Today, Interior’s Office of Inspector General issued a full report of its findings in an investigation of the Trump administration’s illegal reduction and modification of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument (GSENM). Western Values Project (WVP) requested the investigation after discovering that influential former Utah State Representative Mike Noel’s company had an undisclosed land inholding within the original monument boundaries carved out. Noel retired from the Utah State Legislature after coming under fire for failing to disclose his significant land holdings.
Statement by Western Values Project Executive Director Chris Saeger:
“Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. It’s hard to find fault when there is no legal rationale to explain how the president chose to shrink and modify national monument boundaries: President Trump’s reduction of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument violated the Antiquities Act and bypassed congressional authority.
This report is incomplete and raises more questions than it provides answers. It really highlights the haphazard process this administration used to slash protections for some of our most treasured public lands, a process that failed to adequately listen to all public and stakeholder voices. The only way to get to the bottom of the largest reduction of public land protections in U.S. history is for Interior to make public all supporting information and documentation they used in this catastrophic decision.”
The report concluded in part that:
House Natural Resources Chairman Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) told Roll Call that he planned on bringing former Secretary Zinke before the committee to testify ‘specifically about the department’s role in shrinking of national monuments.’
Previously, former Secretary Zinke repeatedly claimed that the motivation behind slashing Bears Ears National Monument by 85 percent was ‘not about oil and gas’ development, but a New York Times analysis of public documents obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request later found that oil was central in the decision to shrink Bears Ears.