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'Handful' of national monuments may change per Interior Secretary's recommendations

25 August 2017

The president directed Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to study 27 national monuments and make sure they had been created with sufficient local input, and did not put up barriers to energy development and economic growth.

San Gabriel Mountains National MonumentIn this October 10, 2014 file photo, President Barack Obama speaks at Frank G. Bonelli Regional Park in San Dimas, Calif., as he designated almost 350,000 acres within the San Gabriel Mountains northeast of Los Angeles, background, a national monument.

Alongside Bears Ears, another monument that's seen at risk of losing federal protections is the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, in Utah.

President Trump ordered the unprecedented review in April as part of an executive order he said was created to combat "the abusive practice" of turning lands already owned by the federal government into national monuments by giving them a higher level of protection from mining, logging and other extractive industries.

"More than 2.7 million Americans told Secretary Zinke what they think", said Jennifer Rokala, president of the Center for Western Priorities, an environmental group in Denver.

The Associated Press reported that he said he will recommend changing the boundaries for a "handful" of sites.

He was to deliver his final status report to the President Aug. 24, if not delayed, detailing his assessment of the monuments, including some marine monuments, which stretch from ME to California.

Zinke also did not mention whether or not areas of the monuments would be opened up to oil and gas drilling, mining, logging and other industries, which President Trump has advocated for. He did not specify which monuments he plans to recommend be scaled back.

Earlier this month, Zinke announced he would not be modifying Sand to Snow National Monument, which protects a diverse desert and alpine environment that stretches from the top of the San Bernardino Mountains to the base of the range near Palm Springs.

"The eco-tourists basically say, 'Throw out all the rubes and the locals and get rid of that mentality of grazing and utilizing these public lands for any kind of renewable resource such as timber harvesting and even some mineral production, '" Noel said. "The public has spoken loudly and clearly to protect - and not alter or eliminate - national monuments", the lawmakers wrote.

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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.

He says Zinke was receptive to ranchers' concerns when he met with them last month.

REI urged customers in an email campaign to "tell Secretary Ryan Zinke why our public lands need to remain protected now and for future generations".

None of the sites would revert to state or private ownership, he says, while public access for uses such as hunting, fishing or grazing would be maintained or expanded.

In February, Trump signed an executive order directing Zinke to review all national monuments that were established since 1996 and are over 100,000 acres in size. "You can protect the monument by keeping public access to traditional uses".

Supporters of Zinke's review note that presidents have reduced the size of national monuments in the past, arguing the Antiquities Act gives presidents that power.

New Mexico's other Democratic congressional leaders have also pushed for no changes.

Through the years, U.S. presidents of both parties have used the Antiquities Act of 1906 to set aside swaths of public land to protect important historical, cultural, and ecological sites without approval from Congress.

Now, days before Zinke is scheduled to deliver his final recommendations, on Aug 24., one thing-and only one thing-is clear: the American people decisively reject the parks review and favor the continued protection of natural and cultural landmarks.

'Handful' of national monuments may change per Interior Secretary's recommendations