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Trump officials reverse course on selling public lands

Trump officials reverse course on selling public lands
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The Trump administration is taking any plans to sell federal land from the reduced boundaries of Utah's Grand Staircase Escalante off the table.

Interior Department deputy Secretary David Bernhardt officially reversed course in a memo sent Friday to Brian Steed, the Bureau of Land Management's (BLM) deputy director for policy and programs, obtained by The Hill.

Bernhardt in the memo reverses part of BLM's management plan, released two days earlier, that identified acres of public land that could be sold off privately.

The targeted 1,600 acres for “disposal" come from the 900,000 acres that President TrumpDonald John TrumpThe Guardian slams Trump over comments about assault on reporter Five takeaways from the first North Dakota Senate debate Watchdog org: Tillerson used million in taxpayer funds to fly throughout US MORE removed from the Grand Staircase Escalante monument in December.

"Earlier this week, the Bureau of Land Management, released Draft Resource Management Plans and an Environmental Impact Statement (draft) for the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument (GSENM) and for the federal lands previous included in the GSENM," Bernhard wrote in the memo dated August 17.

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"Because the current draft is inconsistent with departmental policy, I am directly BLM to modify the draft so that it does not include any preferred alternative that identifies federal lands for possible disposal."

He added: "The failure to capture this inconsistency stops with me.

The Salt Lake Tribune first reported on the memo.

A senior Interior Department official told the Tribune that Zinke did not "see the proposal before it went out and was not happy about it."

Zinke has long promised that the administration would not sell off any public land under his tenure and continued to promote the message even as environmentalists criticized him for shrinking the boundaries of two national monuments in Utah that included Grand Staircase Escalante earlier in the year.

At the time, Kimberly Finch, a spokeswoman for the BLM in Utah, told HuffPost that the agency was "required by law as part of its land use planning process to identify lands potentially suitable for disposal,” under the Federal Lands Policy and Management Act of 1976.

"As the secretary has made clear throughout his tenure, the Department of the Interior is opposed to the wholesale sale or transfer of public lands to states or private interests," Bernhard said in the memo. "This is acutely the case where such lands were previously designated within a national monument."

8.17.18 Signed Memo to BLM by M Mali on Scribd