Utah national monument recommendation spurs action

Owen Stevens
June 14, 2017

According to the Washington Post, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke set a slow-moving legal battle in motion Monday when he recommended that President Trump "revise the existing boundaries" of Bears Ears National Monument in Southern Utah. The resolution calls on President Trump to honor and protect the integrity of all national monuments as they have been designated by presidents of the United States since 1906.

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke's recommendation to downsize the new Bears Ears National Monument in Utah was applauded by the state's top Republican leaders but marked a stinging setback for a coalition of Western tribes that pushed for protection of lands they consider sacred.

The recommendation comes as part of an executive order Trump signed in April calling for a review of all national monument designations signed since 1996.

Along the New England coast, commercial fishermen were ecstatic to hear Monday about Zinke's proposed reduction of the Bears Ears National Monument in Utah and hopeful it foreshadows a similar fate for a marine monument they oppose.

"For Navajo nation this is really about the preservation of our way of life as Navajo people", said Ethel Branch, Attorney General for the Navajo Nation and Navajo tribal member. "The man charged with protecting public lands just told the public their voices don't count". Opponents of the current version of Bears Ears are saying that the national monument is a federal land grab, that the monument is too big, and that it's impairing the area's economy.

"We are not people who are trying to seek lots of riches". We can not and will not stand idly by and let it happen.

Zinke rejected a plea by some Utah Republicans to recommend that the monument designation be rescinded entirely, an unprecedented step that would invite a near-certain legal challenge.

Jamie Williams, president of The Wilderness Society, said Zinke's recommendation was "nothing less than an attack on the future of all American monuments, parks and public lands", and was "against the wishes of the overwhelming majority of Americans".

"Diminishing protections for the Bears Ears National Monument is an affront to the sovereign Tribal Nations whose cultural heritage is at risk", said Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune.

Zinke also asked Congress to create alternate designations such as national conservation or recreation areas within what is now Bears Ears National Monument, and to clarify wilderness management practices within national monuments.

Ravens chat on a fence in southeastern Utah, with Comb Ridge, Elk Ridge and the Bears Ears in the background. "We hope that the president sees the folly in such an action and the harm it could cause to our public land legacy". He did say the boundary would still include the actual Bears Ears geological formation and cultural sights that receive the most traffic. "It doesn't even explain what alleged problem this review is trying to solve", Grijalva's statement said.

But sadly, it appears the Department of the Interior intends to bow to pressure from a small group of extremists in Congress, who have always been promoting the takeover of public lands, while catering to the special interests of polluters.

Other reports by VgToday

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