Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke today submitted a report to President Donald Trump recommending modifications to certain national monuments. The Department of Interior released an executive summary, but has so far withheld the full report. The executive summary describes the review process, but summarizes none of the recommendations contained within the full report.
The review was directed by President Trump in an executive order signed April 26 of this year. The order directed Secretary Zinke to review all presidential designations under the Antiques Act made since January 1, 1996 for national monuments larger than 100,000 acres. The Antiquities Act allows the president to designate national monuments, and was used by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1908 to protect Grand Canyon before it was proclaimed a national park in 1919.
The executive order requested recommendations for presidential actions and legislative proposals. The order allowed Zinke to recommend that monument designations be rescinded or reduced in size. Before the report’s release, Zinke said that no monuments would be eliminated, but that he would recommend boundary changes to some monuments. The exact recommendations will remain unknown until the report is released. In an interview with the Associated Press, Zinke “did not directly address” whether monuments would be opened to mining, energy development, or other industries.
The review covered 27 national monuments, including four in Arizona. In communications to constituents, Senator John McCain said that Zinke informed his office that no Arizona monuments would be reduced in size as a result of the review. Zinke recommended reductions to Utah’s Bears Ears National Monument in an interim report last June, but as yet there is no definitive list of what other monuments might be affected.
The executive summary criticizes monument proponents for “[promoting] monument designation as a mechanism to prevent the sale or transfer of public land. This narrative is false and has no basis in fact.” In his Associate Press interview, Zinke used stronger language, calling this narrative “patently false and shameful.”
The apparent basis for this narrative is the official 2016 Republican Party platform and Trump himself.
The Republican Party platform calls for the federal government to transfer “certain public lands” to state governments. The platform calls for these lands to be identified in an undefined “review process.” The same plank of the party platform is critical of the Antiquities Act and the monument designation process.
Upon signing the executive order mandating the review, Trump seemed to echo the party platform, saying, “Today we’re putting the states back in charge.” Deseret News described a meeting between Trump and Utah Senator Orrin Hatch that took place during the first week of Trump’s presidency. According to the Desert News, Trump pledged to “return [Bears Ears] to state control if possible.” A source quoted in the story says that Trump described the transfer as “the largest real estate deal I could ever be involved in.”
Zinke’s insistence that there is no basis to concerns over public land transfers comes after the Department of Interior received over 2.8 million public comments on the review process. Zinke’s executive summary describes the comments as “overwhelmingly in favor of maintaining existing monuments.”
- Executive summary: https://www.doi.gov/sites/doi.gov/files/uploads/monument-report-summary.pdf
- Bears Ears interim report: https://www.doi.gov/sites/doi.gov/files/uploads/interim_report_eo_13792.pdf
- Zinke AP interview: http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/stories/U/US_TRUMP_NATIONAL_MONUMENTS_MTOL-?SITE=AP&SECTION=HOME&TEMPLATE=DEFAULT&CTIME=2017-08-24-15-09-53
- Arizona monument boundaries: https://www.facebook.com/GrandCanyonWatershedNationalMonument/photos/a.983477551664949.1073741830.977534102259294/1683816054964425/?type=3&theater
- “Putting the states back in charge” quote: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-interior-monuments-idUSKBN17S1MH
- Deseret News article: http://www.deseretnews.com/article/865679308/Behind-the-scenes-How-Hatchs-loyalty-pushed-Trump-to-undo-Bears-Ears.html
- 2016 GOP platform: https://prod-cdn-static.gop.com/media/documents/DRAFT_12_FINAL-ben_1468872234.pdf