Zinke Will Reduce A 'Handful' Of National Monuments

Tom Ross | Steamboat Today Valley of the Gods outside Bluff Utah is within the Bears Ears National Monument

On the day after Trump's inauguration, Utah's entire congressional delegation asked him to abolish Bear's Ears, a 1.35 million-acre monument on sacred tribal land that Obama designated in his last days in office.

They've also pushed for the abolishment of national monument designations in Arizona, such as Grand Canyon-Parashant and Vermillion Cliffs.

Zinke visited Oregon's Rogue Valley earlier this summer and toured the monument.

Environmental organizations remain concerned by Zinke's vagueness.

But despite the efforts to make a personal connection, Brown was not surprised by Zinke's recommendation. That's according to a report in the Washington Post, which cites several sources briefed on the decision.

Though he didn't immediately release them to the public, he did tell the Associated Press he wouldn't recommend completely scrapping any monument.

Zinke did not reveal any specifics about his recommendations on the fate of more than two dozen monuments under review across the country.

Yet there is a history of presidents tinkering around the edges of national monuments-and sometimes cutting into them wholesale. "However, some legal analyses since at least the 1930s have concluded that the Antiquities Act, by its terms, does not authorize the President to repeal proclamations, and that the President also lacks implied authority to do so".

Massachusetts Lobstermen's Association executive director Beth Casoni says she would like to see the monument redefined as the size of "a postage stamp".

He anxious that the submerged canyons and mountains off Cape Cod - part of the Atlantic's first marine monument - would be radically altered if the administration allows the resumption of commercial fishing there, or substantially changes its boundaries.

Opponents of the review roasted Zinke on Thursday.

To Culver, of the Wildernes Society, the whole review process felt like a sham. There are 27 monuments that fall within that category, including six in California.

The report is not yet publicly available, though the DOI has published a summary of the draft on its website. There will be changes to a "handful", according to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, but at present it's not quite clear what that means - perhaps boundary changes on a small scale.

Zinke's recommendation that no monuments be eliminated did not calm environmental groups, who have been outspoken in their opposition to a review. All of them were subject to Zinke's review.

It went on to state, "The responsibility of protecting America's public lands and unique antiquities should not be taken lightly; nor should the authority and the power granted to a President under the Act".

No president has ever tried to eliminate a monument. Previous reductions have never been challenged in court. "The public has a right to know", said Jacqueline Savitz, senior vice president of the conservation group Oceana. He also outlines in the summary reasons people oppose monument status, despite overwhelming public comment to the contrary.

It's unclear how Zinke interpreted that outpouring of support as a cry to reduce the monuments. "That narrative is patently false and shameful".

He acknowledged that monuments have provided economic benefits to surrounding communities through increased tourism, as has occurred over the past year at Katahdin Woods. Tourism "places an additional burden and responsibility on the Federal Government to provide additional resources and manpower to maintain these lands to better support increased visitation and recreational activities", he said.

Zinke's report pleased critics of the Antiquities Act. It obligates federal agencies that manage the public lands to preserve for present and future generations the historic, scientific, commemorative, and cultural values of the archaeological and historic sites and structures on these lands.

"Any change, be it a boundary change or a change to the management of those lands could have pretty significant impacts to the lands", he said.