On Saturday, United States Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke officially recommended — via a memorandum to President Donald Trump — that the scope of the Bears Ears National Monument in Utah be reduced.
Following a 45-day review to see if Bears Ears conforms to the specifications of the Antiquities Act of 1906, Zinke wrote in his memorandum that, “rather than designating an area encompassing almost 1.5 million acres as a national monument, 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, including that the area reserved be limited to the smallest area compatible with the proper care and management of the objects.”
While Zinke wasn’t explicit in specifying to what extent he believed Bears Ears should be reduced, the reaction to his recommendation to the President was immediate from the outdoor community, with many criticizing the fact that the decision to resize Bears Ears goes against a majority of the public input the government has received on the matter.
We are disappointed that Secretary Zinke recommended #BearsEars boundaries be revised, despite his clear statement that he values national monuments and the overwhelming public support for protecting them. Speak up now to ensure current protections remain intact for all national monuments under review. We have less than a month to unite for our public lands.
“The Administration sought more time for public input, the public spoke out, with more than a million hunters, anglers, and outdoor enthusiasts from Utah and the entire country loudly proclaiming Bears Ears deserves protection,” Collin O’Mara, the CEO of the National Wildlife Federation said in a statement after Zinke’s recommendation. “For the Administration to then ignore that broad showing of support and recommend reducing the boundaries of Bears Ears is both disappointing and baffling.”
“Secretary Zinke’s recommendation that the President shrink the boundaries of Bears Ears National Monument ignores the law and public outcry, including over one million comments in support of monument status,” Patagonia CEO Rose Marcario said in response to the Zinke’s decision. “Bears Ears holds irreplaceable cultural, ecological and recreational value and it needs our protection. If the President decides to usurp Congress’ authority and shrink the boundaries on his own, Patagonia will take legal action to defend our public lands.”
But speaking with reporters Monday, Secretary Zinke was adamant that the recommendations weren’t made in a hasty manner, according to the Washington Post.
“The recommendations were not made in a bubble in Washington, D.C.,” Zinke was quoted as saying by the Washington Post, adding that during the review process he traveled throughout Bears Ears, “by air, by car, by foot and by horseback.”
“If you look at the Bears Ears as a whole, there’s a lot more drop-dead gorgeous land than there are historic, prehistoric objects,” Zinke continued, per the Post. Zinke did write that, “rock art, dwellings, ceremonial sites, granaries, and other cultural resources that reflect [Bears Ears’] long historical and cultural significance to Native Americans” deserved to retain protection.
According to the Washington Post, Zinke will give a final report in August, in which he will make specific recommendations on how to resize Bears Ears and how to handle another 21 national monuments spread across 11 states.
Read more about the fight for public lands