February 2nd marked the end of protections for millions of acres of federal lands that were previously managed as national monuments. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) will now begin a scoping period on new management plans for the area and will allow new mining claims on previously protected public land.
“President Trump and Secretary Zinke are responsible for the single largest rollback of public lands protections in U.S. history, period,” said Chris Saeger, executive director of the Western Values Project. “This is a historic point in which Congress, despite the overwhelming public outcry, rolled over like a dog for special interests in allowing the unlawful, unilateral action by the President.”
Recent polling conducted by Colorado College found that two-thirds of Western voters are opposed to the reduction of both Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments.
Secretary Zinke has led the charge in the rolling back of public land protections. He conducted an abbreviated review of the monuments where he listened to sympathetic anti-public land zealots while ignoring millions of public comments that supported the continued protections.
“Secretary Zinke has worked tirelessly to etch his legacy as the worst Interior cabinet secretary in history into stone, and this might just solidify it. Just short of one year on the job and he’s done everything special interests have asked at the expense of our public lands,” said Saeger.
Knowing the action is unlawful, congressional allies have introduced legislation to codify the reductions into law. H.R. 4532, which would codify Trump’s reduction of Bears Ears National Monument, was heard in the House Committee on Natural Resources on Tuesday and H.R. 4558, which would shrink Grand Staircase-Escalante, was heard in committee at the end of last year.
Secretary Zinke defended the President’s unpopular actions shortly after the announcement in a conference call with reporters saying, “There is no oil and gas assets, no mine within Bears Ears (National Monument) before or after.”
Red: Original Bears Ears National Monument boundary (Source: BLM) Green: National monument boundary after reductions (Source: DOI) Grey: BLM oil and gas leases: (Source: UTAH Department of Natural Resources, BLM, Utah’s SITLA)
Red: land carved out of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument (Source: BLM) Green: New monument boundary (Source: DOI) Grey: Oil and gas leases (Source: Utah SITLA) Orange dots: Historic oil and gas wells (Source: Utah DNR) Blue: Capital Reef and Bryce Canyon National Parks (Source: NPS)
Also published on Medium.