Today, on the one-year anniversary of the Trump administration’s illegal and unprecedented reduction of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments in Utah, ushered in at the behest of Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, Western Values Project Executive Director Chris Saeger issued the following statement:
“One year since the greatest attack on public land protections in recent U.S. history, Zinke and the Trump administration have only continued to sell out our public lands to their special interest cronies. When Zinke’s mounting ethical missteps and management failures finally force him to resign or be fired as Interior Secretary, the dark chapter of his scandal-plagued tenure will be over, but his legacy of destroying the public lands he was entrusted to protect will remain.”
On December 4, 2017, President Trump issued an executive order based on Zinke’s recommendation that drastically reduced the size of two Utah national monuments — the largest elimination of public land protections in American history. The Antiquities Act does not authorize the reduction of designated national monuments through the executive branch. Only through an Act of Congress can monuments be reduced in size, which President Trump and Zinke failed to obtain.
Updates since the catastrophic reduction:
- Conservation groups and tribes have sued the administration, arguing that President Trump didn’t have the authority to reduce the size of the monuments. The case is ongoing.
- WVP analysis found that Zinke’s recommended reductions to Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument benefited a Utah legislator who had inholdings in the monument. WVP called for an Inspector General investigation to see if Zinke intentionally recommended the reductions to benefit the legislator. Interior released the summary of an Inspector General report on the matter, but has yet to release the full report to the public.
- Downey Magallanes, one Zinke’s top staffers who oversaw the monument review, left Interior for a job on the government affairs team of energy giant BP.
- Zinke lied to the public about his motivation behind reducing Bears Ears National Monument. Although he repeatedly claimed that his recommendation to slash monument by 85 percent wasn’t about oil and gas, 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.
- Zinke’s Interior Department briefly proposed selling off 1,600 acres of land that had been taken out of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, but after intense public outcry, they quickly backpedaled on their announcement.
- Despite his many promises never to sell or transfer public lands, just last week Zinke hosted and spoke to members of the Koch-backed American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which advocates transferring federal lands to states, at the Interior Department. Zinke’s BLM is also considering a no-bid sale of a parcel of land to an electric utility in Utah.