Zinke report says Bears Ears boundaries need to change


If Zinke suggests the president revoke the monument designation, and Trump does so, the action will inevitably end up in court, where environmentalists and tribal leaders have promised they will fight a rescission.

Most legal scholars are in agreement that the president lacks the legal authority to undermine protection efforts put in place by previous presidents through use of the Antiquities Act.

Zinke shared the preliminary recommendations Monday with President Donald Trump, whose predecessor created the one-point-three-million-acre monument in December. Obama did so after the failure of the Utah delegation to pass their own legislation to further preserve the federal lands around the Bears Ears region.

That 1906 law gives USA presidents the ability to reserve, or set aside land to protect "antiquities" or cultural artifacts at risk for looting or damage.

Bears Ears has been a flashpoint in the conflict over national monuments for years.

"There is a lot more drop-dead gorgeous land than there is historic landmarks, historic structures and other objects", Zinke said.

The announcement today dismisses these sovereign nations and millions of Americans who have taken action to support this hallowed ground.

He did say the boundary would still include the actual Bears Ears geological formation and cultural sights that receive the most traffic.

Zinke said he conducted a 45-day review of Bears Ears. "Bears Ears is unquestionably attractive and sacred".

Zinke also recommended Native American tribes be allowed to co-manage "cultural areas" within the resized monument - a nod to tribes that had lobbied for protections for the territory - and that Congress review conservation policies in the area.

Certain areas with historic and prehistoric landmarks and archaeological sites will continue to be part of Bears Ears, Zinke said. When asked about the viability of passing such a bill, Zinke said the task would be easier now than it was with Obama in the White House.

While not as large as the 1.9 million acres sought by a coalition of Native American tribes and environmental groups, the proclamation setting aside 1.35 million acres in San Juan County drew sharp rebuke from Utah leaders.

Zinke visited Bear Ears in May, meeting with different stakeholders in the fight over Bears Ears, including a host of Native American tribes who have long viewed parts of the land sacred.

Sen. Orrin Hatch, a Utah Republican, said Monday he was "encouraged" by Zinke's report and heralded the secretary's "thoughtful and inclusive" review.

Environmental groups have vowed to legally challenge an administration adjustment or rescinding of national monuments.

Zinke said he will issue a final report in late August, when he is due to make recommendations on Bears Ears and 21 other national monuments on federal land in 11 states, including Grand Staircase-Escalante in Utah, Giant Sequoia in California, Nevada's Basin and Range and Katahdin Woods and Waters in Maine.