Zinke to ask Trump to shrink two more monuments

Interior Secretary Ryan ZinkeRyan Keith ZinkeOvernight Energy: Senate panel sets Pruitt hearing | Colorado joins California with tougher emissions rules | Court sides with Trump on coal leasing program Interior 'disappointed' by billboards protesting uranium drilling in Grand Canyon Court rejects greens’ climate case against federal coal mining MORE has recommended President Trump shrink the boundaries of two more national monuments, a day after rolling back protected areas in Utah.

A Zinke-led study into national monument declarations says that Trump should shrink Oregon and California’s Cascade-Siskiyou and Nevada's Gold Butte national monuments by small amounts.

Zinke is also recommending Trump change management plans for six other monuments, allowing for additional grazing, ranching, fishing, hunting and other activities in those locations.

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Zinke told reporters Tuesday he is “fairly confident” Trump will accept his recommendations.

“I will be in the president’s office multiple times going through specifics of it as time passes,” he said.

Trump on Monday signed proclamations slashing the borders of the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante monuments in Utah, reducing them by about 50 percent and 84 percent respectively. It represents the largest rollback of monument declarations in American history.

Environmentalists and tribes have already sued over that decision, arguing the federal Antiquities Act does not give the president the power to reduce previously declared monuments.

But the Trump administration insists the president can do that, and Zinke said Tuesday that Trump was “absolutely right” to order a review of 27 large monument declarations dating back two decades.

“The Antiquities Act was designed to protect rather than prevent, and no president, under the authority of the Antiquities Act, has the authority to arbitrarily remove the public from their lands, reduce public access, reduce hunting and fishing and reduce traditional uses, unless those uses threaten the object,” Zinke said.

“The president was absolutely right in asking for a review.”

The reductions Zinke announced on Tuesday are smaller than those Trump approved on Monday.

At Gold Butte, a 300,000-acre monument in southern Nevada, Zinke proposed reducing some of the designated area near a water district used by local residents to allow for repairs and infrastructure upgrades. He said that “we have not drawn out the maps specifically, but it’s a small percentage of Gold Butte.”

Zinke said federal agencies are still considering what to do with Cascade-Siskiyou, which stretches over the Oregon-California border. Officials believe some of the protected land should be legally set aside for logging rather than monuments, Zinke said, and they’re considering what to do about private land within the monument borders.

Zinke recommended Trump change management plans for six other monuments. Under his proposal, that could allow for expanded timbering in Katahdin Woods and Waters in Maine; commercial fishing in the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts, Rose Atoll and Pacific Remote Islands Marine monuments; more grazing access for tribes in New Mexico’s Rio Grande Del Norte; and more coordination with the departments of Homeland Security and of Defense around the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks monument in New Mexico.  

Zinke is also proposing Trump create three monuments: at Camp Nelson, an 1863 Union Army site in Kentucky; the Jackson, Miss., home of civil rights leader Medgar Evers; and the Badger II Medicine Area, a 130,000-acre section of the Lewis and Clark National Forest in his home state of Montana.

The recommendations, which are not yet final, are likely to anger opponents of Zinke’s monuments review, who argue reducing borders and changing management plans will eventually lead to development on protected land.

The Navajo Nation and a coalition of environmental groups have already sued over Trump’s reductions to Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante. 

As the Interior Department publicized its Tuesday report, groups piled on. The Center for Western Priorities called it “Phase II of his all-out assault on America’s public lands and our nation’s century-old conservation legacy," while the Natural Resources Defense Council said the administration is "waging a war on our treasured national monuments."