Instead of canceling Obama land grab, Trump admin scales it back

By Timothy Gardner

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said on Monday he has recommended that President Donald Trump reduce the size of the Bears Ears National Monument in Utah – a move that drew quick fire from conservationists but was supported by mining and drilling interests.

The 1.35 million acre (5,463 square kms) area, designated by former President Barack Obama during his final days in office and named for its iconic twin buttes, is the first of 27 national monuments to be reviewed by the Trump administration as part of a plan to increase development on federal lands.

“My job is to make sure that I … reflect the concerns of Utah, and reflect the concerns of the taxpayers and the public who own the lands, and I think we’ve done that,” Zinke told reporters in a teleconference about his interim recommendation sent to Trump on Saturday. Zinke toured Utah for four days before making the recommendation.

His report said that the Antiquities Act, used by past presidents to declare monuments, should cover the “smallest area compatible” with protecting important sites.

“Therefore… the Secretary of the Interior recommends that the existing boundary of the (Bears Ears) be modified to be consistent with the intent of the act.”

Rather than designating a vast monument, as Obama did, “it would have been more appropriate to identify and separate the areas that have significant objects to be protected to meet the purposes of the Act,” Zinke’s report said.

More study is necessary to determine how much smaller Bears Ears should be, Zinke said, and that decision will not be made until all of the 27 monuments are reviewed.

Jamie Williams, president of The Wilderness Society, said Zinke’s recommendation was “nothing less than an attack on the future of all American monuments, parks and public lands,” and was “against the wishes of the overwhelming majority of Americans.”

A public comment period that closed in late May generated hundreds of thousands of comments, with the majority expressing hope that monuments like Bears Ears remain protected.

Zinke also recommended that tribes be allowed to co-manage “cultural areas” within the resized monument – a nod to Native Americans who had lobbied for protections for the territory – and that Congress review conservation policies in the area.

His recommendation to Trump set the tone for the administration’s broader review, triggered by an executive order in April.

Trump had argued that previous administrations “abused” their right to designate monuments under the Antiquities Act of 1906 and put millions of acres of land, mainly in western states, off limits to drilling, mining, logging and ranching without adequate input from locals.

The review is likely to add fuel to a heated national debate over Washington’s role in America’s wildest spaces. Environmentalists and tribal groups support federal oversight, but many state political leaders, conservatives and industry groups say the lands should generate money for business, creating jobs, or yielding revenue for education and other public services.

While the land encompassed by the Bears Ears monument is not believed to contain huge amounts of coal, oil or gas, several other monuments on Zinke’s review list do – making the Bears Ears decision symbolically important to industry groups.

Kathleen Sgamma, president of the Western Energy Alliance, representing oil and gas companies, said Zinke’s approach was sensible. “It’s clear that Bears Ears was an overreach, and was much larger than necessary to protect cultural resources.”

 

(Editing by Richard Valdmanis and Dan Grebler)

 

Interior Secretary to make proposal on Bears Ears monument

By Valerie Volcovici

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is due to make a recommendation to the White House on whether to rescind or resize Utah’s Bears Ears monument, setting the tone for the administration’s broader study of which lands protected by past presidents should be reopened to development.

The 1.35 million-acre monument, created by former president Barack Obama at the end of his term and named after its iconic twin buttes, is the first of 27 national monuments that will be evaluated by the Department of the Interior after President Donald Trump ordered the review in April.

The deadline for Zinke’s recommendation on Bears Ears is June 10, though an Interior Department official did not say when the recommendation would be made public.

Trump had argued that previous administrations “abused” their right to designate national monuments under the U.S. Antiquities Act of 1906, and put millions of acres of land, mainly in western states, off limits to drilling, mining, logging and ranching without adequate input from locals.

Conservation groups, meanwhile, have called Trump’s effort to alter existing national monuments illegal and irresponsible, and have vowed to challenge him in court.

“Whatever comes out of these recommendations will give us an insight into how this administration takes its responsibilities to protect public lands and uphold conservation mandates,” said Nada Culver, senior counsel of the Wilderness Society, an environmental advocacy group.

 

HEATED DEBATE

The review taps into a heated national debate over Washington’s role in America’s wildest spaces: environmentalists and tribal groups support federal oversight, but many state political leaders, conservatives, and industry groups say the lands should be generating money for business, creating jobs, or yielding revenue for education and other public services.

Bears Ears was created after years of lobbying by a coalition of five tribes, who say the area is sacred. Republicans, like Senator Orin Hatch of Utah, have argued, however, that Obama’s designation of the Bears Ears monument had weakened education funding in the state through its School and Institutional Trust Lands system – which delivers revenues from land development to schools.

While the land encompassed by the Bears Ears monument is not believed to contain huge amounts of coal, oil or gas, several other monuments on Zinke’s review list do – making the Bears Ears decision important symbolically to industry groups.

“Who is to say that, in the future, a president couldn’t just put a whole basin under monument designation,” said Kathleen Sgamma, president of the Western Energy Alliance, representing oil and gas companies.

 

(Writing by Richard Valdmanis; Editing by Andrew Bolton)

 

Zinke Submits Report on Bears Ears, Extends Public Comment Period

WASHINGTON – U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke submitted a 45-day interim report on Bears Ears National Monument to President Donald J. Trump on Saturday, June 10, 2017, in accordance with the April 26, 2017, Executive Order (EO). The order directs the Secretary to review monuments designated under the Antiquities Act between January 1, 1996, and the present date that are 100,000 acres or more in size, or any monument the Secretary deems to have been created without appropriate public input. The EO also directs the Secretary to submit an interim report regarding Bears Ears specifically to the President no more than 45 days from the date of the EO.

The EO states: “Within 45 days of the date of this order, the Secretary shall provide an interim report to the President… The interim report shall include recommendations for such Presidential actions, legislative proposals, or other actions consistent with law as the Secretary may consider appropriate to carry out the policy set forth in section 1 of this order.”

“I spent a lot of time on the ground in Utah, talking with people and understanding the natural and cultural significance of the area. 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,” said Secretary Ryan Zinke. “I’ve submitted my 45-day interim report to President Trump expressing my belief that the monument needs to be right-sized and that it is absolutely critical that an appropriate part be co-managed by the Tribal nations. I also recommend that Congress take action to protect some areas.”

Regarding ongoing management and consultation with Tribal interests, Secretary Zinke said: “Co-management will be absolutely key going forward and I recommend that the monument, and especially the areas of significant cultural interest, be co-managed by the Tribal nations. I am grateful representatives from the Tribal governments met with me in Utah and am optimistic for our future.”

In May, Secretary Zinke traveled to Utah and held a four-day listening tour across the state to learn more about Bears Ears National Monument and the neighboring Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. When accounting for state and private land, the perimeter of Bears Ears encompasses almost 1.5 million acres. Grand Staircase is 1.7 million acres.

The Secretary met with State, local, and Tribal stakeholders and toured the monument by air, car, foot, and horseback. He met with elected officials from Tribal, federal, state, and local communities. He also met with representatives from agriculture, conservation, historic preservation, and tourism sectors, as well as private citizens. The Secretary also held daily press briefings during the trip.

The Secretary met with the Bears Ears InterTribal Coalition while visiting Bears Ears National Monument on May 7, and the Acting Deputy Secretary held a four-hour follow-up meeting with the Bears Ears Commission and the InterTribal Coalition on May 25.

Prior to the trip to Utah in early May, Secretary Zinke opened up a formal public comment period where members of the public could submit their statements regarding all monuments to the Secretary. The was the first time ever that a formal public comment period was set up for monuments designated under the Antiquities Act.

“Local input is absolutely critical when it comes to federal land management decisions and as such, I’m extending the public comment period for Bears Ears. I want every advocate to have their voice heard,” said Secretary Zinke.

Due to the 120-day final review period for Bears Ears National Monument, the formal public comment period for Bears Ears will be extended through July 10th and will close with the overall comment period. Comments may be submitted on regulations.gov or by traditional mail. If an individual submitted a comment on Bears Ears during the initial comment period, they do not need to resubmit.

Executive Order 13792:

Executive Order 13792 of April 26, 2017 (82 FR 20429, May 1, 2017), directs the Secretary of the Interior to review certain National Monuments designated or expanded under the Antiquities Act of 1906, 54 U.S.C. 320301-320303 (Act). Specifically, Section 2 of the Executive Order directs the Secretary to conduct a review of all Presidential designations or expansions of designations under the Antiquities Act made since January 1, 1996, where the designation covers more than 100,000 acres, where the designation after expansion covers more than 100,000 acres, or where the Secretary determines that the designation or expansion was made without adequate public outreach and coordination with relevant stakeholders, to determine whether each designation or expansion conforms to the policy set forth in section 1 of the order. Among other provisions, Section 1 states that designations should reflect the Act’s “requirements and original objectives” and “appropriately balance the protection of landmarks, structures, and objects against the appropriate use of Federal lands and the effects on surrounding lands and communities.”  82 FR 20429 (May 1, 2017). 

In making the requisite determinations, the Secretary is directed to consider:

(i)    the requirements and original objectives of the Act, including the Act’s requirement that reservations of land not exceed “the smallest area compatible with the proper care and management of the objects to be protected”;
(ii)   whether designated lands are appropriately classified under the Act as “historic landmarks, historic and prehistoric structures, [or] other objects of historic or scientific interest”;
(iii)  the effects of a designation on the available uses of designated Federal lands, including consideration of the multiple-use policy of section 102(a)(7) of the Federal Land Policy and Management Act (43 U.S.C. 1701(a)(7)), as well as the effects on the available uses of Federal lands beyond the monument boundaries;
(iv)   the effects of a designation on the use and enjoyment of non-Federal lands within or beyond monument boundaries;
(v)    concerns of State, tribal, and local governments affected by a designation, including the economic development and fiscal condition of affected States, tribes, and localities;
(vi)   the availability of Federal resources to properly manage designated areas; and
(vii)  such other factors as the Secretary deems appropriate.
82 FR 20429-20430 (May 1, 2017)

Public flood DC with comments on Antiquities Act land grab review

By Valerie Volcovici

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Trump administration’s call for an opening of U.S. national monuments to economic development has drawn 107,000 comments from the public.

President Donald Trump last month ordered the Interior Department to review some 27 national monuments created since 1996, with an eye to rescinding or shrinking the size of some of them to increase development opportunities.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke gave the public until May 26 to comment on Bears Ears, the country’s newest monument, and until July 10 to comment on the rest.

As of Friday, groups and individuals had posted more than 107,000 comments on a government website created to receive them as part of the review process, a high number given the short time frame.

A Commerce Department call for public comments on regulatory hurdles completed last month drew under 200 comments.

Many industry groups and politicians, including Utah’s governor, two senators and congressman, want Zinke to reverse monument designations and turn over control of the protected lands to states.

Zinke is due to give his recommendation to Trump on Bears Ears on June 10 and publish a report on the other monuments later.

 

(M)any opponents of the monument designations have posted comments, with some arguing that barring large swaths of land from any development keeps the public from fully enjoying these areas.

“Sweeping monument designations … restrict or eliminate opportunities for responsible off-highway motorized recreation on public lands,” said one anonymous comment, from a self-described member of the American Motorcycle Association.

(Reporting by Valerie Volcovici; Editing by Tom Brown)