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Interior secretary recommends Trump alter at least three national monuments, including Bears Ears

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By Juliet Eilperin and Darryl Fears August 24 Read full Washington Post article here

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke recommended Thursday that President Trump alter at least three dramatic national monuments and change the way others are managed, moves that would represent the greatest reversal of protections for such sites in more than a century.

Zinke proposed reducing the size of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments, both in Utah, and Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument in Oregon, according to multiple individuals briefed on the decision. Together, the Utah sites span more than 3.2 million acres.

Zinke’s report, which the White House did not release, launches what will be a legal and political battle over a relatively obscure law that grants a president wide latitude in preserving federal lands and waters that are threatened.

After spending nearly four months examining more than two dozen monuments established by Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama under the 1906 Antiquities Act, Zinke is calling for less major change than some conservatives advocated. But in addition to radically shrinking Bears Ears and perhaps other sites, he is pushing to allow activities at some monuments that previous presidents restricted or barred outright.

“The recommendations I sent to the president on national monuments will maintain federal ownership of all federal land and protect the land under federal environmental regulations,” Zinke said in a statement, “and also provide a much needed change for the local communities who border and rely on these lands for hunting and fishing, economic development, traditional uses, and recreation.”

….In his statement, Zinke described his proposal as a reasonable remedy to years of presidents’ unilaterally exercising their authority without giving adequate consideration to the people living closest to these public lands.

…Yet John Leshy, who served as Interior’s solicitor in the Clinton administration and is now a professor at the University of California’s Hastings College of Law, noted that no president had ever sought the kind of rollbacks Trump is contemplating.  “The scale of this, and the sweep of this, is definitely unprecedented,” Leshy said.

Ethan Lane, executive director of the public lands council at the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, said the administration’s push reflected that “they’re concerned with rural America.” “They’ve been talking to groups that feel like maybe they weren’t included in the process,” Lane said. “Ranchers across the West are certainly part of that.”

The Interior Department gave no specifics of Zinke’s recommendations, instead releasing a report summary that described each of the 27 protected areas scrutinized as “unique.” Even so, his proposal takes direct aim at several, according to several individuals who asked for anonymity because the report has yet to be made public….

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