No boundary changes for 2 national monuments in New Mexico

Brandon Parsons
September 19, 2017

"President Trump should throw these recommendations in the trash and end his administration's unprecedented assault on lands and waters that drive our outdoor recreation economy, preserve our cultural heritage, and conserve critical wildlife habitat", Karpinski said.

As well as Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante, the government is considering the downsizing or relaxing of regulations on Oregon's Cascade-Siskiyou, Nevada's Gold Butte, Maine's Katahdin, New Mexico's Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks and Rio Grande Del Norte. Under federal law, the National Park Service is barred from commercial timber harvesting but is allowed to cut trees "to control the attacks of insects or diseases or otherwise conserve the scenery or the natural or historic objects" in parks or monuments.

Zinke also wrote that former President Obama's proclamation establishing both New Mexico monuments should be amended to "protect objects and prioritize pubic access, infrastructure repairs, fix and maintain traditional uses, tribal and cultural use and hunting and fishing rights". Grand Staircase-Escalante, in southern Utah, includes almost 1.9 million acres in a sweeping vista larger than the state of Delaware.

Zinke declined to say whether portions of the monuments would be opened up to oil and gas drilling, mining, logging and other industries for which the president has advocated.

National monuments are areas of natural beauty and historical significance preserved for future generations. "If President Trump acts in support of these recommendations, The Wilderness Society will move swiftly to challenge those actions in court", Williams said. The Trump administration is now reviewing the recommendations and has not reached a final decision on them.

Clair, whose family donated the 87,500-acre parcel to the National Park Service previous year, said he was "still waiting for the details" on the recommendations after language from Zinke's closely guarded recommendations to President Trump were leaked.

Those restrictions especially harm rural communities in western states that have traditionally benefited from grazing, mining and logging, said Zinke, a former Montana congressman.

The other 17 monuments guaranteed under the 1906 Antiquities Act have been recommended to remain unchanged.

"Zinke claims to follow Teddy Roosevelt, but he's engineering the largest rollback of public land protection in American history", said Kieran Suckling, executive director of the Center for Biological Diversity, another environmental group.

If Trump adopts the recommendations, it would quiet some of the worst fears of his opponents, who warned that vast public lands and marine areas could be lost to states or private interests.

As instructed by Trump, Zinke released an interim report in June on the Bears Ears National Monument, recommending the administration significantly reduce the size of the monument.

Among the most controversial proposed changes are to two massive monuments in Utah that together total more than 3.2 million acres.

"It begs the question: Are these expansions more about ulterior motives like climate change, presidential legacies, corporate interests like outdoor recreation companies, or are they about antiquities?"

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