Interior recommends Trump shrink national monuments

Interior Secretary Ryan ZinkeRyan Keith ZinkeSupreme Court weighs Congress's power to dismiss lawsuits Democrats oppose effort to delay or repeal Interior methane rule Greens sue Trump for national monument documents MORE said Thursday he's asking President Trump to shrink “a handful” of national monuments that previous presidents designated to protect land and water.

In a formal report he’s sending to Trump on Thursday, Zinke will not ask the president to eliminate any of the 27 protected areas that were under review since an April executive order, he told The Associated Press.

He did not specify the changes he is recommending in the AP interview. But he said any areas removed from national monuments would remain under federal control and public access would either stay the same or improve.

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Zinke said it’s important to keep areas protected when they warrant it.

“There’s an expectation we need to look out 100 years from now to keep the public land experience alive in this country,” Zinke told the AP. “You can protect the monument by keeping public access to traditional uses.”

Interior did not publicly release the report Zinke sent to Trump, nor any details of the recommendations.
 
Instead, Interior published a two-page summary of the process the Interior secretary took to review the monument designations.
 
“Adherence to the [Antiquities] Act’s definition of an ‘object’ and ‘smallest area compatible’ clause on some monuments were either arbitrary or likely politically motivated or boundaries could not be supported by science or reasons of practical resource management,” the summary reads.
 
Zinke said in a statement that the recommendations “will maintain federal ownership of all federal land and protect the land under federal environmental regulations, and also provide a much needed change for the local communities who border and rely on these lands for hunting and fishing, economic development, traditional uses, and recreation.”
 
The report represents yet another action by Trump to roll back former President Obama’s legacy. Obama used the Antiquities Act to protect more land and water than any other president, and Trump’s review was aimed primarily at some of Obama’s most controversial decisions, like naming Bears Ears in Utah a national monument.
 
It isn’t clear whether Trump will follow Zinke’s recommendations. The White House said Thursday that Trump received Zinke's suggestions and is reviewing them to determine his path forward.
 
The announcement was a disappointment to environmentalists, who for months have vocally opposed any potential reductions in the size of national monuments.
 
“On the eve the National Park Service’s 101st anniversary, Secretary Zinke is proposing to wipe large swaths of America’s parks off the map,” Jennifer Rokala, executive director of the Center for Western Priorities, said in a statement.
 
“Today’s recommendations cement his legacy as the most anti-park Interior Secretary in history,” she said. “If President Trump takes any action to erase national monument acreage, he will trigger a court battle that will drag on for years.”
 
But they could be a boon to the industries that were shut out of the land and water by monument designations, such as oil, coal, ranching and fishing. Those activities could potentially be allowed in the areas withdrawn from monument designations.
 
"I am encouraged by the recommendations to revise previous designations that were inconsistent with the law and outside the Act's size limitations," said Rep. Rob BishopRobert (Rob) William BishopOvernight Energy: GOP chairman has 'more questions' on Whitefish deal | Dems slam EPA science board changes | Industry pushes back on Perry grid plan GOP chairman has ‘more questions’ about Puerto Rico’s Whitefish Energy contract The SECURE American Energy Act only endangers public lands MORE (R-Utah), chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee.
 
"It is my hope that President Trump takes this opportunity to begin realigning uses of the law with its intended purpose," he said.

Previous presidents created the monuments under the 1906 Antiquities Act and were frequently met with opposition from certain industries and some locals.

While presidents have shrunk monuments created by their predecessors, no court has decided whether that is allowed under the law.

Conservationists say that since the law doesn’t specifically give that authority, Trump cannot alter monuments. But Trump’s supporters say that authority is implied.

Zinke previously stated that he wants to remove some areas of Bears Ears from protection.

Citing a source familiar with the decision, the Bangor Daily News reported Thursday that Maine’s Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument, created last year by Obama from land donated by a philanthropist, would be slated to remain completely intact under Zinke’s recommendations.

That is in contrast to what Maine Gov. Paul LePage (R), a close Trump ally, had pushed for, which was to completely undo the designation. Maine’s legislature also passed a resolution last year opposing the monument.

Zinke has also in recent weeks announced six other monuments that he would recommend be kept intact completely.

— This story was updated at 12:40 p.m.