Zinke recommends downsizing Bears Ears in shocking display of common sense

The President previously issued an executive order directing the Department of the Interior to review several large “National Monuments” including Bears Ears to determine if they needed to be adjusted in size, transferred to the National Park system or eliminated. Secretary Ryan Zinke has completed an extensive review of Bears Ears and issued his initial recommendations. As expected, the massive Obama land grab may be in for a significant bit of trimming. (Route Fifty)

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke recommended in a report submitted to President Trump on Saturday that the roughly 1.3-million-acre Bears Ears National Monument, located in southeast Utah, should be downsized.

Zinke also called for Congress to designate recreation or conservation areas within the current boundaries of the monument and to authorize tribal co-management of certain cultural areas. The interim report was submitted in response to an executive order Trump issued in April.

The president’s order directed the interior secretary to review some of the larger national monument designations that presidents have made during the past two decades.

The comments from Zinke are pretty much in line with what we’ve been discussing here. Blocking off millions of acres of land and calling it a “monument” is preposterous and not at all in keeping with either the letter or the spirit of the Antiquities Act. There may indeed be some individual spots inside of the Bears Ears range which are of cultural significance to the local tribes and perhaps even some unique geographic features worthy of preservation. Those can readily be reestablished as monuments since they could be considered “objects.” (Along with a reasonable amount of land around them for facilities control and maintenance.)

But the entire range is far too much for the President to simply blockade. If that much land is to be preserved as federal territory it needs to be a decision made by Congress and handled through the auspices of the National Park Service. We will no doubt hear yet another round out howls of outrage over this, but the laws regarding such acquisitions are clear and Barack Obama did not follow the correct procedures.

What’s missing from the initial report submitted by Secretary Zinke is the specific amounts of land to be rolled back, but that will no doubt be announced as the plan is fully fleshed out. In the meantime, congratulations to the new leadership at Interior. This may be a politically unpopular move in some quarters but it was the right thing to do.