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Interior secretary suggests right-sizing Bears Ears National MonumentInterior secretary suggests right-sizing Bears Ears National Monument

Zinke files 45-day report regarding Bears Ears monument designation and says 1.5 million-acre designation not the right way to preserve the area.

Jacqui Fatka

June 13, 2017

3 Min Read
Interior secretary suggests right-sizing Bears Ears National Monument
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke tours Bears Ears national monument.Department of Interior

In a review ordered by the President, Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke said the Bears Ears National Monument should be “right-sized” and should not encompass the almost 1.5 million acres that the Obama Administration had determined for protection.

The designation of Bears Ears, located in Utah, as a national monument caught the attention of many when the Obama Administration declared it as one in late December. For cattle producers and ranchers, the designation makes the ability to responsibly manage the land no longer possible.

In an April executive order issued by President Donald Trump, Zinke was ordered to review all monuments designated under the Antiquities Act between Jan. 1, 1996, and the present date that are 100,000 acres or more in size or any monument the secretary deems to have been created without appropriate public input. The executive order also directed the secretary to submit an interim report regarding Bears Ears specifically to the President no more than 45 days from the date of the order.

In May, Zinke traveled to Utah and held a four-day listening tour across the state to learn more about Bears Ears National Monument and the neighboring Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. When accounting for state and private land, the perimeter of Bears Ears encompasses almost 1.5 million acres. Grand Staircase is 1.7 million acres.

Related:Obama land grab causes concern

The secretary toured the monument by air, car, foot and horseback and met with state, local and tribal stakeholders and elected officials. He also met with representatives from the agriculture, conservation, historic preservation and tourism sectors as well as private citizens while holding daily press briefings during the trip.

The secretary met with the Bears Ears InterTribal Coalition while visiting Bears Ears National Monument on May 7, and the acting deputy secretary held a four-hour follow-up meeting with the Bears Ears Commission and the InterTribal Coalition on May 25.

“I spent a lot of time on the ground in Utah talking with people and understanding the natural and cultural significance of the area,” Zinke said. “There is no doubt that it is drop-dead gorgeous country and that it merits some degree of protection, but designating a monument that -- including state land -- encompasses almost 1.5 million acres where multiple-use management is hindered or prohibited is not the best use of the land and is not in accordance with the intention of the Antiquities Act.”

Zinke said he submitted his 45-day interim report to Trump expressing his belief that “the monument needs to be right-sized and that it is absolutely critical that an appropriate part be co-managed by the tribal nations. I also recommend that Congress take action to protect some areas.”

Regarding ongoing management and consultation with tribal interests, Zinke added, “Co-management will be absolutely key going forward, and I recommend that the monument, and especially the areas of significant cultural interest, be co-managed by the tribal nations. I am grateful representatives from the tribal governments met with me in Utah and am optimistic for our future.”

Prior to the trip to Utah in early May, Zinke opened a formal public comment period so members of the public could submit their statements on all monuments to the secretary. This was the first time ever that a formal public comment period was set up for monuments designated under the Antiquities Act.

“Local input is absolutely critical when it comes to federal land management decisions, and as such, I’m extending the public comment period for Bears Ears. I want every advocate to have their voice heard,” Zinke said.

Due to the 120-day final review period for Bears Ears National Monument, the formal public comment period for Bears Ears will be extended through July 10 and will close with the overall comment period. Comments may be submitted on regulations.gov or by traditional mail. Anyone who submitted a comment on Bears Ears during the initial comment period does not need to resubmit.

About the Author(s)

Jacqui Fatka

Policy editor, Farm Futures

Jacqui Fatka grew up on a diversified livestock and grain farm in southwest Iowa and graduated from Iowa State University with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and mass communications, with a minor in agriculture education, in 2003. She’s been writing for agricultural audiences ever since. In college, she interned with Wallaces Farmer and cultivated her love of ag policy during an internship with the Iowa Pork Producers Association, working in Sen. Chuck Grassley’s Capitol Hill press office. In 2003, she started full time for Farm Progress companies’ state and regional publications as the e-content editor, and became Farm Futures’ policy editor in 2004. A few years later, she began covering grain and biofuels markets for the weekly newspaper Feedstuffs. As the current policy editor for Farm Progress, she covers the ongoing developments in ag policy, trade, regulations and court rulings. Fatka also serves as the interim executive secretary-treasurer for the North American Agricultural Journalists. She lives on a small acreage in central Ohio with her husband and three children.

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