Zinke to re­view na­tional mon­u­ments

The Washington Times Daily - - POLITICS - BY BEN WOLF­GANG

In­te­rior Secretary Ryan Zinke on Wed­nes­day will be­gin an in-depth re­view of ma­jor na­tional mon­u­ments es­tab­lished over the past two decades, po­ten­tially set­ting the stage for Pres­i­dent Trump to be­come the first com­man­der in chief in his­tory to re­scind a mon­u­ment des­ig­na­tion.

Mr. Trump will sign an ex­ec­u­tive or­der Wed­nes­day af­ter­noon di­rect­ing Mr. Zinke to ex­am­ine all na­tional mon­u­ments cre­ated since 1996 that are at least 100,000 acres in size. More than two dozen mon­u­ments fit that cri­te­ria.

Mr. Zinke told re­porters that the two “book­ends” of the re­view are the Grand Stair­case-Es­calante Na­tional Mon­u­ment es­tab­lished by Pres­i­dent Clin­ton in 1996 and the mas­sive Bears Ears mon­u­ment cre­ated by Pres­i­dent Obama in the fi­nal weeks of his ten­ure.

Both mon­u­ments are in Utah, and both re­main highly con­tro­ver­sial. Each was es­tab­lished over the ob­jec­tions of some law­mak­ers and other stake­hold­ers in the state.

“The ad­min­is­tra­tion, as you all know, has heard from mem­bers of Congress and states. In some cases, the des­ig­na­tion of the mon­u­ments may have re­sulted in loss of jobs, re­duced wages, and re­duced pub­lic ac­cess,” Mr. Zinke told re­porters late Tues­day. “In the case of sig­nif­i­cant pub­lic land use, we feel the pub­lic, the people, that the mon­u­ments af­fect should be con­sid­ered.”

The secretary did not of­fer spe­cific ex­am­ples of job losses as a re­sult of na­tional mon­u­ments, though he promised to re­view that pos­si­bil­ity as part of his study.

The re­view comes af­ter Mr. Obama, in an ef­fort to close off pub­lic land and vast off­shore ar­eas to en­ergy de­vel­op­ment and other ac­tiv­i­ties, took pres­i­den­tial author­ity un­der the 1906 An­tiq­ui­ties Act to new lev­els and set a record for the most land and sea cor­doned off as mon­u­ments.

The cen­tury-old law gives pres­i­dents clear author­ity to es­tab­lish mon­u­ments, but Mr. Zinke’s re­view will ex­am­ine whether Mr. Obama, Mr. Clin­ton or any other past pres­i­dents went be­yond what the law in­tended.

For ex­am­ple, the law states that mon­u­ments should be lim­ited to “the small­est area com­pat­i­ble with the proper care and man­age­ment of the ob­jects to be pro­tected.”

Bears Ears Na­tional Mon­u­ment is 1.3 mil­lion acres.

Mr. Zinke stressed that no mon­u­ment des­ig­na­tion will be im­me­di­ately re­scinded as part of his re­view. In­stead, he’ll pre­sent pre­lim­i­nary find­ings to the pres­i­dent within 45 days and issue a fi­nal re­port in six months.

“The ex­ec­u­tive or­der does not strip any mon­u­ment of a des­ig­na­tion. The ex­ec­u­tive or­der does not loosen any en­vi­ron­men­tal or con­ser­va­tion reg­u­la­tion on any land or ma­rine ar­eas,” the secretary said.

But pro­gres­sives and en­vi­ron­men­tal­ists al­ready are tak­ing aim at Mr. Trump’s com­ing ex­ec­u­tive or­der. They ar­gue that not only will the In­te­rior Depart­ment’s re­view process put pro­tected lands at risk, but they also say the ad­min­is­tra­tion is step­ping into a le­gal quag­mire.

While mon­u­ments have been re­duced in size, no pres­i­dent has ever tried to out­right re­scind a mon­u­ment des­ig­na­tion, and there’s no clear le­gal author­ity in the An­tiq­ui­ties Act or else­where grant­ing such power.

“With this re­view, the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion is walk­ing into a le­gal, po­lit­i­cal and moral mine­field. No pres­i­dent has ever at­tempted to re­voke a na­tional mon­u­ment — and for good rea­son: such an at­tack on our na­tion’s pub­lic lands and her­itage is deeply un­pop­u­lar and il­le­gal,” said Kate Kelly, pub­lic lands di­rec­tor at the Cen­ter for Amer­i­can Progress.

“Any hon­est, trans­par­ent re­view of na­tional mon­u­ments will re­veal them for what they are: tes­ta­ments to our na­tion’s her­itage and eco­nomic en­gines for lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties. But make no mis­take — this re­view should worry all Amer­i­cans who want to pass on our na­tional parks and pub­lic lands to the next gen­er­a­tion,” she said.

Some en­vi­ron­men­tal groups have vowed to sue the ad­min­is­tra­tion if Mr. Trump un­does any mon­u­ments, though Mr. Zinke brushed off such threats Tues­day and said he won’t make de­ci­sions “on the ba­sis of get­ting sued or not get­ting sued.”

More broadly, he fired back at charges that his depart­ment, and the ad­min­is­tra­tion as a whole, doesn’t care about the na­tion’s mon­u­ments and pub­lic lands.

“This is an enor­mous re­spon­si­bil­ity I have,” he said. “No one loves their pub­lic lands as much as I do.”


In 1996, Pres­i­dent Clin­ton signed a bill des­ig­nat­ing about 1.7 mil­lion acres of land in Ari­zona as the Grand Stair­case-Es­calante Na­tional Mon­u­ment. Af­ter Pres­i­dent Trump signs an ex­ec­u­tive or­der Wed­nes­day, it will be un­der re­view. Mon­u­ments, like this one, may have their sta­tus re­scinded.


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