Today the Interior Department announced it’s recommendation on the management of Bears Ears National Monument. Secretary Ryan Zinke’s assessment states that “Rather than designating an area encompassing almost 1.5 million acres as a national monument, it would have been more appropriate to identify and separate the areas that have significant objects to be protected to meet the purposes of the Act, including that the area reserved be limited to the smallest area compatible with the proper care and management of the objects.” Specific recommendations on how to address this issue were not included in the report, as Zinke stated he needs more time for consideration.
All Americans who love our public lands and appreciate wildlife and watershed conservation should be concerned with this report. A diverse coalition worked for years to protect this sacred land, and this recommendation could put those years of hard work at risk. According to an analysis conducted by the Center for Western Priorities, 88 percent of self-identified Utah residents expressed support for Bears Ears, and 96 percent of overall comments have been in support of keeping our national monuments.
Secretary Ryan Zinke clearly did not listen to the American people, who overwhelmingly submitted comments in favor of our national monuments.
In May, New Mexico Wildlife Federation staff traveled to Bears Ears for a turkey hunt and met with coalition leaders and locals about the monument. After seeing firsthand the incredible hunting opportunities here and learning about all of the recreational opportunities available in the monument – and the cultural importance to so many Native groups – our staff was more sure than ever of the importance of keeping the monument as is to protect it from mineral development. With this decision today, a dangerous precedent has been set that could damage not only this monument, but monuments and public landscape scale wildlife habitat across the country.
Also of concern in the report is Secretary Zinke’s statement that the president has “appropriate authority” to revise the monument. There is no evidence that the president has the authority to reduce or rescind monuments – this would require an act of Congress. Read our Outdoor Reporter article about the issue of overturning national monuments.
The New Mexico Wildlife Federation stands with the communities in Utah who will no doubt continue to fight for America’s monument. We encourage all New Mexicans to submit comments in defense of our monuments while the comment period remains open.