Ancient ruins in the Bears Ears National Monument.
George Frey / Getty Images
A Trump administration official has recommended shrinking a controversial national monument in Utah that was one of Obama's final, legacy-defining orders.
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke on Monday made the recommendation to shrink the Bears Ears National Monument in a five page report obtained by BuzzFeed News and submitted to the White House. The report recommends revising the boundary of the 1.35 million acre monument in Utah's San Juan County and requests "congressional authority to enable tribal co-management of designated cultural areas."
The report is the first decision in a broader review of national monuments that were created over the last two decades. Trump ordered the review in April and decisions regarding other monuments are expected in August. And though the Trump administration has said there were no predetermined outcomes for the review, the president described it as an end to "egregious abuse of federal power."
At issue is the Antiquities Act, a 1906 law that gives a president broad power to create national monuments with the stroke of a pen. Though the monuments are typically carved out of land the federal government already owns, critics believe the monument designations often come with new regulations that are a burden on local economies.
Proponents of the national monuments, on the other hand, have argued that they protect irreplaceable cultural sites and fragile ecosystems.
Bears Ears has been a flashpoint in the conflict over national monuments for years. All of Utah's congress members opposed turning the region into a national monument, as did numerous local leaders, industry representatives, and Gov. Gary Herbert.
A coalition of Native American groups and outdoor industry retailers such as Patagonia were in favor of the monument. Throughout 2016, lobbying from both sides grew increasingly intense.
President Obama finally created Bears Ears, along with another monument in Nevada, in December. In response, Utah lawmakers immediately began pushing back and lobbying Trump to reverse Obama's decision.
The recommendations from Zinke state that much of Bears Ears is "compatible with multiple-use practices," such as recreation, mining, and grazing, and that it includes "some objects that are appropriate for protection under the (Antiquities Act)."
Zinke, center, at the Bears Ears National Monument on May 8.
Michelle Price / AP
As part of the Bears Ears review, Zinke traveled to Utah in May where he met with local lawmakers, Gov. Gary Herbert, and some Native American groups — though he was criticized for not spending more time with tribal leaders.
What happens next is not entirely clear. After Trump's review was announced, Native American and conservation groups ramped up efforts to fight back with lawsuits. Those efforts are likely to intensify after Monday's report.
Conservationists were quick to criticize Zinke's recommendation Monday. In a statement, Randi Spivak, public lands program director with the Center for Biological Diversity, called it a "slap in the face to the tribes that sought protection for Bears Ears and any American who values our incredible public lands."