Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke today recommended that the boundaries of Bears Ears National Monument be revised. Though his recommendation is short on details, it is clear that Secretary Zinke thinks President Trump should use executive action to reduce the size of the monument. This action sets in motion what many legal scholars agree is an illegal attempt to remove protections for the national monument in Utah. The Conservation Alliance will seek opportunities to support legal challenges to any executive order that attempts to change the Bears Ears boundaries.
It is hard to square Secretary Zinke’s recommendation with the fact that more than one million people commented in support of keeping the Bears Ears boundaries fully intact. The recommendation ignores the overwhelming will of Americans, Utahns, and most importantly the voice of unified Native American Tribes, who support full protection for the existing Bears Ears National Monument.
Secretary Zinke’s recommendation also represents a broad attack on the integrity of our public lands system by diminishing an important conservation tool. The Antiquities Act, signed into law by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1906, gives the president the authority to safeguard federal lands and cultural and historical sites for all Americans to enjoy. Legal experts have concluded that the Antiquities Act clearly gives the president the authority to designate national monuments, but not the authority to rescind those designations. Any attempt to change the boundaries of Bears Ears will be challenged in court.
After President Trump ordered the national monument review, we stated our belief that any serious review of Bears Ears would conclude that this is a special place, beloved by millions of Americans for its cultural, recreation, and habitat values. Today’s recommendation indicates that the review was not serious, ignoring public sentiment, and disregarding the legitimate concerns of the tribal coalition that led the designation effort. The Conservation Alliance will work closely with our member companies and our partners in the conservation community to challenge this recommendation, and to demonstrate to political leaders the important role national monuments play in the outdoor recreation economy.
Together, we have made huge investments in our national monuments. We hope you will join us in protecting that investment. Please stay tuned for more details and opportunities to take action as this issue develops.