WASHINGTON- After a lengthy process, U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has sent a draft report to President Donald Trump regarding the future statuses of dozens of national monuments that were targeted for review.
In a statement, the department did not specify exactly what Zinke’s recommendations are for 27 designated monument areas the president put up for review with an April executive order.
It did say, though, that the monument areas in question should maintain federal property and keep environmental protections — but changes should also be made to increase public access to them.
“The recommendations I sent to the president on national monuments will maintain federal ownership of all federal land and protect the land under federal environmental regulations, and also provide a much needed change for the local communities who border and rely on these lands for hunting and fishing, economic development, traditional uses, and recreation,” Zinke said.
It is unknown whether Trump will accept the secretary’s recommendations. A White House official told reporters Thursday that the president received Zinke’s report and is currently reviewing them.
According to the Interior Department, Zinke’s report followed a 120-day review and included more than 60 meetings with advocates and opponents of monuments designations.
Trump’s order asked for a review of many monument designations made by former Presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton under The Antiquities Act of 1906 — the federal law that gives presidents the authority to designate federal land as protected national monument areas.
Trump’s administration has said previous presidents overused the law to create many monument areas, an act that further restricts public access to the land.
“No president should use the authority under the Antiquities Act to restrict public access, prevent hunting and fishing, burden private land, or eliminate traditional land uses, unless such action is needed to protect the object,” said Zinke.
The secretary’s statement was criticized by environmentalists, who strongly oppose any potential decrease in the size and federal protections of national monuments.
“We and millions of other Americans stand by the belief that those lands should be preserved and handed down to future generations,” said Jamie Williams, president of The Wilderness Society, in a statement. “We urge President Trump to ignore these illegal and dangerous recommendations and instead act to preserve these beloved places.”
By the time of the announcement Thursday, six national monuments had already been removed from potential elimination or boundary decrease — Craters of the Moon in Idaho, Hanford Reach in Washington state, Upper Missouri River Breaks in Montana, Grand Canyon-Parashant in Arizona, Canyons of the Ancients in Colorado; and Sand to Snow in California.
Twenty-one other sites are still under review. There was no information about when the status of those monuments would be determined and announced.
“If Secretary Zinke expects Americans to be thankful because he wants to merely erase large chunks of national monuments instead of eliminating them entirely, he is badly mistaken,” said Jennifer Rokala, executive director of the Center for Western Priorities.