On August 24, U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke sent a draft report to President Donald Trump which includes Zinke’s findings and recommendations on national monuments.
The boundaries of Bears Ears, a 1.35 million acre monument created in December, 2016 by President Barack Obama, are slated to be “right-sized.”
The New York Times reports that Bears Ears may be cut to 160,000 acres, which would be less than 12 percent of the size of the original monument.
It is likely that federal lands which are already under enhanced protection – such as primitive areas, wilderness or wilderness study areas – will not be included in the boundaries of the adjusted Bears Ears National Monument.
Zinke said that the review was initiated by President Trump “in order to restore trust in the multiple-use mission of the Department and to give rural communities a voice in federal land management decisions.”
The government opened a comment period for the review, the first time that a formal comment period was open for national monuments designated under the Antiquities Act. More than 2.4 million comments were submitted.
Zinke said, “The recommendations I sent to the president on national monuments will maintain federal ownership of all federal land and protect the land under federal environmental regulations, and also provide a much needed change for the local communities who border and rely on these lands for hunting and fishing, economic development, traditional uses, and recreation.”
Over the 120-day review, Zinke visited eight national monuments, including Bears Ears and Grand Staircase Escalante.
Zinke said that Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, in southwest Colorado adjacent to San Juan County, will not be changed.
Tribes and conservation organizations expressed outrage at the announcement, while elected officials expressed support.
In a statement, San Juan County Commissioners said, “We are grateful for Secretary Zinke and the Trump administration for their thoughtful review of Bears Ears. We look forward to seeing the decision of this administration.
“Throughout this process, it has become clear that the Antiquities Act has been inappropriately used and needs to be changed to provide safeguards to communities like ours.
“While there are sometimes appropriate situations for monument designation, often monument designation becomes a political play. The consequences cripple local economies and communities.”
Utah Diné Bikéyah BoaChairman Willie Grayeyes, of Navajo Mountain, said, “Written and unwritten history tells us that Native Americans were the first occupants on the Bears Ears landscape.
“What we are asking for is just a small acreage compared to what was taken away from us. We ask for this simple honor to be given by the President and Secretary: do not alter or change our Proclamation.”
Mark Maryboy, Utah Diné Bikéyah Board Member and former San Juan County Commissioner, said, “The Antiquities Act was put in place for this exact purpose of protecting our Native American heritage. We followed the law in creating the Monument. If Trump attempts to reduce Bears Ears, we will challenge that action in court.”