Zinke Recommends Shrinking Public Lands
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Zinke Recommends Shrinking Public Lands

Interior Secretary Says National Monuments Are Too Big; Some May Be Opened for Mining or Drilling

Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument (photo by Lasse Christensen via Panoramio)

National monuments. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke recommended that Trump alter at least three national monuments, including two in Utah, The Washington Post reported. Zinke recommended reducing the size of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments in Utah and Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument in Oregon. The New York Times reported that Bears Ears and at least three other national monuments could be opened up to new mining or drilling. Zinke said his recommendations would “provide a much-needed change for the local communities who border and rely on these lands.”

“Today’s recommendations cement his legacy as the most anti-park Interior Secretary in history,” said Jennifer Rokala, executive director of the Center for American Progress.

Bears Ears National Monument (BLM photo)

Bears Ears, 1.35 million acres in southeastern Utah, was designated by former President Barack Obama in December and holds thousands of acres of archaeological sites. Timber companies want to log parts of Cascade-Siskiyou.

Trump had ordered Zinke to examine more than two dozen monuments established by Obama, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. Zinke’s report has not been released, and it is unclear when Trump will act on Zinke’s recommendations. He did not recommend abolishing any monuments. Environmental groups are expected to sue to try to preserve the monuments’ boundaries.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke

“We don’t think he has the authority to cut these monuments into pieces,” said Nada Culver, senior counsel for the Wilderness Society. No president has tried to shrink a monument in the last four decades. “Teddy Roosevelt would roll over in his grave if he could see what Donald Trump and Ryan Zinke are trying to do to our national treasures today,” said Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) “Secretary Zinke’s secret report to the president is the latest step in a rigged process to try and turn over our public lands to oil and gas companies.” More than 99% of the people who commented opposed reducing or eliminating the monuments.

Search suspended. The Navy has suspended search-and-rescue operations for nine missing soldiers after the collision between the destroyer John S. McCain and an oil tanker near Singapore. Navy divers recovered the remains of electronics technician 3rd class Kenneth Aaron Smith, 22, of Cherry Hill, N.J. Nine other sailors are still missing. The Navy spent 80 hours searching 2,100 square miles of ocean. The Navy plans to investigate whether the Seventh Fleet was properly training its officers and crews. Two House subcommittees plan to hold a joint hearing about readiness issues.

Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.)

Transgender bias. Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) called on members of Congress who oppose this discrimination to pass a law to prevent the transgender ban. “When I was bleeding to death in my Black Hawk helicopter after I was shot down, I didn’t care if the American troops risking their lives to help save me were gay, straight, transgender, black, white or brown,” Duckworth, who lost her right leg near the hip and her left leg below the knee, wrote. “All that mattered was that they didn’t leave me behind.” A White House memo directs the Pentagon to reject transgender recruits and stop spending on medical treatment regimens for those in the service. Trump announced the policy in a series of tweets on July 26. A Rand Corp. estimate suggested there could be as many as 6,600 transgender troops on active duty and more than 4,100 in the reserves.

Featured photo: Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument (BLM photo).

August 25, 2017