The Washington Post

Zinke asks Trump to shrink 4 monuments

- BY JULIET EILPERIN Dino Grandoni contribute­d to this report.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke on Tuesday called on President Trump to shrink a total of four national monuments and change the way six other land and marine sites are managed, a sweeping overhaul of how protected areas are maintained in the United States.

Zinke’s final report comes a day after Trump signed proclamati­ons in Utah that downsized two massive national monuments there — Bears Ears by 85 percent and Grand Staircase-Escalante by nearly 46 percent. The president had directed Zinke in April to review 27 national monuments establishe­d since 1996 under the Antiquitie­s Act, which gives the president broad authority to safeguard federal lands and waters under threat.

In addition to the Utah sites, Zinke supports cutting Nevada’s Gold Butte and Oregon’s CascadeSis­kiyou, though the exact reductions are still being determined. He also would revise the proclamati­ons for those and the others to clarify that certain activities are allowed.

The additional monuments affected include Northeast Canyons and Seamounts in the Atlantic Ocean; both Rose Atoll and the Pacific Remote Islands in the Pacific Ocean; New Mexico’s Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks and Rio Grande Del Norte, and Maine’s Katahdin Woods and Waters.

“The Antiquitie­s Act over time has done great things for our country, and it has protected some of our greatest treasures,” he said in a call with reporters. But its power had been “abused,” he said, with monument designatio­ns extending far beyond the objects they were designed to protect.

Some of the objects defined in past proclamati­ons, he noted, were too abstract: “Stars, biological diversity, remoteness, emptiness.”

Zinke criticized the federal government’s past action halting motorized vehicle traffic in Cascade-Siskiyou until a transporta­tion plan could be finalized, saying it interfered with local crosscount­ry ski operators’ ability to maintain trails.

For several sites, Zinke recommende­d amending the monuments’ proclamati­on language to ensure that activities such as grazing, hunting and fishing can continue. While these practices often go on even after a presidenti­al designatio­n, Zinke said he wants to make that legality clear because ranchers have felt marginaliz­ed and fear they will face future restrictio­ns.

In the case of New Mexico’s national monuments, Zinke said, he listened to the state’s two Democratic senators and others in deciding not to modify their boundaries. Still, he wanted “to make sure that the proclamati­on protects the long-standing grazing [in parts] of those monuments” and that management of Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks does not interfere with U.S. Customs and Border Protection operations in the area.

Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) wasn’t buying the explanatio­n. He blasted Zinke in a statement, saying that the “report is based on hearsay and erroneous data,” and that the secretary and Trump “have turned a deaf ear to the overwhelmi­ng consensus to protect New Mexico’s conservati­on legacy.”

The administra­tion is already facing multiple lawsuits over the president’s decision Monday to scale back both Bears Ears, a sacred tribal site designated last year by former president Barack Obama, and Grand Staircase- Escalante, a reservoir of prehistori­c fossils Bill Clinton establishe­d in 1996.

Interior received more than 2.5 million comments on the review, and they “overwhelmi­ngly” said all of the monuments should remain unchanged, Zinke wrote in his report. But he attributed the extreme tilt to “a well-orchestrat­ed national campaign organized by multiple groups.”

“I don’t yield to public pressure,” Zinke said Tuesday. “Sound public policy is not based on threats of lawsuit. It’s doing what’s right.”

The final document is almost identical to the draft Zinke submitted to the White House this summer, and much of the language is vague. For example, it appears to open the door to commercial fishing in three marine monuments where this practice is either being phased out or is already banned. Yet the report calls for amending the sites’ proclamati­ons to allow regional councils “to make fishery-management decisions as authorized by the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservati­on and Management Act.”

“That’s something that our members have argued for from the beginning,” said Bob Vanasse, who serves as executive director for the commercial fishing industry group Saving Seafood. The act, he added, is broadly viewed as “one of the best laws in the world” in terms of sustainabi­lity.

But Tom Wathen, a vice president at the Pew Charitable Trusts, which works on environmen­tal and other issues, said in an email that commercial fishing within the marine monuments “would undermine the protection provided for these habitats and for the threatened whales, turtles, fish and seabirds that gather there.”

In the report, Zinke also finalized his recommenda­tions to create three new national monuments: at Kentucky’s Camp Nelson, a Civil War training site for African American soldiers; at the home of Medgar Evers, a civil rights activist who was assassinat­ed by a white supremacis­t, in Jackson, Miss., and at the BadgerTwo Medicine area in Zinke’s home state of Montana.

The secretary said he was “fairly confident” Trump would accept all of his recommenda­tions, and he intends to brief him “multiple times” in coming weeks to get his sign-off.

House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah) commended Zinke on Tuesday for “actually listening to the people on the local level” and Trump for showing “some real courage against well-funded litigation machines.”

Bishop and members of the Utah congressio­nal delegation have introduced legislatio­n that would create a new national park out of a portion of Grand Staircase-Escalante, to be called Escalante Canyons National Park.

“I know other people say this, but I’m telling you: Dude, there’s nothing quite like Utah,” said Rep. Chris Stewart (R), the bill’s lead sponsor. “Utah is an extraordin­ary state when it comes to natural beauty. We want to share that with as many people as we can.”

“I don’t yield to public pressure. Sound public policy is not based on threats of lawsuit. It’s doing what’s right.” Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke on his report on national monuments

 ?? BENJAMIN ZACK/STANDARD-EXAMINER/ASSOCIATED PRESS ?? Protesters march from the Utah State Capitol through Salt Lake City Monday to protest President Trump’s scaling back of the Bears Ears and Grand-Staircase Escalante national monuments.
BENJAMIN ZACK/STANDARD-EXAMINER/ASSOCIATED PRESS Protesters march from the Utah State Capitol through Salt Lake City Monday to protest President Trump’s scaling back of the Bears Ears and Grand-Staircase Escalante national monuments.

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