Ryan Zinke, the nominee for Secretary of the Interior, made the commitment to Utah Sen. Mike Lee during his confirmation hearing on January 17.
“I am absolutely committed to restoring trust,” said Zenke in response to a question by Lee. “If confirmed, I have committed to coming to Utah first and talking to the Governor and talking to the people on the ground.”
The questioning revolved around the December 28, 2016 designation of the Bears Ears National Monument by President Barack Obama using the Antiquities Act.
The 1.35-million acre monument includes 27 percent of the entire landmass of San Juan County.
“The seemingly limitless power granted to the President of the United States under the Antiquities Act is troubling,” said Lee before adding, “I hope that if you are confirmed for this position, that one of the first things you do is to come to Utah.”
“I encourage you to talk to some of the people who have been effected by the monument designation by the President on December 28.
“He designated 1.35 million acres in San Juan County, our state’s poorest county, against the overwhelming opposition of the local population of San Juan County, against the opposition of all six members of our state’s congressional delegation, against the position of our Governor, Lt. Governor, Atty General and all of our statewide elected officials.
“Will you consider visiting Utah and talking to the people affected by this monument designation, and based on what you hear, consider having a conversation with President Trump about revisiting this unfortunate step?”
In a previous question, Lee asked Zenke, “Do you view local support as a necessary precondition to the creation of a National Monument under the Antiquities Act?”
Zenke replied, “It is absolutely critical to have state and local support on a monument that they participate in.”
Outlined hios approach if confirmed, Zenke said, “If you start at the local community level, the grass roots, and you build and there is participation, then you get ahead of the problem.”
Zenke said that he would “get community support and make sure your Governor and your elected leaders are behind you.”
Zenke currently serves as a Congressman representing Montana.