Trump admin won’t eliminate national monuments (but Bears Ears still on the chopping block)
We don’t have an official release yet, but word is that NONE of the 27 national monuments under review by the Trump administration will be completely eliminated. But that was always an extreme option, probably tossed out there as a smokescreen to let Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke give away millions of acres to his millionaire oil and mining buddies, then say “But look, this is just a minor change compared to the disaster we COULD have perpetrated.”
By Jeremy Bloom
You can read the full executive summary here.
“Zinke’s sham review was rigged from the beginning to open up more public lands to fossil fuel, mining and timber industries,” said Randi Spivak, public lands program director for the Center for Biological Diversity. “He and Trump will not be allowed to rob Americans of their public lands. Any effort to change national monument boundaries or reduce protections will be challenged.”
Environmental groups had better lawyer up, then, because it looks like that’s exactly what Zinke and Trump intend to do.
“There’s an expectation we need to look out 100 years from now to keep the public land experience alive in this country,” Zinke burbled at the AP. “You can protect the monument by keeping public access to traditional uses.”
BREAKING: US Interior secretary tells AP he's recommending changes to a 'handful' of national monuments but none to be eliminated.
— The Associated Press (@AP) August 24, 2017
The AP reports:
Zinke told The Associated Press that unspecified boundary adjustments for some monuments carved out of wilderness and ocean over the past four decades will be included in the recommendations he planned to give President Donald Trump on Thursday. None of the sites would revert to new ownership, he said, while public access for uses such as hunting, fishing or grazing would be maintained or restored.
He also spoke of protecting tribal interests and historical land grants, pointing to monuments in New Mexico, where Hispanic ranchers have opposed two monuments proclaimed by President Barack Obama.
Zinke declined to say whether portions of the monuments would be opened up to oil and gas drilling, mining, logging and other industries for which Trump has advocated.
An unnamed White House Official (possibly granted anonymity in order to speak truthfully) told CNN “President Trump has received Secretary Zinke’s draft report for the Antiquities Act, and is currently reviewing his recommendations to determine the best path forward for the American people.”
“Our country’s public lands define who we are. These are the places where we work, where we play and where we connect to our shared history — and today, some of these places are in jeopardy,” said outdoor-sports retailer REI in a statement urging customers to write Zinke.
And indeed, Zinke’s executive summary reflects just that… mostly:
The review found that each monument was unique in terms of the object(s) used for justification, proclamation language, history, management plans, economic impact, and local support. Adherence to the Act’s definition of an “object” and “smallest area compatible” clause on some monuments were either arbitrary or likely politically motivated or boundaries could not be supported by science or reasons of practical resource management. Despite the apparent lack of adherence to the purpose of the Act, some monuments reflect a long public debate process and are largely settled and strongly supported by the local community. Other monuments remain controversial and contain significant private property within the identified external boundary or overlap with other Federal land designations such as national forests, Wilderness Study Areas, and lands specifically set aside by Congress for timber production.
Bears Ears the ultimate prize
This entire Kabuki dance may have been put in place JUST to attack one National Monument – the newest one, just created by President Obama last December in the final days of his administration. Bears Ears National Monument in Utah was put on the books after an extensive process that brought together all sides – mining, oil, outdoor recreation, and Native American interests. But that didn’t stop the mining and oil interests from attempting to blow up the deal now that they have a new administration in Washington whose “Drain the Swamp” policy seems to be applied a lot more often to actual swamps and natural resources than the cesspool of Washington influence-peddling.
“The Bears Ears National Monument contains some objects that are appropriate for protection under the act,” Zinke has already concluded. That’s nice of him – not going to turn over Native American rock art to the mining companies. But, he continued, there will probably be big cuts, and they’ve already ignored Native American voices in deciding how to divy up the spoils.
“I’ve heard this narrative that somehow the land is going to be sold or transferred,” Zinke said today. “That narrative is patently false and shameful. The land was public before and it will be public after.”
But if there’s no interest in letting Utah’s mining and oil interests glom onto a chunk of Bear’s Ears, then what’s the point of pulling millions of acres out of the monument?
(We’ll update this story as we get more information.)