump is attempting to do.
Well, we've got some fantastic news for you: against all odds, the government will officially announce later today that none of the 27 national monuments under review will be eliminated. In the summary, Zinke acknowledges that the vast majority of the 2.4 million responses received during the comment period "were overwhelmingly in favor of maintaining existing monuments".
"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".
Most of the land and sea area targeted for review was given monument protection by former President Barack Obama, but the review also included areas designated by Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton.
"National monuments and other public lands and waters play an important role in American society", said Deputy Director Paige Lewis.
While supporters of the monuments are glad none of them are on the chopping block, the AP reports many are anxious about what the extent of the boundary adjustments in the document might be, and demand a public release of the document. While Congress can alter national monuments easily through legislation, presidents have reduced their boundaries only on rare occasions. "The public has a right to know". "Interior Sec. Zinke clearly understands that eliminating any national monuments outright would have provoked a massive backlash from the American people".
Zinke, who has long thought that this type of federal land should be sold off to private investors, told reporters that this wouldn't happen. "That narrative is patently false and shameful". He is the public face of the family foundation that donated the 87,500 acres of land east of Baxter State Park. They said the designation will stymie growth by closing the area to new commercial and energy development. It's more likely than not, based on Trump's proclivities, that he will shrink the Obama-era monuments, like Bears Ears in Utah. In reality, one of the earliest national monument designations was the 818,000-acre Grand Canyon in 1908. "However, having conducted the review".
An Interior Department statement defends President Trump's decision to review the status of national monuments.
But the fight for the protection of these federal lands is far from over. It's unclear whether the areas that could lose federal protection would be open to mining, logging, and oil and gas development - but that's what environmental groups fear. Zinke's report, says The Washington Post, "launches what will be a legal and political battle over a relatively obscure law that grants a president wide latitude in preserving federal lands and waters that are threatened". An award-winning environmental journalist, his work has appeared in Scientific American, Audubon, Motherboard, and numerous other magazines and publications.
There is a strong precedent for presidents adjusting the boundaries of the monuments. "This review is a good step forward in our efforts to reform the monument designation process to ensure the concerns of those who stand to be impacted are heard and respected".