President Donald Trump ordered Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to review roughly two dozen national monuments earlier this year.
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WASHINGTON â€”Â A draft report from Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke recommends modifications to nearly a dozenÂ national monuments, including shrinking the huge Bears Ears monument in Utah and permitting commercial fishing in protected waters in both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.
The 19-page report, obtained by The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal, was delivered to the White House on Aug. 24 as directed by President Trumpâ€™s executive order for a review of the national monuments created since 1996Â that were larger than 100,000 acres.
Wilderness Society President Jamie Williams called the reported recommendations â€œan unprecedented assault on our parks and public landsâ€ and said the Trump administration has no authority to alter existing designations.
On the latter point, Zinke notes that previous presidents have reduced the size of 16 monuments 18 times.
Zinke recommends alterations toÂ Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalente in Utah; Cascade-Siskiyou on the California-Oregon border; Organ Mountain-Desert Peaks and Rio Grande del Norte in New Mexico; Gold Butte in Nevada; Katahdin Woods and Waters in Maine; and two marine monuments in the Pacific and another one 130 miles southeast of Cape Cod, Mass.
The 1906 Antiquities Act permits presidents to declareÂ national monuments without public input but limits the designation to â€œthe smallest area compatible with proper care and managementâ€ of treasured objects, and currently protects almost 200 sites, Zinke noted.
â€œAdherence to the Actâ€™s definitionÂ of an â€˜objectâ€™ and â€˜smallest area compatibleâ€™ 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,â€ Zinke found.
The entire Utah congressional delegation objected tothe establishmentÂ ofBears Ears, designated just three weeks before President Obama left office on 1.3 million acres of Bureau of land Management and U.S. Forest Service land. Besides revising its boundaries â€œconducive to effective protectionâ€ of its archaeological and other features, Zinke recommended thatÂ Trump seek congressional authority for tribal co-management of its cultural areas.
Zinke noted that most public comment on the monuments review â€were overwhelmingly in favor of maintaining existing monumentsâ€ but were the result of â€œa well-orchestrated national campaign organized by multiple organizations.â€ Opponents of the monuments tended to be local residents associated with grazing, timber production, mining, hunting and fishing and motorized recreation, he wrote.
â€œIt appears that certain monuments were designated to prevent economic activity such as grazing, mining and timber production rather than to protect specific objects,â€ Zinke found. He said many also failed to adequately account for local opinion.
Zinke noted that areas protected by the 1.8 million acre Grand Staircase-Escalante, created in 1996, contain â€œseveral billion tons or coal and large oil deposits. In the case of Cascade-Siskikou, created by President Bill Clinton in 2000 and expanded by Obama eight days before he left office, there are 4Â to 6 million board feet of lumber on 16,591 acres set aside by a 1937 federal law for sustainable timber production. Zinke recommended ending the prohibition on logging on that land.
Except for red crab and American lobster fisheries, commercial fishing is currently prohibited in the 3,972 square miles of the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts off Cape Cod. Zinke recommended lifting the fishing ban there andÂ at the Pacific Remote Islands and Rose Atoll monuments in the Pacific that have an economic impact on American Samoa.
Zinke also told the president that he recommends creating three new national monuments, including Camp Nelson in Kentucky where African-American soldiers received training during the Civil War; the home of slain Civil Rights leader Medgar Evers in Jackson, Miss.; and the Badger-Two Medicine area in the Lewis and Clark National Forest in his home state of Montana.Â
Zinke visited several of the monuments he was asked to review and announced in advance of the August report to Trump that some required no alternations.
Rep. Salud Carbajal, D-Calif., who led efforts to stop any adjustment to monuments onÂ Californiaâ€™s coast, said he was relieved that Zinkeâ€™s leaked recommendations apparently spared them, but he urged the president to make the reportÂ public.
Other environmental organizations quickly weighed in Monday morning.
â€œZinke claims he wants to perpetuate traditional uses, but heâ€™s actually promoting traditional abuses,â€ said Randi Spivak, public lands program director at the center for Biological Diversity. â€œLogging, mining, grazing, fracking and drilling destroy wildlife habitat and objects of scientific and cultural importance. Zinke and Trump are displaying their disdain for these magnificent public lands and the millions of people who demanded they remain protected. Trump has no authority to make any of the changes that Zinkeâ€™s recommending. If he tries to, weâ€™ll see him in court.â€
Missoula, Mont.-based Backcountry Hunters and Anglers’ president Land Tawney said in a statement he was concerned about reports of Zinke’s leaked report.
“If these recommendations reflect the Interior Department’s suggested course of action for Congress and President Trump, our public lands, waters, wildlife and outdoor traditions could be at risk,” Tawney said.
Tawnery said the proposal to protect Badger-Two Medicine in western Montana was an idea his group has long advocated, but added, “An attack on one monument is an attack on them all.”
Bob Rees, founder of the Clackamas, Ore.-based Northwest Guides and Anglers Association, said he “has never been more disappointed” in the proposal to roll back protections in the Cascade-Siskiyou monument.
More: Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke recommends shrinking some national monuments