SUWA Statement on Secretary Zinke’s Interim Report on Bears Ears

For Immediate Release: June 12, 2017
Contact: Mathew Gross, (435) 259-4316

Today Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke issued an interim report that signaled his desire to greatly reduce the Bears Ears National Monument. A final report is expected in August.

The following statement is from Mathew Gross, Media Director of the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance:

“Though Secretary Zinke’s interim report does not change anything about Bears Ears on the ground today, it makes it clear the Secretary is trying to line up the political cover to eviscerate the monument. That doesn’t change the fact that any attempt by the Trump administration to weaken or shrink the monument is illegal. The landscapes and cultural resources protected in Bears Ears belong to the American people and must be protected for the sake of future generations, not pawned off as a trophy for the Utah delegation.”

In his report, Zinke reopened the public comment period on Bears Ears, which to date has shown an overwhelming support for the monument—more than a million comments have been submitted in favor of protecting existing national monuments like Bears Ears. Zinke also suggested that Bears Ears National Monument is too large, despite its boundaries having already been considerably diminished from the original proposal put forward by a coalition of five Tribes.

In addition, Zinke’s report punts many issues to Congress, suggesting that after Bears Ears is shrunk, Congress should reinstate some of the areas in other designations, and work with tribes on co-management. This is a red herring, as the Utah delegation already showed an unwillingness to protect Bears Ears adequately in its abysmal Public Lands Initiative last year—and the administration is doing the same by showing its intent to shrink the boundaries. Since the failure of the PLI, Sen. Orrin Hatch, Rep. Rob Bishop and Rep. Jason Chaffetz have done nothing but lobby the Trump administration to undo the monument. They have no serious intention of protecting the Bears Ears and have already failed to do so.

Today’s report may be a reprieve from immediate damage to Bears Ears, but the end game is an unprecedented attack on America’s public lands.

The Bears Ears Buttes. Photo (c) Tim Peterson.

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