Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke capped a four day "listening tour" across Utah with a report sent to President Donald Trump Saturday that recommended scaling back the Bears Ears National Monument (BENM).
The report, which was submitted to the White House on Saturday, proposes that Trump asks Congress to give tribal officials authority to co-manage "designated cultural resources" in the area and "make more appropriate conservation designations" within an area that President Barack Obama formally protected in southeastern Utah late previous year. "There is no doubt that it is drop-dead gorgeous country and that it merits some degree of protection, but designating a monument that - including state land - encompasses nearly 1.5 million-acres where multiple-use management is hindered or prohibited is not the best use of the land and is not in accordance with the intention of the Antiquities Act".
However, Natalie Landreth, a senior staff attorney with the Native American Rights Fund said called Zinke's congressional co-management recommendation "a cynical effort to distract Indian Country from the devastating blow of reducing the size of the monument", especially given that the monument's proclamation already set up a tribal coalition to help manage the monument.
Because of public pressure from Republicans in Utah, Trump expedited the review of Bears Ears.
The former Montana congressman's decision was awaited as an early test of how the administration will treat public lands issues, in this case balancing the interests of Native Americans, who consider Bears Ears sacred land, and other locals who oppose tough restrictions on other activities.
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The Anasazi ruins at Cedar Mesa in Bears Ears National Historic Monument. Trump called the Bears Ears designation an "egregious abuse of federal power" and a "massive federal land grab".
"I would give it one word: President Trump", he said when asked about the bill's prospects.
I n her five-page review of the monuments created since 1996, Mills said that the DOI's review process is flawed and that Trump lacks the authority to abolish or reduce the size of a national monument.
Zinke expressed optimism that the tribes would embrace a proposal that "is about sovereignty respect and self-determination" and that legislation could make it though Congress without much difficulty. "Instead of reinforcing America's conservation heritage, Secretary Zinke is recommending President Trump take actions that are both unprecedented and illegal". He also suggested that the 1.5 million acre monument should be restructured including the re-designation of some areas as national recreation or national conservation areas. Under the original Obama proclamation, tribes only had an advisory role in managing Bears Ears. But Monday's decision will now lump a final decision on the controversial national monument in with 27 other national monuments, including Grand Canyon-Parashant National Monument, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument and Basin and Range National Monument, as well as a host of Pacific Ocean monuments.
Jamie Williams, president of The Wilderness Society, said Zinke's recommendation was "nothing less than an attack on the future of all American monuments, parks and public lands", and was "against the wishes of the overwhelming majority of Americans". He said the current boundaries do not accord with the 1906 law's provision that any designation be confined to "the smallest area compatible with the proper care and management of the objects to be protected". "I've spent a lot of time on the ground in Utah".