Interior official expected ‘no new information’ from national monument public comments
An Interior Department official predicted last year that the Trump administration wouldn’t learn anything from public comments submitted on potential changes to a major Utah national monument.
Randal Bowman, who took a leading role in the administration’s process of reviewing the Bears Ears National Monument, made the comments in a webcast meeting a week after President Trump signed an executive order to review the monument for potential changes.
“Essentially, barring a surprise, there is no new information that’s going to be submitted,” Bowman told colleagues in the May 2017 meeting, as first reported by HuffPost Thursday.
Another person on the meeting asked Bowman to clarify the comment, and he responded, “I can’t visualize what a new [piece of] information would be. But I’m not ruling it out.”
A link to a recording of the webcast was in an email recently released under the Freedom of Information Act.
In December 2017, Trump shrank the 1.4 million-acre national monument created by former President Obama by about 84 percent. The move had strong support from Utah leaders and some locals near the protected area, but it was opposed by nearby American Indian tribes and conservationists nationally.
Trump and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke had often boasted about gathering public comment on Bears Ears and other national monuments. No previous action to create or expand monuments had a formal comment process.
“I appreciate everyone who took the time to log-on or write in and participate in our government,” Zinke said last year.
National public comments on Bears Ears were overwhelmingly opposed to shrinking or eliminating it.
Supporters of the monument sued Trump and Zinke over the reduction, saying the Antiquities Act doesn’t allow for monuments to be made smaller. The case is still pending.