Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Bears Ears is a national monument now. But it will take a fight to save it.

As he prepared to travel west, Interior Department Secretary Ryan Zinke got a letter from a coalition of tribes in Utah on Friday. The group had filled the seats on a commission to manage the new Bears Ears National Monument, the letter said, and Zinke was invited to discuss its future. But the future of Bears Ears, which the tribes pushed for and President Barack Obama granted just before leaving office, is uncertain. Utah’s Republican lawmakers have launched an intense lobbying effort to persuade President Trump and Zinke to rescind the designation. Management of Western land, with its teeming wildlife and vast mineral riches, will be Zinke’s greatest challenge at Interior, and conflict over land is particularly acute in Utah. It’s second only to Nevada among the Lower 48 states with the most federally owned land — more than two-thirds — and officials there were still smarting over the 1.9 million acres set aside for the Grand-Staircase Escalante National Monument by President Clinton nearly two decades before Obama created Bears Ears. The secretary hasn’t commented publicly about Bears Ears, but a statement from Interior about his position on public lands echoed the concerns of Utah Republican officials who complain that a massive amount of acreage was set aside for the monument without their consent. Zinke, an avid hunter and fisherman, supports “the creation of monuments when there is consent and input from local elected officials, the local community, and tribes prior to their designation,” Interior spokeswoman Heather Swift said in the statement. Zinke believes monuments are beneficial, but “careful consideration is required before designating significant acreage.”...more

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