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Our favorite stories about public lands and opportunities for you to get involved in protecting your outdoor experiences.

 

Breaking News: Sec. Zinke Releases Interim Report on Bears Ears

Tania Lown-Hecht

Photo credit: Mike A Shaw

Photo credit: Mike A Shaw

This afternoon, Secretary Zinke released a public statement and his review to President Trump in response to Executive Order 13792, “Presidential Executive Order on the Review of Designations Under the Antiquities Act.”

Outdoor Alliance does not believe that President Trump has the legal authority to eliminate huge sections of a National Monument. Further, this action is directly aligned with the public land heist and attempts to sell out America’s public lands, exposing them to unregulated energy development in particular. Even if this were legal, this type of adjustment directly undercuts the Antiquities Act and puts millions of acres of protected public land at risk, beyond the other 26 National Monuments under review and including more than one hundred other National Monuments.

The current Bears Ears National Monument was designated after years of painstaking stakeholder outreach and compromise. Last year, President Obama gave the Utah delegation every opportunity to pass legislation to protect the region, and the delegation was unable to build support for the proposed bill, the controversial Public Lands Initiative. However, if Congress wants to act to modify the boundaries of the Bears Ears National Monument, it – unlike the President acting unilaterally – does have the authority to do so.

Outdoor Alliance and our partners, including outdoor businesses, worked to generate more than 23,000 comments in support of Bears Ears National Monument; other conservation organizations estimate that more than one million comments were submitted. The Secretary’s dismissal of the overwhelming public support sparked by this very brief comment period is a troubling sign that this was not an honest or transparent process for the public and raises deep concerns about the integrity of other public processes moving forward.

The full text of the review does not specify any indication of where geographic boundary adjustments would take place, nor does it include any maps, so it is difficult to determine the extent of the damage that an adjustment might cause. It is still possible that President Trump will not follow through with the Secretary’s recommendations.

Adam Cramer, Executive Director of Outdoor Alliance, said, “Both President Trump and Secretary Zinke have praised Theodore Roosevelt as a conservation icon they want to embody, but Roosevelt was known for making monuments, not rolling them back.”

Bears Ears National Monument, designated in late 2016 by President Obama, provided much-needed protection for a vulnerable region with priceless Native American cultural resources and world-class climbing, paddling, and hiking. A rollback of a potentially huge area of the monument is a direct and unlawful attack on the Antiquities Act and on our public lands system. National Monuments have protected world-class recreation in the U.S., including climbing at Devils Tower in Wyoming, hiking in Craters of the Moon in Idaho, paddling in Browns Canyon in Colorado, backcountry skiing  at Giant Sequoia in California, and mountain biking in San Gabriel Mountains National Monument in California.

“Access Fund has supported advanced protection for the Bears Ears region, which includes Indian Creek and many remote climbing areas, for several years. The national monument is extremely important to this landscape, especially considering the current attacks on federal lands. We worked hard advocating for 'rock climbing' to be included in the monument proclamation, and we will also work hard to protect that precedent,” said Erik Murdock, Access Fund Policy Director.

According to Phil Powers, CEO of the American Alpine Club, “The Bears Ears area is hugely important to the climbing community. In fact, the Bears Ears National Monument proclamation was the first proclamation to recognize rock climbing as a valued activity and prioritize it in the management plan.”

The Secretary’s review recommended extending the public comment period on Bears Ears through July 10, when the review on the other 26 national monuments will conclude. Katherine Hollis, Policy Director at The Mountaineers, said, “opening the comment period back up reflects how, as individuals, we do have a direct role in protecting our public lands. We will continue to engage our community’s voice to join others to protect our national monuments and public lands.”   

Read our full letter submitted to the Department of Interior here, or by clicking at right.