Zinke says he may not favor shrinking monuments

Utah political leaders are greeted by protesters as they return from a hike with Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke in Bears Ears National Monument on Monday, May 8, 2017.

Bears Ears has seen much controversy as many people-including some Native people-want to open the land for recreation and resource extraction.

That includes Utah's all-GOP congressional delegation that planned the trip.

San Juan County Commissioner Bruce Adams said locking up the land in a national monument designation hurts the potential for development and hurts the local economy.

The Interior Department announced Friday it will examine 27 monuments, including two in Utah, the Bears Ears site created by President Obama and the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument designated by President Clinton.

Orrin Hatch on Sunday, said it's possible he may not recommend the monuments be made smaller or rescinded, and he might even recommend an addition to the monument.

The Department of the Interior turned down meetings this week with at least two groups supporting national monument designations in Utah, spurring complaints that the Trump administration's review of monuments may be one-sided.

"I'm coming in this thing as a Montanan, a former congressman and now the secretary of the Interior without any predispositions of outcome", Zinke said at a news conference Sunday evening in Salt Lake City.

Stickers and posters against Bears Ears National Monument in Blanding, Utah.

The monument review is rooted in the belief of Trump and other critics that a law signed by President Theodore Roosevelt allowing presidents to declare monuments has been improperly used to protect wide expanses of lands instead of places with particular historical or archaeological value. Tara Benally, a member of Navajo Nation, was standing just outside the Blanding airport wearing a shirt commemorating the December declaration of Bears Ears National Monument.

U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is getting a bird's-eye view of one of America's newest national monuments on Monday as he flies over the 1.3 million-acres Bears Ears National Monument in southern Utah.

Zinke spent time in closed-door meetings Sunday and Monday with Utah's Republican elected officials, including Gov. Gary Herbert, who has called for the repeal of the monument designation.

President Donald Trump issued an executive order in April for the department to conduct the review.

"Just outside the monument in the town of Blanding, with a population of 3,400 people, two large banners read, "#RescindBearsEars", reflecting the popular sentiment among residents.

In February, Utah Governor Gary Herbert sent a resolution to the president to rescind national monument status from Bears Ears.

"We feel like our board members and the elders in the local community have critical knowledge that he [Zinke] needs to understand before he recommends any changes to the monument", Noyes said in a phone interview Monday. Following the official notice in the Federal Registry, people will have 15 days to send comments on Bears Ears national monument and 60 days for all other monuments under review.

Under the proclamation establishing the Bears Ears monument, both a Bears Ears Commission representing tribal leaders and a 12-member MAC will collaborate on the management plan.

Zinke has been tasked with making a recommendation on the monument by June 10, about two and a half months before a final report about all the monuments.

Conservation groups contend that the monument review puts in limbo protections on areas across the country that are home to ancient cliff dwellings, towering Sequoias, deep canyons and ocean habitats where seals, whales and sea turtles roam.

Grand Staircase-Escalante is 1.9 million acres (7,700 square kilometers), about the size of Delaware. Bears Ears is a bit smaller at 1.3 million acres (5,300 square kilometers).

"I would rather we not have a monument if you are not going to fund to protect it. I look forward to hearing from and engaging with local communities and stakeholders as this process continues".

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