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Interior Sec Recommends Shrinking Bears Ears National Monument

REUTERS/Bob Strong

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Tim Pearce Energy Reporter

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).

Zinke sent the interim report suggesting that BENM’s boundaries be redrawn consistent with the 1906 Antiquities Act. The report also counseled that Congress allow tribal co-management of cultural portions and define how specific areas should be categorized and managed.

“I spent a lot of time on the ground in Utah, talking with people and understanding the natural and cultural significance of the area,” Zinke said, according to a Department of the Interior (DOI) press release. “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 almost 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.”

Zinke stressed the importance of local input and supervision of national monuments, and is extending the public comment period on the future of BENM.

While Zinke recommended scaling back the BENM designation, he suggested that the White House hold off on making any final decision on the matter until reviews for all 27 monuments covered under the executive order, “Review of Designations Under the Antiquities Act,” have been completed. Trump signed the executive order in April ordering a DOI review of all national monuments of at least 100,000 acres.

House Committee on Natural Resources Chairman Rob Bishop praised Zinke’s announcement in a statement obtained by The Daily Caller News Foundation.

“[Zinke’s recommendation] is positive news for the State of Utah and local communities affected by the Bears Ears monument designation. Anyone with honest intentions recognizes that local input should matter when the federal executive makes a decision of this magnitude,” Bishop said. “I commend Secretary Zinke for actually listening to local voices on the issue and conducting a thoughtful and deliberative review to help inform the President’s ultimate decision.”

Utah Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch was “encouraged” by the interim report and Zinke’s recommendation. Hatch was “grateful for the inclusive process” Zinke went through to hear voice of Utahans from all perspectives, Hatch said in a video press release.

However, not all sectors were fans of Zinke’s proposal. The Center for Biological Diversity’s public lands program director Randi Spivak slammed the interim report.

“Zinke’s public review process was a complete sham from start to finish. He’s doing the bidding of corporate polluters,” Spival said. “He ignored pleas from the vast majority of Americans who love national monuments and want them protected from oil, gas and mining companies. The man charged with protecting public lands just told the public their voices don’t count.”

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