Interior Secretary recommends shrinking national monument land areas

Zinke would not say which of the 27 would be subject to boundary reductions, only that he was recommending redrawing the borders of a "handful" of sites.
By Lila Alexander | Aug 30, 2017
A number of U.S. national monuments could undergo a downsizing if Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke gets his way. On Thursday, Zinke told reporters that he has issued the White House a formal recommendation to rein in the boundaries of some nationally protected land areas and to expand hunting, fishing, and grazing on some of them.

The policy changes would "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.

The Interior secretary's recommendations follow a 120-day study of 27 national monuments that presidents have created since 1996 under the Antiquities Act of 1906, which authorizes presidents to declare large areas of land off-limits to drilling, mining, logging, and other activities without adequate input from locals. Trump order the study in April to reassess past presidential designations of protected land areas and to potentially open some of these lands to human development.

Zinke would not say which of the 27 would be subject to boundary reductions, only that he was recommending redrawing the borders of a "handful" of sites. And no site will undergo complete elimination from federal protection, he added.

A White House official told the Guardian that the report is still in the drafting phase. The official said that it will be finished in the coming weeks and then be released to the public, including a full list of the monuments that will be scaled back.

The report has already gotten positive words from energy, mining, ranching, and logging interests, who argue that the existing laws overly constrain business. But numerous conservation groups assail the report as an assault on federal conservation efforts.
"Any recommendation from Secretary Zinke to shrink national monuments is hypocritical at best and ruinous at worst," Michael Brune, director of the Sierra Club, told the Guardian.

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