Leaked Zinke Memo Urges Trump to Shrink National Monuments


As Interior Secretary, Zinke's supposed to protect our air and water - but now, that's up to us.

Zinke, who fashions himself as the modern-day protector of Roosevelt's conservation legacy, said at the outset of his monument inspection tour that the Utah monuments, as well as other monuments created by Trump's three immediate predecessors, were examples of presidential overreach.

"What is the objective of a marine monument if it is open to industrial fishing, drilling, and mining?" asks PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch, pointing out that the memo was submitted a month ago but the White House refuses to comment because it is both "leaked" and still "under review".

Lisa Pohlmann, Executive Director for the Natural Resources Council of ME, said in a press release that "without more details, we can not yet judge whether these recommendations are acceptable or consistent with the overwhelming view of the ME people".

Those suggestions weren't made public, but the recently-published memo shows that Zinke recommended changes to six national monuments, four of them on land, and two maritime monuments.

"If President Trump accepts Zinke's advice, and moves to eviscerate monument protections, he'd be ignoring the law - and the will of the American people", Natural Resources Defense Council president Rhea Suh told USA Today. The review was completed in August but kept under wraps by the administration.

It is not clear when the president will announce his decision.

In addition, the leaked report contains a biased analysis of the 2.8 million public comments received during the formal comment period.

A White House spokeswoman declined comment.

But environmental groups plan court challenges to any efforts to shrink or deregulate current monuments.

In a joint news release, Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden noted that the President and Interior Secretary have refused requests to make the recommendations public.

The Antiquities Act permits US presidents to establish national monuments, but whether later administrations can shrink their boundaries remains a point of contention.

The entire Utah congressional delegation objected tothe establishment ofBears Ears, designated just three weeks before President Obama left office on 1.3 million acres of Bureau of land Management and U.S. Forest Service land.

Utah politicians, who have lobbied Trump since he was elected to revisit several Antiquities Act designations, praised his administration's push to scale back these areas.

The leading proponent of Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument said Monday that Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke's recommendation for "active timber management" merely raises more questions about the Trump administration's plans for the property. "Logging, mining, grazing, fracking and drilling destroy wildlife habitat and objects of scientific and cultural importance", said Randi Spivak, public lands program director at the Center.

"They spent a lot of time here talking to people that are closest to these monuments and they took what we said to heart", Edwards said. "But if we open up these sanctuaries to oil and gas, we threaten that very ability in a fundamental way".

St. Clair was pleased Zinke isn't recommending that the monument designation be rescinded, as Gov. Paul LePage and some other critics have sought.

Obama's designation of Bears Ears was meant to protect thousands of archaeological sites; however, some local officials complained about the loss of potential energy and mining jobs.

Since then, presidents have downsized 18 monuments, most with minor adjustments.

Zinke visited New Mexico last month to tour the Organ Mountains monument, and heard mostly support for keeping both New Mexico monuments as they are.

U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce, R-New Mexico, said the recommendations fall short and that economic, security and access issues remain without the resizing of Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks.

"It's a good recommendation. We're making sure the proclamation doesn't impede using the land in a way that's reasonable and with common sense", Zinke said in a press conference after the tour and meeting.