Interior head suggests reducing Bears Ears National Monument

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Herbert and other Utah Republicans oppose Obama's designation of the Bears Ears National Monument.

"As a result of the review ..."

In an interim report Zinke gave to the White House on Saturday, he proposed Trump ask Congress to give tribal officials authority to co-manage "designated cultural resources" in the area and "make more appropriate conservation designations" within an area that President Barack Obama formally protected in southeastern Utah late a year ago.

"Despite months of rhetoric claiming his respect for Teddy Roosevelt's legacy of public lands protection, Secretary Zinke revealed he is just another politician looking to exploit and develop America's public lands at the expense of our children and grandchildren". This new development is the latest confirmation that the Trump administration intends to take bold, unprecedented action to erode the protections for millions of acres of land across the country that belong to you and me.

Tribes and conservation groups argue that this is a potentially illegal act and that Trump does not have the authority to eliminate sections of a national monument.

Though Zinke did not say how many acres would be cut from the monument, he did suggest that there are "a lot more" landscapes that do not need to be protected as a national monument than there are historical artifacts and sacred sites that are warrant protection under the Antiquities Act. Trump called the Bears Ears designation an "egregious abuse of federal power" and a "massive federal land grab".

Because of public pressure from Republicans in Utah, Trump expedited the review of Bears Ears.

His recommendation to Trump set the tone for the administration's broader review, triggered by an executive order in April.

The Bears Ears monument designation has been hard-fought by Utah's GOP leaders, who pressed Trump to rescind the monument outright because they assert it falls outside the scope of the Antiquities Act.

Zinke said he conducted a 45-day review of Bears Ears.

U.S. Sen. Tom Udall, D-New Mexico, said he doesn't believe the recommendation was respectable or responsible.

"If the administration moves forward with that plan, this decision will be challenged in court and if they put this plan before Congress I will fight him every step of the way", said Udall, who called Zinke's "recommendations and the lack of transparency leading up to this point ... deeply disrespectful and insulting". "We hope everyone who cares about public lands will continue to let their voices be heard". The preliminary report is the first step of a larger review of more than two dozen national monuments that protect US public lands, mostly in the West. Moreover, officials from both the George W. Bush and Obama administrations have testified previously that any national conservation area designations "should not diminish the protections that now apply to the lands". "I'm prepared to support whatever recommendation Secretary Zinke offers to the President at the conclusion of a thoughtful and inclusive review process".

Conservation organizations Earthjustice, the National Wildlife Federation and Patagonia voiced their strong opposition to Zinke's recommendation, with NWF CEO Collin O'Mara saying that the decision was "disappointing and baffling".

The monument, the first established at the request of Native Americans, is backed by environmental groups as well as a slew of tribes but locally elected leaders in the area and Utah leaders offered a strong rebuke of the action.

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