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Lack of transparency in national monuments review a disservice to Americans

Josh Ewing

In April, President Trump ordered a review of the national monuments created since 1996 and requested recommendations on whether any of designations should be scaled back or rescinded.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke completed this review in August, and reportedly recommended changes to 10 national monuments.  However, Secretary Zinke has refused to make his recommendations public—not to me and not to the Americans he serves—but Secretary Zinke apparently plans to shrink Bears Ears National Monument from 1.35 million acres to roughly 250,000 acres.

{mosads}I recently revisited the Bears Ears Monument.  It’s not hard to understand why five tribal nations – the Hopi, Navajo Nation, Ute Mountain Ute, Pueblo of Zuni, and Ute Indians – joined together to help protect this special place. In addition to breathtaking views, the Monument has cultural sites spanning its borders that contain countless artifacts and hold religious significance to the tribes. It attracts thousands of tourists from across our nation and the world who appreciate the unique nature of these national treasures.

Secretary Zinke’s recommendations for dramatically reducing these monuments put the cultural resources of Bears Ears and the scientific and unique resources of many other monuments in jeopardy.  

The administration’s effort to shrink our monuments is widely unpopular.   More than 2.8 million public comments poured in during the Department of the Interior’s 60-day comment period.  More than 98 percent of all comments received expressed support for maintaining or expanding national monuments. And of the 820,000 comments the Department of Commerce and Department of the Interior received on marine national monuments, 99 percent supported their continued protection.  Despite this, the administration is ignoring the overwhelming support for these monuments and listening instead to special interests that do not want these lands to be protected.

The lack of transparency throughout this process coupled with strong opposition isn’t just frustrating for members of Congress, it’s frustrating for every American who believes these public lands deserve protection for future generations.

We all own these lands, and we have a right to know what this administration is going to do with them. These lands and monuments belong to all of us. That’s what President Teddy Roosevelt intended. And I’ll do everything I can to protect these special places. 

Durbin is Senate minority whip.

Tags Ryan Zinke

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