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Can Zinke be trusted as Interior steward of federal public lands?

Updated 9:50 a.m. with comment by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke on end of monuments comment period.

PUBLIC LANDS -- The comment period has ended on the Trump Administration's executive order to review the status of 27 of the 157 national monuments.

At the center of the effort is a poke at the Antiquities Act of 1906, a conservation tool signed into law by President Theodore Roosevelt and used by 16 presidents -- eight Republicans and eight Democrats.

The case for many of the monuments had been hammered out by locals long before the presidents made the declarations. Archeological as well as fish and wildlife values often are the foundation for the support. 

Just having the Antiquities Act in the president's tool box can be useful. In the case of the Boulder-White Clouds of Idaho, President Obama's interest in declaring a national monument spurred long-stalled Congressional action to work out a different plan in 2015 for a Boulder-White Clouds backcountry recreation area that included wilderness cores.

In 111 years, no president has removed a monument designation put in place by a predecessor. Congress has subsequently designated dozens of national monuments as national parks.

Dave Mahalic, senior advisor to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, speaking recently at the Outdoor Writers Association of America 2017 Conference in Duluth, Minnesota, defended the review of 27 monuments that have been designated since 1996 and the potential for rescission or downsizing.

He said the Antiquities Act was designed to include "the least amount of land necessary to accomplish the protection."

The former supervisor of Yosemite National Park said the review is needed because "some people feel they don't have a voice."

I asked him directly, "Who are those people?"

"I don't know," he said.

OK, so much for transparency. Mahalic should know who's pushing for the review if he's making appearances to officially support if not pimp the mission. So should Secretary Zinke. 

And they should reveal who those people and interests are to more than 1.3 million people who commented during the review period.

Zinke also should reveal who's bellyaching about the Sage Grouse Initiative, which was negotiated by a wide range of state and federal agency officials along with livestock and petroleum industry representatives and conservation groups. Are the complainers people who were unwilling to sit at the table together and work out a compromise?

Zinke has declared himself  an “unapologetic admirer of Teddy Roosevelt.” Sportsmen took his word at first, but now they're questioning his motives as he drops the hints that federal public lands need more development

How much more? By whom? Why? At what cost in terms of fish and wildlife habitat and public access?

Required reading for hunters, anglers and other outdoor recreationists is a story just posted in Hatch magazine by veteran conservation writer Ted Williams, titled, With friends like Ryan Zinke, who needs enemies?

"Hunters and anglers are too easily seduced by candidates who bloviate about the Second Amendment or flounce around at photo ops with borrowed fly rods and shotguns," Williams concludes after laying out his case.

"Sportsmen need to pay more attention to what those candidates do and less attention to what they say. And when politicians and appointed officials work against fish and wildlife, sportsmen need to get loudly on their cases, then vote the right way."

Also check out:

UPDATE

Following is a statement posted by the U.S. Department of Interior at 9:45 a.m. today.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s Statement

on end of the Monuments Review Public Comment Period

(WASHINGTON) – On Monday, July 10, the formal public comment period closed for the review of national monuments. More than 1.2 million comments were received on Regulations.gov and thousands more were received via traditional mail. Twenty-seven national monuments designated since January 1, 1996 that are more than 100,000 acres, or that were considered to have inadequate public input are under review in accordance with President Donald J. Trump’s April 26, 2017, executive order.

“Too often under previous administrations, decisions were made in the Washington, D.C., bubble, far removed from the local residents who actually work the land and have to live with the consequences of D.C.’s actions. This monument review is the exact opposite,” said Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. “President Trump and I opened the formal public comment period – the first-ever for monuments designated under the Antiquities Act – in order to give local stakeholders a voice in the decision-making process. After hearing some feedback, I'd like to remind and reassure folks that even if a monument is modified, the land will remain under federal ownership. I am strictly opposed to the sale or transfer of our public lands, and nothing in this review changes that policy.

“These comments, in addition to the extensive on-the-ground tours of monuments and meetings with stakeholders, will help inform my recommendations on the monuments,” Zinke said. “I appreciate everyone who took the time to log-on or write in and participate in our government.”

As required by the executive order, Secretary Zinke submitted an interim report to the White House in June with various recommendations and observations on Bears Ears National Monument, which suggested the monument be reduced in size to conform with the intent of the Antiquities Act, that of designating the smallest compatible area. The report also recommended the creation of a national conservation area, and official co-management by the local Tribal governments.

The report came after Zinke spent several days on the ground in Utah touring the monument ​by air, car, foot, and horseback,  speaking with stakeholders from Tribal, local, state and federal government, as well as representatives from the conservation, historic preservation, agriculture, tourism, and education sectors. The Secretary met with the Bears Ears InterTribal Coalition while ​in Salt Lake City ​on May 7, and the Acting Deputy Secretary Jim Cason held a four-hour follow-up meeting with the Bears Ears Commission and the InterTribal Coalition on May 25.

The Secretary also traveled to Maine’s Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument, and to Boston to hold meetings on the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts National Marine Monument off the coast of New England. The Secretary plans to visit Oregon, New Mexico, and Nevada in the coming weeks.

Regarding the comment period, the executive order stated:

In making the requisite determinations, the Secretary is directed to consider:

(i) the requirements and original objectives of the Act, including the Act’s requirement that reservations of land not exceed “the smallest area compatible with the proper care and management of the objects to be protected”;

(ii) whether designated lands are appropriately classified under the Act as “historic landmarks, historic and prehistoric structures, [or] other objects of historic or scientific interest”;

(iii) the effects of a designation on the available uses of designated Federal lands, including consideration of the multiple-use policy of section 102(a)(7) of the Federal Land Policy and Management Act (43 U.S.C. 1701(a)(7)), as well as the effects on the available uses of Federal lands beyond the monument boundaries;

(iv) the effects of a designation on the use and enjoyment of non-Federal lands within or beyond monument boundaries;

(v) concerns of State, tribal, and local governments affected by a designation, including the economic development and fiscal condition of affected States, tribes, and localities;

(vi) the availability of Federal resources to properly manage designated areas; and

(vii) such other factors as the Secretary deems appropriate.




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Rich Landers writes and photographs stories and columns for a wide range of outdoors coverage, including Outdoors feature sections on Sunday and Thursday.