Wednesday, 23 August, 2017

Interior Secretary Recommends Shrinking Bears Ears

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Zinke will review the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument, an 87,000-acre monument preserved by Obama earlier this year.

Zinke's proposal to allow co-management rights for tribes - an action that would require congressional approval - does not ease their anger, tribal leaders said.

The decision delays any certainty for Bears Ears, a 1.3-million-acre parcel of lands that includes world-class rock climbing, age-old cliff dwellings and land sacred to Pueblo Indians that Obama designated a monument in 2016.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke proposed scaling back the borders of a national monument in southeastern Utah on Monday, a move that could prompt the first major rollback of public land protections under the Trump administration.

The announcement comes after a four-day tour the secretary made last month to rural southern Utah, where residents have wanted more input into federal land-control decisions.

Zinke also stated much of the Bears Ears National Monument (427,000) is already protected by Wilderness or Wilderness Study Areas. He did suggest that a priority is to protect the antiquities within the new monument but not necessarily all the land around them.

Because of public pressure from Republicans in Utah, Trump expedited the review of Bears Ears.

Looting and desecration of these sites was one of the primary reasons the previous administration cited for adding additional federal protections in the area. Substantially shrinking the boundaries, as today's recommendations, would cut out many of these vital sacred sites and cultural resources, leaving them unprotected from the very destruction the monument is created to prevent.

Zinke recommended that the new national monument in Utah be reduced in size and said Congress should step in to designate how selected areas of the 1.3 million-acre site are managed.

"Therefore. the Secretary of the Interior recommends that the existing boundary of the (Bears Ears) be modified to be consistent with the intent of the act". Congress never passed a bill.

A coalition of Native American groups and outdoor industry retailers such as Patagonia were in favor of the monument. When asked about the viability of passing such a bill, Zinke said the task would be easier now than it was with Obama in the White House.

San Juan County's Rebecca Benally, a Navajo and member of the county commission, is adamantly opposed to the monument and said it's "insulting" that out-of-state tribes and special interests are politicizing Native American heritage to push a monument locals don't want.

"It's a little premature to throw out acreage", Zinke said, noting the report is only an interim report.

Sen. Orrin Hatch, a Utah Republican, said Monday he was "encouraged" by Zinke's report and heralded the secretary's "thoughtful and inclusive" review.

It seems all but certain that tribes and the environmental groups will sue if the administration does shrink the boundaries of Bears Ears.

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