Zinke urges action on 10 national monuments, according to report

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke tours the Lolo Peak fire incident command center in Florence last month, where he discussed his vision for the future of forest management but declined to answer questions regarding his recommendation on national monuments. (Martin Kidston/Missoula Current)

The head of Department of the Interior called for changes to 10 U.S. monuments that would lift restrictions on activities such as logging and mining, and shrink the footprints of at least four of the sites, the Washington Post reported.

The Post, citing a copy of the recommendations, said late on Sunday that U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke recommended that President Donald Trump reduce boundaries for Utah’s Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante, Nevada’s Gold Butte and Oregon’s Cascade-Siskiyou.

Zinke also called for relaxing current restrictions within some of the national monuments’ boundaries for activities such as grazing, logging, coal mining and commercial fishing, according to a copy of the memo that the Post obtained.

Interior Department spokeswoman Heather Swift referred questions about the report to the White House. She also declined to answer questions regarding monuments during a fire tour in western Montana last month.

“The Trump Administration does not comment on leaked documents, especially internal drafts which are still under review by the President and relevant agencies,” White House spokeswoman Kelly Love said in a statement to Reuters.

Last month, Zinke said he had sent his recommendations to the Republican president after reviewing more than two dozen national monuments. Trump ordered the review in April as part of his broader effort to increase development on federal lands.

Energy, mining, ranching and timber industries have cheered the review, while conservation groups and the outdoor recreation industry threatened lawsuits over what they see as an effort to undo protections of critical natural and cultural resources.

Besides reducing the four sites, Zinke called for changes at Maine’s Katahdin Woods and Waters, New Mexico’s Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks and Rio Grande del Norte, two Pacific Ocean marine monuments and another marine one off the New England coast, the Post said.

The monuments targeted in the memo were created by former presidents George W. Bush, a Republican, and Democrats Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, according to the report.

Trump has said previous administrations abused their right to create monuments under the Antiquities Act of 1906 by imposing limits on drilling, mining, logging, ranching and other activities in huge areas, mainly in western states.

A designation as a national monument prohibits mining and sets stringent protections for ecosystems on the site.

While the law enables a president to permanently declare certain places of historic or scientific interest a national monument, a few U.S. presidents have reduced the size of some such areas.