Secretary Zinke Recommends Trump Shrink Several National Monuments

McSally asking for preservation of national monuments in Arizona

Zinke has not yet provided specifics about which monuments could be changed or exactly how.

Environmentalists and fishing groups said Thursday they are prepared for a legal battle in the wake of Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke's decision to preserve the nation's first Atlantic Ocean marine monument. He described the concept of the review was "breath of fresh air" that allowed ranchers to contribute to designation of public lands. He also said that tribal interests, particularly in New Mexico, will be protected. And this is not about energy development.

Today's news was a blow to environmental groups that have long expressed fears that the lands could be sold to private development.

Groups that consider the millions of acres designated for protection by President Barack Obama and other past presidents part of a massive federal land grab voiced optimism that Zinke wants to reign in some areas. The Republican chairman of the House Committee on Natural Resources says previous administrations have misconstrued the intent and goal of the Act, signed into law by Theodore Roosevelt, that gives presidents the authority to preserve and protect federal lands that possess significant natural, cultural, or scientific features.

"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 Representative from Utah Rob Bishop.

The Antiquities Act "was created to protect specific landmarks, structures and objects", Bishop said in a conference call with reporters Thursday.

Every president since-with the exception of Presidents Nixon, Reagan and George H.W. Bush-has used the Antiquities Act to protect iconic places.

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"It's about how we protect our resources, not if we protect them", said Bishop, noting that Obama had applied his authority under the Antiquities Act to more than 550 million acres of land and sea.

One of the arches in the Devil's Garden in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.

Bears Ears National Monument, designated by then-President Barack Obama on December 28, was cited specifically in President Donald Trump's order for a review of monuments.

Zinke retweeted a tweet from the AP Thursday of an interview where the secretary said he is recommending changes to a "handful" of monuments. "We stand ready to take appropriate legal action". He stated that no monuments will be eliminated in the recommendation. While presidents can create monuments, it does not explicitly give them the power to shrink them. But the Antiquities Act doesn't explicitly give presidents the power to remove monument protections, and the question has never been tested in court.

In an April press conference announcing Zinke's review, Trump credited that state's senior senator, Orrin Hatch, with making him aware of the issue. Orrin Hatch said Zinke followed the proper process with his review. Ninety-eight percent of the record-breaking 2.8 million public comments to the Interior Department asked the federal government to maintain or expand lands under protection. The interior department has provided no public details on the size or location of these boundary changes, though Zinke told the AP he felt some monuments are too large. Zinke seemed to acknowledge that.

The Colorado River winds around the northern reaches of the proposed Bear Ears National Monument, with Canyonlands National Park in the background, viewed from Dead Horse Point State Park near Moab, Utah on November 12, 2016. The Interior Department has estimated that the lands under its management hosted 443 million visitors in 2015, supporting $45 billion in economic output and almost 400,000 jobs.

Zinke toured Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument in July and spent most of his time with ranchers, timber interests and motorized recreation representatives - all monument opponents.



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