Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke on Monday recommended that President Donald Trump reduce the size of Bears Ears National Monument, opening a new chapter in the fight over the controversial Utah preserve.
In a conference call announcing his decision, Zinke said that the preserve should focus on archeological resources rather than outdoor recreation.
“There’s a lot more drop-dead gorgeous land than there are historic landmarks, prehistoric structures and other objects,” Zinke said on a conference call with reporters. “I have to be consistent going forward with all the review, and consistency really is the law, what the law states.”
Zinke declined to give specifics about changes in the monument’s boundaries, saying those would be included in his final report later this summer.
In addition to changing the size of the monument, Zinke said he would recommend that Congress authorize local tribal governments to co-manage Bears Ears. The comment period for Bears Ears will also be extended through July 10.
Alex Boian, vice president of government affairs for the Outdoor Industry Association, said he was “disappointed” at the report. While Zinke said he would ask Congress to identify parcels within the existing monument to protect as national conservation areas and national recreation areas, Boian said that strategy would likely leave much of the current monument unprotected.
“The climbing, canyoneering, hiking, and other recreation assets there are not ensured protection if it’s broken up, because only Congress can do those national recreation areas and national conservation areas,” he said.
“We’re not confident that the legislative process will be able to protect the monument as the monument currently does.”
Utah Governor Gary Herbert, who in February signed a resolution urging the president to revoke Bears Ears’ national monument designation, praised Zinke’s report in a statement.
“I encourage the president to take this recommendation seriously, and I applaud the Secretary for his balanced and responsible proposal,” he said.