NYT Sued The Trump Administration For Interior Sec. Zinke’s Emails

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Michael Bastasch Energy Editor

The New York Times filed suit against the Trump administration on Monday to obtain Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s communications regarding the shrinking of the Bears Ears National Monument.

President Donald Trump signed orders in December to shrink the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante by more than 2 million acres, following earlier recommendations from Zinke. Environmentalists and newspapers, including NYT’s editorial board, decried the decision.

Now, the Times is suing for Zinke’s communications.

“This is a routine FOIA case seeking the Department of Interior’s communications about the reduction of the size of the Bears Ears National Monument,” Eileen Murphy, NYT’s communications director, told The Daily Caller News Foundation.

“As is typical in our FOIA litigation, we are seeking documents that will help our readers understand the decision-making about an important government initiative,” Murphy said.

The Times said Interior officials “failed to make an initial determination” on a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request the paper submitted in August, asking for Zinke’s correspondence on all national monuments, according to the suit. NYT is seeking communications from Zinke and his office regarding Bears Ears.

The suit comes after The Washington Post reported that “Zinke’s office has taken direct control of the various FOIA requests” regarding “his review of national monuments created during the past three presidential administrations.”

The Antiquities Act stipulates that monuments “in all cases shall be confined to the smallest area compatible with proper care and management of the objects to be protected,” but many recently designated monuments span millions of acres.

In April, Zinke began reviewing more than two dozen large national monuments created since the 1990s to see if any constituted abuses of the Antiquities Act, which gives the president authority to designate monuments.

Zinke recommended Trump shrink the size of four national monuments, including Bears Ears, and change the management plans of another 10 monuments.

President Donald Trump signed orders in December to shrink the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante by more than 2 million acres, immediately sparking lawsuits from environmentalists and tribal officials.

Outdoor retailer Patagonia also filed suit, sparking a social media war with Republicans in Congress over the monument reductions.

Bears Ears was reduced from 1.35 million acres to 201,397 acres, and Grand Staircase-Escalante was cut from 1.9 million acres to 997,490 acres. Utah officials and locals living in the area opposed the monuments.

“You know the best how to take of your land, you know how to protect it, and you know best how to protect this land for many, many years to come,” Trump said on the steps of Utah’s capitol building.

“Your timeless bond with the outdoors should not be replaced with the whims of regulators thousands and thousands of miles away,” Trump said.

The Interior Department did not comment on the lawsuit.

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