Friday, June 16, 2017

Bears Ears National Monument: Secretary Zinke's Initial Recommendations

Pyramid in the Valley of the Gods (B/W)
Bell Butte. Valley of the Gods. Bears Ears National Monument. Utah. May 12, 2016.
Copyright © 2017 A. F. Litt, All Rights Reserved

To comment on the monument review process (due July 10, 2017):

Earlier this week, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke released his 45 day interim report on the fate of Bears Ears National Monument to the White House on June 10.  He also has extended the comment public comment period for Bears Ears to July 10, 2017, the same as the rest of the monuments currently under review.

So, what is going on...  This subhead from the Salt Lake Tribune sums it up in a quick nutshell: "After a 45-day review, the secretary recommends reducing acreage, urges Congress to weigh in on management."

This is the middle road here.  Zinke is not calling for the complete elimination of the monument, which, to me, is actually somewhat unexpected.  He also seems to be recommending that they resurrect the now defunct Public Lands Initiative (PLI), which was a Congressional measure regulating the management of the Bears Ears area.

This is not the worst case scenario.  For now...

The President can follow this recommendation, or he can do whatever he wants, so Bears Ears monument status, reduced or eliminated, is far from settled.

Let's break down the Secretary's recommendations so far, as reported on June 12 in the Salt Lake Tribune...

The good news is Secretary Zinke feels that there are places within the current boundaries that "warrant monument status, so he opposes rescinding the monument as Utah's political leaders have sought."

He says, "No doubt there are historic and prehistoric structures or objects of scientific interest within the Bears Ears monument," and that "[t]hese items and objects can be identified, segregated and reasonably separated."

The article states:
While Utah leaders have argued the 1906 Antiquities Act has been abused by presidents wielding it for political gain, Zinke said the landmark conservation law is "nothing short of an American success." 
"Over the course of time the Antiquities Act has done some great things for this country. It has preserved some of our finest treasures," Zinke said. But he made clear he believes designations should be done in coordination with Congress and local residents, while sticking to specific "objects of historic or scientific interest" such as structures and geological formations.

In this case, the Secretary feels that the size of the monument exceeds the reach of the Antiquities Act and that Bears Ears is not "confined to the smallest area possible for proper management of objects to be preserved."

He did not specifically propose what the possible new boundaries would look like.
The interim plan Zinke released Monday did not give acreages or delineate exact areas for a "right-sized" monument. But the secretary highlighted the monument's namesake twin buttes, nearby areas on Cedar Mesa dense with archaeological sites, which presumably include House on Fire and Moon House ruins, and an area north of Newspaper Rock. 
Likely to be excluded would be Mancos Mesa, Valley of the Gods, much of Elk and Comb ridges and Arch Canyon.


Secretary Zinke "also recommended Congress authorize tribal co-management of the monument and consider designating some areas that fall outside a revised monument as national conservation or recreation areas."

In earlier posts, I shared a lot of information about the issues and views on the monument from both sides of the debate, but for me it really comes down to this, I fear...  

According to the Bureau of Land Management's (BLM) fast facts sheet published in 2016, "the proclamation would prohibit new mineral leases, mining claims, prospecting or exploration activities, and oil, gas, and geothermal leases."  Existing "oil, gas, and mining operations" are not affected by the monument proclamation.

As I wrote in earlier posts, if monument status is revoked, all or in part,  most of the monument will remain under BLM and U. S. Forest Service (USFS) management, but I am concerned that the area will be flooded with new oil and gas leases and other commercial uses.  It would be a shame if these sorts of operations were permitted near, or even on, sites that may hold tremendous historical and cultural value, value that we may not even recognize yet.

Ultimately, I see any oil and gas reserves left under any of our monuments and parks, especially in the West and in Alaska, to really be just that... reserves.  At this point I fear that it is nothing but greed that drives this sort of development.  However, if we ever truly did need to tap these resources due to a true, long term crisis, they will still be there, and, to me, that is the proper time to have that debate.

So, that's the good news and the bad news...

I absolutely support the idea of co-managing the monument with the tribes, and- depending on the details, may support the re-designation of some areas as national conservation or national recreation areas.

My greatest fear, though, has nothing to do with Secretary Zinke's recommendations.  I fear the President will ignore this middle road and just eliminate the entire monument.

In other news...

Secretary Zinke rejects tribal complaints about consultation and Bears Ears (June 14, 2017)

Speaking to the National Congress of American Indians on Tuesday, Secretary Ryan Zinke insisted that tribes were in the loop throughout his decision-making process. Yet he didn't fully explain why he rejected the near unanimous pleas to preserve the 1.35 million-acre site in Utah.
Despite the outreach, Zinke told President Donald Trump that the monument needs to be revised in part because state and local officials in Utah -- almost all of them non-Indian -- "strongly oppose" it. Many of those politicians were granted a meeting at the White House well before tribes got their say. 
Given the explanation, Zinke followed up with a curious claim at NCAI's mid-year conference in Connecticut. He said tribes aren't at the table at Bears Ears even though the monument designation recognizes their role in managing their ancestral homelands. A commission has already been established to do just that. 
“At the end of the day, I'm asking Congress to authorize co-management of the monument,” Zinke said. ”I didn't have the authorization -- the president doesn't have the authorization to do that.”

BLM: Bears Ears National Monument Map (as of June 2017) - PDF

To comment on the monument review process (due July 10, 2017):

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has extended the comment public comment period for Bears Ears to July 10, 2017, the same as the rest of the monuments currently under review.


Bears Ears National Monument: A Quick Tour of a Monument at Risk

Bears Ears National Monument: Video and Links Collection



Department of the Interior:

Department of the Interior Press release on Bears Ears Monument Review (June 13, 2017)
Presidential Proclamation -- Establishment of the Bears Ears National Monument:
Public Lands Initiative:



Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition:

Friends of Cedar Mesa:

Utah residents to Ryan Zinke: Hands off Bears Ears! (New analysis of submitted comments finds overwhelming in-state support for national monuments)

Salt Lake Tribune: 

Sources: Zinke to urge diminishing size of Bears Ears National Monument (June 12, 2017)
Navajo elder says Utah leaders ‘never supported’ preserving sacred American Indian sites (June 9, 2017)

Op-ed: State politicians may not support our newest monument but real Utahns do (June 9, 2017)

Theodore Roosevelt IV: Bear Ears: A story of what passes and what endures (June 5, 2017)
Jewell defends Bears Ears monument process (April 26, 2017)

Deseret News: 

BLM, Forest Service plotting next steps for Bears Ears

San Juan Record:

Secretary Zinke recommends reduced size of Bears Ears National Monument (June 13, 2017)

Sec. Zinke to make Bears Ears recommendation (June 6, 2017)

Bears Ears National Monument designation disastrous for Utah grassroots Navajos (April 12, 2016)


Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke Reviews Bears Ears National Monument (June 9, 2017)

With National Monuments Under Review, Bears Ears Is Focus Of Fierce Debate (May 5, 2017)

Utah’s Bears Ears monument is a rock star for night skies – and mineral resources

The Wilderness Society:

Photo gallery: Utah's Bears Ears region is a natural & cultural treasure

Unprecedented outpouring of support for Bears Ears shown during official comment period

National Monuments in Danger:

CLICK HERE for posts about the monuments being "reviewed" by the Trump Administration

To comment on the monument review process (due July 10, 2017):

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has extended the comment public comment period for Bears Ears to July 10, 2017, the same as the rest of the monuments currently under review.

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