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Trump officials questioned benefits of national monuments

Trump officials questioned benefits of national monuments
© Greg Nash

Senior Interior Department officials questioned the benefits of national monuments, instead playing up the potential to use some of the lands to develop natural resources, according to The Washington Post.

The Post reviewed department emails, released in July and subsequently retracted, that show Interior Secretary Ryan ZinkeRyan Keith ZinkeOvernight Energy: Trump administration doubles down on climate skepticism | Suspended EPA health official hits back | Military bases could host coal, gas exports Trump administration could use military bases to export coal, gas Why grizzly bear hunting season isn’t happening MORE and officials discussing a four-month review of the country's national monuments.

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The officials pushed for shrinking the size of some monuments as they emphasized the value of logging, ranching and energy development that could be unlocked on some of those lands.

The Post says the documents show Interior Department officials rejected material that would support keeping protections in place for certain lands and sought information that would back the case for shrinking or removing protections.

In one instance, Zinke reportedly proposed removing some of the forested areas within Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument in an effort to “allow sustained-yield timber production.”

The Post report comes just months after President TrumpDonald John TrumpKey takeaways from the Arizona Senate debate Major Hollywood talent firm considering rejecting Saudi investment money: report Mattis says he thought 'nothing at all' about Trump saying he may leave administration MORE in April signed an executive order that directed Zinke to review 27 national monuments established over a 21-year period. 

Trump has reduced the size of two monuments in Utah, sparking backlash from green groups.

The Post reported that officials sought to keep some of the documents out of the public view.

In one document, the department’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) officers questioned if sharing the notes with the public would be "revealing [the] strategy" behind their review, according to the Post.

The Post notes that information about these moves came because the Interior’s FOIA office sent out a batch of documents to journalists and advocacy groups earlier this month. It later removed those documents online.

"[The] botched document dump reveals what we’ve suspected all along: Secretary Zinke ignored clear warnings from his own staff that shrinking national monuments would put sacred archaeological and cultural sites at risk," Aaron Weiss, a spokesman for the advocacy group Center for Western Priorities, said in an email to the Post.