Leaked Document Details Plans for Protected Status of National Monuments

By Ayana Byrd Sep 18, 2017

A document leaked to The Washington Post details recommendations that could result in up to 10 national monuments losing their full protected status.

According to an article published yesterday (September 17) by The Post, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has recommended that President Donald Trump modify 10 national monuments created by former Presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton.

As Colorlines has previously reported, Zinke submitted his recommendations, titled Final Report Summarizing Findings of the Review of Designations Under the Antiquities Act, to Trump last month. To date, the White House has, according to The Post, “refused to release" it to the public. The report was prompted by an April executive order in which President Donald Trump instructed Zink to examine all national monuments created since January 1, 1996, that are at least 100,000 acres.

Zinke recommended shrinking existing boundaries for four protected areas and two marine monuments. They are, per The Post, Utah’s Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante, Nevada’s Gold Butte, Oregon’s Cascade-Siskiyou and the Pacific Remote Islands and Rose Atoll. The remaining four areas would not have reduced borders, though Zinke does recommended altering how they are used. Per The Post:

The secretary’s set of recommendations also would change the way all 10 targeted monuments are managed. It emphasizes the need to adjust the proclamations to address concerns of local officials or affected industries, saying the administration should permit “traditional uses” now restricted within the monuments’ boundaries, such as grazing, logging, coal mining and commercial fishing.

In addition, Zinke reportedly included one of his earlier recommendations that tribal nations should co-manage some of the land and have the authority to weigh in on what commercial activities are permitted. As Colorlines reported when he suggested this in June, "some tribal nations have met his recommendation with hostility, as they want to see the entire area protected."

The Bears Ears Monument has been the most controversial of all of the targeted areas since Zinke’s review began. Per a previous Colorlines article:

When former President Barack Obama designated it a national monument in December 2016, environmentalists and many tribes affiliated with the historic area cheered the decision. It would protect the signature cliff dwellings of the ancient Native Pueblo people and pictograph- and petroglyph-covered walls within the land. Industry interests and state lawmakers like Sen. Mike Lee (along with their constituents), on the other hand, met the decision with anger because of how the order would limit the area’s land use.

While the bulk of Zinke’s report focused on shrinking monuments, he did also suggest the possibility of three new ones focused on African-American and Native-American history. These, report The Post, “include Kentucky’s Camp Nelson, an 1863 Union Army outpost where African-American regiments trained; the home of murdered civil rights hero Medgar Evers in Jackson, Miss.; and the 130,000-acre Badger-Two Medicine area in Zinke’s home state of Montana, which is consider sacred by the Blackfeet Nation.”

When contacted for a response to The Post’s report, White House officials emailed that they do not comment on leaked information.