According to The New York Times, parts of Bears Ears and at least three other national monuments would lose their strict protection and could be reopened for new mining or drilling under proposals submitted to President Donald Trump by Zinke on Thursday, according to congressional aides and others who have been briefed on the report. A statement released by Americans for Prosperity praised Zinke for giving the president a "series of recommendations created to give additional flexibility to local communities impacted by overly broad management of federal lands under the Antiquities Act".
Under Trump's April executive order, the Zinke was given 120 days determine if previous presidential administrations exceeded their authority in monument designations from 1996 to present that are 100,000 acres or greater in size.
"In the United States, once something is a national park, wilderness area or a national monument, we honor the promise that those protections are permanent", says Matt Lee-Ashley of the Center for American Progress.
After four months of consideration, the Department of the Interior released a draft of its recommendations on whether 27 national monuments should retain their protected designation yesterday (August 24).
Why has this been controversial? .
The secretary said that he's making a long-term decision with respect to monuments to ensure that public land is both protected and accessible.
"Despite the apparent lack of adherence to the goal of the Act, some monuments reflect a long public debate process and are largely settled and strongly supported by the local community", it stated. Before the release of the final report, Zinke had already announced that six national monuments, including Grand Canyon-Parashant in Arizona and Canyons of the Ancients in Colorado, would stay unchanged.
"Secretary Zinke's recommendation foolishly elevates the fleeting value derived from extracting a little more oil or coal or timber from these lands and waters, over the timeless value gained by preserving America's most precious places for our children, our grandchildren and generations to come", said Leavitt.
Jacqueline Savitz, senior vice president of Oceana, which has been pushing for preservation of five marine monuments included in the review, said that simply saying "changes" are coming doesn't reveal any real information. Mount Olympus National Monument on Washington's Olympic Peninsula provides a good example of this.
There is a strong precedent for presidents adjusting the boundaries of the monuments. "If Secretary Zinke recommends shrinking Bears Ears National Monument it will be another slap in the face to Native American tribes who lobbied for years to get it designated as a National Monument". This 1.35 million-acre swath in southeastern Utah is filled with dinosaur fossils, red rock canyons, mesas and archaeological sites of significance to Native Americans. "I find that the Bears Ears National Monument does not fully conform with the policies set forth [in Trump's executive order]".
"How important the Carrizo is to bringing tourism to this area", said Grant Helete with local community non-profit group ForestWatch which sent a letter to Interior Secretary Zinke urging him to maintain the current federal protections and size of the Carrizo Plain.
Bears Ears, established by Obama in the final months of his administration, encompasses more than 1.3 million acres, or 2,031 square miles, in central Utah, while Grand Staircase-Escalante takes in almost 1.9 million acres or 2,968 square miles.
A White House official said the President has seen the report but would not elaborate further on its contents. It's not clear when that will be.
Many fishermen have opposed the creation of the monument because it limits their ability to harvest valuable species such as swordfish, lobsters, crabs and squid.