27 monuments up for review, Interior Secretary schedules Utah tour

Top photo: President Donald Trump holds a signed Antiquities Executive Order during a ceremony at the Interior Department in Washington, D.C., Wednesday. The president is asking for a review of the designation of tens of millions of acres of land as “national monuments.” District of Columbia, April, 26, 2017. Background is an AP file photo showing Bears Ears buttes near Blanding, Utah, June 22, 2016. | AP Photos by Carolyn Kaster (Trump with executive order), Rick Bowmer, File (Bears Ears); St. George News

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA — The Interior Department Friday identified 27 national monuments, mostly in Western states, that it is reviewing for possible changes to the protections created by presidents over the past two decades.

Also announced Friday – the first ever formal public comment period for members of the public to officially weigh in on monument designations under the Antiquities Act of 1906. For dates and deadlines of the public comment period see the end of this report.

A public comment period is not required for monument designations under the Antiquities Act, Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke said in a news release, adding that he and President Donald Trump both strongly believe that local input is a critical component of federal land management.

“The Department of the Interior is the steward of America’s greatest treasures and the manager of one-fifth of our land. Part of being a good steward is being a good neighbor and listening to the American people who we represent,” Zinke said in a statement.

Today’s action, initiating a formal public comment process finally gives a voice to local communities and states when it comes to Antiquities Act monument designations. There is no pre-determined outcome on any monument. I look forward to hearing from and engaging with local communities and stakeholders as this process continues.”

Trump issued Executive Order 13792 on April 26, saying protections imposed by his three immediate predecessors amounted to “a massive federal land grab” that “should never have happened.”

The list includes 22 monuments on federal land in 11 states including Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante in Utah, Nevada’s Basin and Range and Katahdin Woods and Waters in Maine.

The review also targets five marine monuments in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, including a huge reserve in Hawaii established in 2006 by President George W. Bush and expanded last year by President Barack Obama.

In December, shortly before leaving office, Obama infuriated Utah Republicans by creating the Bears Ears National Monument on more than 1 million acres of land that’s sacred to Native Americans and home to tens of thousands of archaeological sites, including ancient cliff dwellings.

Republicans in the state asked Trump to take the unusual step of reversing or revising Obama’s designation of the Bears Ears National Monument. They said the monument designation will stymie growth by closing the area to new commercial and energy development.

Read more: UPDATED: Utah legislators vote to urge Trump to rescind Bears Ears monument

San Juan County Commissioner Phil Lyman recently told St. George News that the designation has had an unintended negative effect on certain antiquities covered by the monument status, antiquities previously protected as wilderness study areas. Monument status, on the other hand, has driven more tourism to the sites, he said.

Read more: Trump orders review of millions of acres in national monuments

Trump’s order also targets the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in Utah, created by Clinton in 1996, and Katahdin Woods and Waters in Maine, created last year by Obama. At 87,500 acres, Katahdin is the only one of the 22 monuments under review that is smaller than 100,000 acres, the minimum size designated by the order.

The Antiquities Act does not explicitly express or deny power to the president to undo a designation and no president has ever taken such a step. Areas designated as monuments have, however, been enlarged or diminished in many cases by presidential order. Many have been redesignated national or state parks by Congress with appropriate transfers of management.

Zinke has been directed to produce an interim report next month and make a recommendation on Bears Ears, and then issue a final report within 120 days. He is traveling to Utah on Sunday and will visit Bears Ears and Grand Staircase.

San Juan County commissioners issued a statement Friday about Zinke’s upcoming visit, noting they want the Bears Ears National Monument designation rescinded.

“A monument of this size would devastate the economy of San Juan County,” Lyman said in the statement. “Healthy economies require diversification – locking up 1.3 million square acres of land shuts down our ability to build an economy outside of the narrow tourism months.”

Rebecca Benally, a San Juan County commissioner and a member of the Navajo Nation, agreed.

“These lands have been wonderfully protected and watched over by the local population for generations. The last minute, grotesquely large designation from President Obama to place control of these lands in the hands of un-elected bureaucrats a thousand miles away is an insult to our people,” her statement reads.

San Juan County Commissioner Bruce Adams also responded to supporters of the monument.

“Many large out of state groups and Washington DC bureaucrats advocating for the monument and have made numerous empty promises of increased land access and use,” Adams said in the statement. “However, history shows that lands designated as monuments are dotted with more “Area Closed” signs than ever before. These empty promises ring of hollowness and their history is not comforting to the people of San Juan.”

Public comment period

Comments may be submitted online after May 12 here by entering “DOI-2017-0002” in the Search bar and clicking “Search,” or by mail to Monument Review, MS-1530, U.S. Department of the Interior, 1849 C Street NW, Washington, DC 20240.

Deadlines

The Interior Department will shortly publish a notice in the Federal Register officially opening the public comment period. Written comments relating to the Bears Ears National Monument must be submitted within 15 days of publication of that notice.

Written comments relating to all other designations subject to Executive Order 13792 must be submitted within 60 days of that date.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. Additional content provided by the U.S. Department of the Interior and the San Juan County Commissioners.

Email: news@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2017, all rights reserved.

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13 Comments

  • Caveat_Emptor May 6, 2017 at 10:49 am

    While Zinke’s Montana does have a couple iconic National Parks in Glacier and Yellowstone, I can’t help but think about the Superfund sites left over from their extractive industry heydays. This seems like going through the motions, instead of a comprehensive review of the monument designations.
    It will be interesting to see how the Navajo Nation is included in the review of Bear’s Ears……….they were here first, in time.

    Natural Gas has displaced thermal coal as a direct result of market forces, as in lowest cost per BTU. I would guess that even the environmental community would be happy to see a few NG wells drilled, instead of the strip mines that coal would require.

  • comments May 6, 2017 at 11:16 am

    Still waiting for this donald to do anything at all good for Americans. He’s pretty well just turned all the agenda over to the neo-con establishment. Cut services and make the rich richer. You Trumpites all been fooled.

    • ladybugavenger May 6, 2017 at 12:48 pm

      What are you looking for Bob? What do you want done that you consider, “good for Americans”

      • comments May 6, 2017 at 3:35 pm

        neo-con corporatists are not looking out for average people like us, LBA. People like to blame Obama for hard times in the 8 years he was in and sweep aside the fact that it was Bush II and the neo-cons that brought the economy to near total collapse. Remember $4.50/gal gasoline? That was thanks to the neo-con republicans. They give 0 crap about anyone but the wealthy. I actually didn’t expect the donald to be this bad.

        • comments May 6, 2017 at 3:49 pm

          Plus the man is an egomaniac narcissist buffoon…… a reality television personality …. it’s like a big joke

          I watched a few of the donald’s speeches online before he was elected, and I liked them. I think now he has no intention of keeping any promises. Just another say-anything-to-get-elected politician.

        • ladybugavenger May 6, 2017 at 5:37 pm

          I know Bob, I don’t expect any rich person to care about little ole ladybug. No one cares what I have to say. But wouldn’t America, as a country, be better off if other countries feared us? If people feared what would happen if they attacked us. wouldn’t that be a plus for America?

          • Chris May 6, 2017 at 6:12 pm

            Trump is not making people fear us. He is making people laugh at us because we elected a complete buffoon as our president.

          • Proud Rebel May 6, 2017 at 7:14 pm

            “I don’t care if they respect me so long as they fear me.” – Caligula

          • comments May 6, 2017 at 8:28 pm

            Every country already knew not to attack us. We’ve got far and away the biggest military and nuclear arsenal in the world. The only country could possibly be a threat is Russia, and Putin isn’t insane, so nothing will come of that. The North Korea thing is a sideshow and a distraction. We could take out their entire military overnight, and so could the Chinese.

      • ladybugavenger May 6, 2017 at 5:34 pm

        But….specifically, without blaming anyone, what do you want done for you?

        • comments May 6, 2017 at 8:23 pm

          Without making some huge long list, how ’bout a pres that looks out for the common folk just a little bit. So far it looks like Obama did better there than this POS donald clown. how bout u? same question.

          • ladybugavenger May 7, 2017 at 11:30 am

            Me, the first time I voted for a president was 2016. I’ve never cared about politics or history cuz I’ve got my own history that I was their to witness and I didn’t believe anything taught in school in history class. I didn’t care.

            Do I care now? All I cared about was that Hillary wasn’t President.

            My faith does not come from any government- as far as I’m concerned all government is corrupt! All people are corrupt! I pay my taxes and stuff and get my refunds but I like not having a lot of money. A lot of money comes a lot of people taking. I’d rather stay humble and be good and kind to people in my path and if I made a difference in someone’s life along the way and for a moment their pain was gone and a smile was put on their face then that is all that matters to me. ❤️

  • ladybugavenger May 7, 2017 at 11:58 am

    I don’t believe America should give money to other countries when we have hungry and homeless veterans, children, and families right here in our country

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