President Donald Trump has ordered the review of national monument designations following the Obama administration’s use of the Antiquities Act to lock up more than 250 million acres.
U.S. Interior Sec. Ryan Zinke followed through on that order, touring America’s newest and most hotly contested monuments, including Bears Ears National Monument. The 1.3 million acre designation is one of nearly 30 under review.
“A lot of that is restoring trust, and restoring trust is about listening, about working with local communities and making sure that our public lands are for the public,” said Zinke.
The Public Lands Council and the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association both are applauding the action.
They say elevating millions of acres to monument status without local input or economic analysis results in unrecoverable losses to the local communities. The groups are also citing recent examples of losses in grazing and logging rights as lands transition to monument status.
“We’ve been here for a very long time and it’s how we make our lives,” said Tyler Irvins, a rancher who opposes the national monument designation. “It’s how we feed our children and put a roof over our heads.
“They want the land managed in the most profitable way for themselves, rather than for the long-term benefit of everyone in the country,” said Ed Brandsetter who is in support of national monument designation.
Bears Ears was established by President Obama near the end of his term after a coalition of tribes spent years urging that the area become a national monument.
“I’m actually optimistic,” said Zinke. “At the end of the day, we’ll make a recommendation that I think will be best for our country and best for preservation.”