Leaked Memo Suggests Shrinking Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument

Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke hikes along the Butler Wash Indian Ruin trail alongside Utah Gov. Gary Herbert during a tour of the Bears Ears National Monument on Monday

The entire premise of this review - ordered by President Trump in April 2017 - was to gather public comments for monuments that may not have received a formal comment period prior to designation.

Wilderness Society President Jamie Williams called the reported recommendations "an unprecedented assault on our parks and public lands" and said the Trump administration has no authority to alter existing designations.

Since Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke submitted a set of secret recommendations to President Trump in August, reporters and the public have been left to wonder exactly what he wants to do to America's national monuments.

Gold Butte National Monument is roughly 300,000 acres designated to protect natural habitat for Bighorn Sheep, mountain lions and the Mojave Desert tortoise.

"Adherence to the Act's definition of an "object" and "smallest area compatible" clause on some monuments were either arbitrary or likely politically motivated or boundaries could not be supported by science or reasons of practical resource management", Zinke found.

It was established in 2000 to protect bio diversity and then expanded at the end of President Obama's term. But none of the California monuments are being recommended for boundary changes, or for rule adjustments that would allow for more logging, grazing or mining, according to a 19-page memo that Zinke sent to the White House.

It was not clear from the memo how much energy development would be allowed on the sites recommended for changes, but Zinke said in the report that "traditional uses of the land such as grazing, timber production, mining, fishing, hunting, recreation and other cultural uses are unnecessarily restricted". He said many also failed to adequately account for local opinion.

Such a move would be a slap in the face to the five Native American tribes that asked President Obama to protect Bears Ears as a national monument, and an obvious giveaway to the oil and gas companies that are eager to step in if President Trump opens up Bears Ears to drilling.

"Congress already set aside these lands eighty years ago for the specific goal of sustainable timber production in the O&C Act, and the president - regardless of party - doesn't have the authority to rewrite the law", said American Forest Resource Council President Travis Joseph.

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He suggests reducing the size of two marine monuments in the Pacific Ocean, the Pacific Remote Islands and Rose Atoll, as well as changing how some monuments are managed.

Republican Rep. Bruce Poliquin of ME says Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke "strikes the right balance" in his recommendation for the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument.

The Washington Post article announcing the report did not disclose its source, and a White House spokeswoman refused comment, calling it an "internal draft" that was still under review.

Other environmental organizations quickly weighed in Monday morning.

More than 2.8 million people wrote to Zinke and the Interior Department on this matter, almost all of them urging the administration to preserve protections for these iconic places.

State and county officials report that they have looked at maps and made recommendations, but they are unaware of what the final map will look like. We're ready to fight this handover of our public lands to looters and polluters - on Capitol Hill, in the courts and with the grassroots - but we can't do it all without your help right now.

Conservation groups and others say that's a bad idea.

National monument designations have protected some of the most spectacular public landscapes in the country from fossil fuel extraction, mining and logging.

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