Zinke “Political Stunt” Tour to Advance Anti-Public Lands Agenda Off to Rough Start

As Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke visits Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments this week, Western Values Project Executive Director Chris Saeger released the following statement:

“Secretary Zinke’s photo op on horseback is yet another political stunt in his campaign to advance an anti-public lands agenda. But even the best photo op can’t hide the fact that this ‘review’ is just a first step in an unprecedented effort to undermine protections on our national monuments and sell-off our public lands.

“There is overwhelming public support for our national monuments, including both Grand Staircase-Escalante and Bears Ears. Our monuments are some of Americans most cherished, historical, cultural, and ecological areas that should be protected for their value to the outdoor economy, not reduced or eliminated to appease a handful of special interests and out-of-touch politicians.”

Secretary Zinke met with the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition for the first-time last week, in an effort that was described as insufficient, after meeting with opponents and the Utah Congressional delegation numerous times on the monuments.

At a Sunday press conference as reported by the Salt Lake Tribune, Utah Senator Orrin Hatch said Native Americans are “manipulated sometimes by people.” Adding, “The Indians, they don’t fully understand that a lot of the things they currently take for granted on those lands, they won’t be able to do if it’s made clearly into a monument or a wilderness.” When pressed, Senator Hatch could not describe any activities that would be prevented, asking folks to ‘just take his word for it.’

Bears Ears National Monument was designated on Dec. 28, 2016. The designation includes provisions to allow and protect traditional Native American uses, including hunting, gathering, grazing, and wood cutting. Senator Hatch had repeated contact with the previous administration regarding Bears Ears.

The Department of Interior recently released a list of the national monuments under review after President Trump’s April executive order and a 60-day public comment period for all monuments except Bears Ears, which will only have a short 15-day period. The review deadline is June 10th for Bears Ears and August 24th for the remainder of the monuments listed.

The 1906 Antiquities Act, passed by Theodore Roosevelt allowing Presidents to protect federal land with national monument designations, has never been challenged by a sitting president until now. A Colorado College poll found 66% of Utahans supported the Bears Ears National Monument designation, while another found 80% of Westerners support current national monument protections.

Federal Monument Facts:

More than 450 organizations signed the following letter expressing unified opposition to any efforts to remove or decrease protections for any national monuments. http://bit.ly/450forMonuments

76% of Utahans know that federal public lands and national monument designations have a positive impact on the local economy. http://bit.ly/2PublicLandsPoll

Counties adjacent to 17 national monuments studied saw a per capita income increase in the years since designation. http://bit.ly/federallandequaljobs

Per capita income in Western counties w/ 100,000 acres of protected lands was $4,360 higher than similar counties. http://bit.ly/federallandequaljobs

Counties with more than 30% of land in federal protection increased jobs at four-times the rate of counties without. http://bit.ly/federallandequaljobs

National monument designation, as specified by the Antiquities Act, is only allowed on federal lands, and does not impact state or school trust land unless the land is swapped or the state agrees on compensation. Protected lands were already managed by the federal government – none of it was owned by the state, local, or private citizens. No land was seized or grabbed. http://bit.ly/FactCheckBearsEars

National monument designations take years of work with local, state, and national stakeholders who are advocating for them. A House Oversight Committee found that the previous administration engaged in a lengthy consultation process with local stakeholders, tribes, and the Utah Congressional delegation. http://bit.ly/BearsEarsCommunityDocs

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