Still stunned by Trump’s historic reduction of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante? Well, it turns out his attack on national monuments is just getting started.
On Tuesday, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke made public his final report to the president, proposing reductions and management changes to an additional 8 national monuments.
Zinke recommends an undetermined reduction to Gold Butte National Monument and Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument, and recommends changing the boundaries of two Marine National Monuments in the Pacific Ocean: Pacific Remote Islands and Rose Atoll.
Zinke’s report also calls for opening up half a dozen national monuments to additional logging, cattle grazing, and the use of off-road motorized vehicles. These monuments include Katahdin Woods and Waters in Maine, Northeast Canyons and Seamounts in the Atlantic Ocean, and New Mexico’s Rio Grande del Norte and Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks.
Politicians and conservation groups were quick to criticize Zinke’s recommendations.
Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon claims that Zinke is not listening to the people when it comes to Cascade-Siskiyou:
“Secretary Zinke falsely claims the Interior Department is listening to the voices of Oregonians when it comes to the agency’s damaging, vague recommendation to close off public access to the Cascade-Siskiyou monument,” Wyden said. “This is not what the majority of Oregonians signed up for when they spoke out in favor of expanding protections for this Oregon treasure. These public lands belong to all Oregonians and all Americans, not to corporations or Trump’s department heads.”
Senator Wyden has a point: Zinke isn’t listening to the people. An analysis by the Center for Western Priorities showed that 98 percent of the 650,000 public comments received by the Interior Department during Zinke’s review process favored preserving national monuments at their current size.
Jamie Williams, president of the Wilderness Society, calls the administration’s actions “unpopular” and “illegal.”
“Yesterday, we saw the largest ever stripping of protections for America’s publicly owned lands, with losses at two national monuments in Utah,” Williams said. “Today, President Trump and Secretary Zinke are doubling down on their illegal and unpopular attack on public lands and waters by proposing to rip away protections from even more of America’s favorite places in the Nevada desert and the lush forests of Oregon and Northern California.”
Other’s are doing more than voicing their opposition. On Monday, The Native American Rights Fund took action, filing a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court. Natalie Landreth, Native American Rights Fund staff attorney, said in a statement:
“The Bears Ears monument as created by President Obama preserved hunting, fishing, gathering and grazing rights, and protected these incredible lands from widespread looting and oil, gas and mineral development.”
And they weren’t the only ones to take legal action. Ten environmental groups, including the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Sierra Club, and the Grand Canyon Trust, came together to file a lawsuit against Trump, Zinke, and the Bureau of Land Management Director Brian Steed, in opposition to the reduction of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.
Zinke, meanwhile, seems unperturbed by the public outrage. ”I don’t yield to public pressure,” he said. “Sound public policy is not based on the threats of a lawsuit; it’s doing what’s right.”
While Zinke has rejected arguments that these drastic changes to national monuments are motivated by fossil fuels, telling reporters “This is not about energy,” and, “There is no oil and gas assets,” his statements are in contradiction to the content of his report.
The report explicitly refers to Trump’s Executive Order 13792, which asks for the review of national monuments as energy assets:
“Monument designations that result from a lack of public outreach and proper coordination with state, tribal, and local officials and other relevant stakeholders may also create barriers to achieving energy independence, restrict public access to and use of federal lands, burden state, tribal, and local governments, and otherwise curtail economic growth.”
Furthermore, Zinke’s report includes as a bullet point under “Grand Staircase-Escalante”:
“Areas encompassed within GSENM contain an estimated several billion tons of coal.”
No matter what Zinke says, the report makes it clear that the decimation of these national monuments is just another gift to Oil, Gas, and Coal.