More National Monuments Slated For Trump Rollbacks

The final recommendations from Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke were released one day after Trump gutted a pair of protected sites in Utah.

WASHINGTON — Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has called on President Donald Trump to shrink or otherwise weaken protections for 10 national monuments, according to a final report made public Tuesday.

The release of the document, a version of which was leaked to the media in September, comes a day after Trump and Zinke traveled to Utah to announce an unprecedented dismantling of two of the state’s national monuments: Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante. 

In addition to the Utah sites, Zinke has recommended Trump shrink the boundaries of two land monuments, Nevada’s Gold Butte and Cascade-Siskiyou in Oregon and California, as well as consider reducing the size of a pair of marine national monuments, Pacific Remote Islands and Rose Atoll. The report also calls for sweeping changes in how these protected sites are managed, including allowing for drilling, mining, grazing, logging and commercial fishing.

The report follows a months-long administrative review of recent monument designations that Trump launched in April and which many view as an illegal attack on the unilateral powers the Antiquities Act of 1906 grants to presidents. Trump has described monument designations by recent administrations as an “egregious abuse of federal power” that locks up federal land and threatens local economies.

Jennifer Rokala, executive director of the Center for Western Priorities, called Zinke’s report “Phase II of an all-out assault on America’s public lands and our nation’s century-old conservation legacy.”

“The first report Secretary Zinke gave to President Trump was riddled with basic factual errors; the result of a shoddy process that ignored comments from 2.8 million Americans,” she said in a statement. 

Sixteen presidents, both Republicans and Democrats, have used the law to designate 157 monuments

On Monday in Salt Lake City, Trump signed a pair of proclamations to drastically shrink the Utah monuments — the largest reduction of national monuments in history. The boundary of Bears Ears National Monument, a 1.35 million-acre landscape named after a pair of buttes and home to thousands of Native American archeological and cultural sites, will shrink by about 85 percent. The 1.87 million-acre Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, the largest land national monument in the country, will be cut roughly in half.

The move, which was quickly met with a slew of legal challenges, reduces Bears Ears to 201,876 acres and Grand Staircase-Escalante to 1,003,863 acres — a collective loss of more than 2 million acres.

Additionally, both monuments will be divvied up into several smaller units. Bears Ears will consist of two disconnected areas called Indian Creek and Shash Jaa. Grand Staircase-Escalante will consist of three units: Grand Staircase, Escalante Canyons and Kaiparowitz. 

Zinke said during a speech Monday that by rolling back protections, he and Trump are giving a voice back Utah and rural America.

“No one loves public land more than I,” Zinke said. “You can love it as much, but you can’t love it any more.”

But it is this push to roll back monuments that has many questioning his dedication to conservation and preserving public lands. And while Zinke considers himself “a Teddy Roosevelt guy” and an “unapologetic admirer and disciple” of the late president — who signed the Antiquities Act into law and used it to protect 18 monuments, including more than 800,000 acres of the Grand Canyon — his critics say he is anything but. 

“Teddy Roosevelt is rolling in his grave,” Jamie Rappaport Clark, president the conservation nonprofit Defenders of Wildlife, said in a statement following Monday’s rollback of Utah monuments. 

This is a developing story and will be updated.