Zinke kicks off Utah tour in national monuments review

Zinke kicks off Utah tour in national monuments review
© Greg Nash

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is in Utah this week to tour two controversial national monuments that the Trump administration is considering rescinding or shrinking.

Zinke arrived Sunday for meetings with stakeholders, including elected officials and a group of American Indian tribes that pushed for the creation of the Bears Ears National Monument.

At a news conference with Sen. Orrin HatchOrrin Grant HatchProminent conservative passes on Utah Senate bid Republicans offer this impossible choice: Tax cuts or senior care Senate GOP running out of options to stop Moore MORE (R-Utah) late Sunday, Zinke said that, unlike many other national monuments, Bears Ears doesn’t enjoy local support, according to the Salt Lake Tribune.

“Over the course of our history, I think it’s undisputed that the monuments have been an effective tool to save [and] preserve some of our greatest cultural treasures,” Zinke said, adding later that “very few monuments are to the scale of the recent actions.”

“Some of the monuments are, I don’t want to say universally, but certainly widely, supported and accepted,” he continued said. “The Bears Ears is not widely supported or accepted in the state of Utah.”

Zinke pushed back on the narrative that the five nearby tribes that supported former President Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaReport: FCC chair to push for complete repeal of net neutrality Right way and wrong way Keystone XL pipeline clears major hurdle despite recent leak MORE’s decision to protect the land were misled by environmentalists.

“I think they’re smart, capable, passionate, and have a deep sense of tie to their culture and want to preserve it,” Zinke said, according to the Tribune.

Zinke had met earlier with the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition.

Hatch, however, said he thinks the tribes were tricked.

“The Indians, they don't fully understand that a lot of the things that they currently take for granted on those lands, they won’t be able to do if it’s made clearly into a monument or a wilderness,” said Hatch, who declined to name specific activities that aren’t allowed within the monument area.

Dozens of protesters supporting the monuments faced Zinke outside the Salt Lake City offices of the Bureau of Land Management when he arrived, the Deseret News reported.

Zinke, Rep. Rob BishopRobert (Rob) William BishopOvernight Energy: Puerto Rico officials defend Whitefish deal before Congress | US wants level playing field at UN climate summit | House passes flood insurance overhaul GOP chairman cites ‘credibility gap’ in Puerto Rico recovery Lawyers warned Puerto Rico utility against Whitefish contract MORE (R-Utah) and others are taking a plane trip Tuesday to see Bears Ears from the air. Later in the week, he’ll tour parts of Bears Ears and the Grand Staircase-Escalante national monument on horseback.

Interior will also take formal comments soon via mail and online as they consider a revisision of those monuments and two dozen others.