Secretary Zinke recommends reduced size of Bears Ears National Monument
The US Secretary of the Interior is recommending that the boundaries of the Bears Ears National Monument be cut back.
Secretary Ryan Zinke made his recommendation after a 45-day review that was ordered by President Donald Trump. Details have not yet been ironed out, but the Secretary’s statement suggested that the 1.35 million acre national monument could be cut dramatically.
In addition to his statement on the size of the monument, Zinke also suggested that Native American tribes have more of a co-management role in the national monument management.
The San Juan County Commission said, “We have immense gratitude for the Trump Administration and especially Secretary Ryan Zinke for their thoughtful approach to this land grab issue. We have always felt and believed that Secretary Zinke listened to all sides and worked to make a decision based on facts.
“In San Juan County, we are fighting for our future. As a people, we have so much to offer. That future was detrimentally limited when this monument was created.
“Secretary Zinke has restored some hope, but the battle is not over. We need you to call President Trump and tell him you support Secretary Zinke’s recommendation. With Secretary Zinke extending the comment period until July 10, it is vital that everyone submit comments.
“This monument designation was not about protection and preservation; the people of San Juan County have done that as stewards of the land. This monument designation was about control.
“By shrinking the monument, President Trump and Secretary Zinke are empowering the local people with the ability to build a diverse economy and support their families.”
In contrast, Utah Diné Bikéyah was “deeply upset” at Secretary Zinke’s announcement.
“The Secretary failed to take the time to listen to the very people who know best what is at stake at Bears Ears and ignored overwhelming support in Utah for the monument,” they claimed in a statement issued Monday.
“If the Administration proceeds in attempting to shrink the monument, we could lose funding potential, proactive management, and law enforcement resources for the land that would no longer be included in the monument.
“Within those lands sit some of the state’s richest biodiversity, hundreds of thousands of important Native American artifacts, and sites sacred to Native Americans and beloved by so many more Utahns.
“The Secretary’s recommendation isn’t about doing what’s best for Utah. It’s not about the nuances of the Antiquities Act or differing views on land management. It’s about appeasing political allies and special interests; it’s an illegal move to turn back the clock one hundred years on tribal relations and Utah’s economy.
“President Trump should ignore this hasty report and should visit with the people who live here in San Juan County. He should review recent polling that suggests the vast majority of Utahns, including voters on both sides of the aisle, support the monument.
“If the President does act on Secretary Zinke’s suggestions, we are prepared to defend protection in court.
“However, Native American Tribes, Western governors, and anyone who cares about public lands should be on notice now—Native American citizens in Utah demand to have a seat at the table and be treated like everyone else when it comes to strengthening our communities, building an economy, and sustaining our cultural traditions.
“A threat on Native American participation in our democracy is a threat to all Americans.”
The Stewards of San Juan County expressed gratitude to Secretary Zinke and his time in reviewing and preparing a recommendation to President Trump regarding the Bears Ears National Monument.
“This is a day of conflicting feelings for many residents of San Juan County and Americans battling ongoing issues regarding constitutional freedoms associated with land rights.
“A massively redundant Bears Ears National Monument designated in the most obscene unilateral way, without the input of local citizen stakeholders, was never the answer.
“The stance of the Stewards of San Juan remains a request for a rigorous review of the Antiquities Act in order to prevent such unilateral measures and further protect the rights of all people.
“However, we are well aware this current recommendation is a measurable victory for rural Americans and local voices. As Native Americans, locals, business owners, land owners, cattlemen, farmers, recreation enthusiasts, educators, and conservation advocates, we appreciate this administration’s efforts in providing us the voice we sorely needed in this matter.
“We move forward with a conviction to work with our elected officials, local tribes and San Juan County residents to foster a plan indicative of the hearts and minds of this community and love of this beautiful land.
“We recommit and restate our stance for our love and appreciation of public access to land, responsible multiple use of land, and respect for proper management of the land.”
Elected officials continue to support Zinke’s efforts. “I join my rural Utah constituents in celebrating today’s recommendation,” said Congressman Jason Chaffetz. “This is an important first step in reversing President Obama’s gross abuse of the Antiquities Act.
“Secretary Zinke’s exemplary effort to engage with local Utahns is to be commended. A locally-driven, legislative approach is the best way to strike a balance among the people who love and use the vast acreage surrounding the Bears Ears.
“Now it is up to Congress to find a win-win solution that will create a balance between conservation and use.”
“This is an unquestionable victory for Utah,” said Senator Orrin Hatch. “While I am encouraged to see Secretary Zinke recommend diminishing the size of the monument in line with the original intent of the Antiquities Act, as envisioned by President Teddy Roosevelt and the Congress of the early 1900s, I am even more grateful for the thoughtful and inclusive process that led us to this point.
“Secretary Zinke heard from everyone, community leaders, conservationists, tribal leaders, from those who clearly opposed any monument to those who attempted to shout him down while he was visiting our state.
“This recommendation reflects a balance of our shared priorities of protecting this land and the antiquities that are found on it while still preserving local involvement, and taking into consideration the needs of the local communities.
“I hope these efforts will serve as a positive blueprint for Secretary Zinke’s future monument reviews, and I thank both he and President Trump for giving Utahns a voice in this process.”
“The Trump administration’s announcement today on Bears Ears is nothing less than an attack on the future of all American monuments, parks and public lands,” said Jamie Williams, president of The Wilderness Society.
“The administration’s recommendations are directly against the wishes of the overwhelming majority of Americans – and also in direct conflict with the Antiquities Act and the Wilderness Act – making a mockery of the claimed public process and the good faith of these recommendations.
“We stand in solidarity with the five tribal nations with ancestral ties to these lands, which are hallowed ground to many Native Americans.
“Bears Ears is the first national monument that was proposed and supported by a coalition of five sovereign tribal governments who want to end the looting, vandalism and grave-robbing that has plagued their ancestral lands for years.
“Substantially shrinking the boundaries, as noted in today’s recommendations, would cut out many of these vital sacred sites and cultural resources, leaving them unprotected from the very destruction the monument is designed to prevent.
“The announcement today dismisses these sovereign nations and millions of Americans who have taken action to support this hallowed ground.
“If carried out, these recommendations would shortchange current and future generations of Americans the opportunity to see an unspoiled and celebrated Bears Ears National Monument.”