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Zinke: Don't eliminate monuments, but "a handful" should be downsized

25 August 2017

"The report is a draft, so we are continuing to work with Interior on getting the best information on which to base recommendations" for Trump, a White House official said.

That's according to a report in the Washington Post, which cites several sources briefed on the decision.

The Interior Department did not respond to questions Wednesday about the deadline for the monument review.

The monument area also contains fragile deep sea corals and vulnerable species of marine life, said Peter Auster, a senior research scientist with Mystic Aquarium in Mystic, Connecticut. And this is not about energy development. "This could be a devastating blow for all Americans, and our lands and waters that are so deserving of protection".

Trump National Monuments

Zinke's recommendation for the 87,500-acre (35,410-hectare) monument came a year to the day that then-President Barack Obama formally announced the land designation.

The Antiquities Act, signed into law in 1906 by President Theodore Roosevelt, gives presidents the power to designate national monuments that safeguard "historic landmarks, historic and prehistoric structures and other objects of historic or scientific interest".

"I am encouraged by the recommendations to revise previous designations that were inconsistent with the law and outside the Act's size limitations", said Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah), chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee.

The news nonetheless represented a blow for conservationists and a win for conservative groups, Republican politicians and extractive industries across the U.S. west, which have led a concerted campaign against the Antiquities Act of 1906.

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Grand Staircase-Escalante, also in southern Utah, covers 1.87 million acres and is known to include high-quality coal reserves and a part of one oil field.

But environmental groups and other defenders of the monuments saw the Trump administration's gestures at eliminating the monuments as an unwise concession to the oil and gas industry, which covets these lands for drilling and development. This briefing is about the fire and what the secretaries are doing here today. "We stand ready to take appropriate legal action". According to his sources, logging would not be allowed in the monument, though the Secretary would recommend that demonstrations of logging tools and practices be included to honor the region's heritage.

But conservationists said the monument protects marine mammals, sea turtles and underwater habitats. Kihuen had raised issue with Zinke's review process in the past, calling it "highly disrespectful" for the secretary to not respond to a letter inquiring about the review's methodology. "You can protect the monument by keeping public access to traditional uses". Instead, he said he'd push to reduce the size of a "handful" of monuments. Zinke seemed to acknowledge that.

"National monuments and other public lands and waters play an important role in American society", said Deputy Director Paige Lewis.

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Shortly before leaving office, Obama infuriated Utah Republicans by creating the Bears Ears National Monument on 1.35 million acres of land that's sacred to Native Americans and home to tens of thousands of archaeological sites, including ancient cliff dwellings.

Monument areas don't receive as much protections as national parks but may have limits on certain industrial and recreational activities. The Interior Department has estimated that the lands under its management hosted 443 million visitors in 2015, supporting $45 billion in economic output and almost 400,000 jobs. Zinke is not, however, rescinding any of the 27 monuments under review. Currently, they make up millions of acres of protected land and seabed.

The Trump administration will now have to decide how to act on the Interior Department's recommendations.

Prior to today's report, Zinke removed six of the 27 national monuments - one each in Montana, Colorado, Idaho, California, Arizona and Washington - from the initial list, stating those areas were no longer being reviewed.

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Zinke: Don't eliminate monuments, but