Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke told reporters in a phone-in press conference today that his interim report on Bears Ears National Monument (BENM) recommends “revising” the boundaries to make the monument smaller, while asking Congress to enable local Native Americans to “co-manage designated cultural areas within the revised BENM boundaries.”
Zinke wouldn’t say how much the monument could be reduced.
“It’s a little premature to throw out [figures for specific] acreage,” he said.
The interim report also asks “Congress to make more appropriate conservation designations within the current BENM, such as national recreation areas or national conservation areas…” and to “clarify the intent of the management practices of wilderness or wilderness study areas (WSAa) within a monument.”
Zinke emphasized that this is only an interim report that may be subject to change in his final report due near the end of August. On April 26, President Donald Trump ordered the Department of Interior (DOI) to review national monuments designated since 1996, starting with Bears Ears and focusing specifically on a total of 27 monuments, and set a 120-day deadline for the report.
A comment period for the Bears Ears review that concluded May 26 has now been reopened with a new deadline of July 10–the same deadline for the overall public comment period concerning the review of the other monuments. Zinke’s report noted that about 76,500 comments were received in May.
Bears Ears Monument currently contains more than 1.35 million acres and was designated by outgoing President Barack Obama on December 28, 2016. After Trump’s order for the review of national monuments, Zinke visited Bear Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments over a four-day period in early May.
As before, comments can be submitted here at regulations.gov or by traditional mail (which is believed to carry the most impact). People who have already commented do not need to resubmit their remarks. Handwritten letters can be mailed to:
MS-1530–US Department of the Interior
1849 C Street NW
Washington, DC 20240
Alpinist will continue to update this story as it develops.