Fight likely in review of parks
Both sides cite rural America in monuments flap
The Interior Department is to review large-scale national monuments in Colorado and Utah under an executive order that Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said gives new voice to rural Americans.
“Finally, rural America has a voice again,” Zinke said Wednesday as President Donald J. Trump announced the executive order to study the Canyons of the Ancients National Monument in Colorado and Grand Staircase-Escalante and Bears Ears national monuments in Utah.
Trump’s order also calls on Interior to study the 1906 law under which those monuments and others were established, the Antiquities Act.
U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., criticized the order as an “unprecedented attack on national monuments.”
The act authorizes the president to establish federal monuments on lands of historic or scientific value. Monuments are to be designated on the “smallest area compatible with proper care and management of the objects to be protected.”
Residents of Utah “and other rural communities have voiced concern and opposition to some monument designations. But too often in recent history, exiting presidents make designations despite those concerns. And the acreage is increasing,” Zinke said.
Grand Staircase is 1.9 million acres; Bears Ears is 1.3 million acres and Canyon of the Ancients is about 178,000 acres.
Bennet called Trump’s action “an affront to our communities and tribes that have spent years working to protect areas of cultural and historic significance. It is also an infringement on our rural communities, which rely on national monuments and other public lands to support their outdoor recreation economy.”
U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Colo., whose 3rd Congressional District includes Canyons of the Ancients, said he supported review of the Antiquities Act.
“Unfortunately, in some cases, administrations have used the Antiquities Act to designate massive parcels of land, without input from the individuals who would be most affected by the designation or Congress,” Tipton said. “I support a review of this unilateral use of power, and given the fact that the Antiquities Act can only be used to designate land that already has federal protections, I am interested to learn if or in which cases the administration believes a presidential proclamation should supersede input from the public or Congress.”
Colorado National Monument, 20,000 acres, was established by President William Howard Taft in 1911 after Congress was unable to agree to establish a national park.
Trump’s order directs the Interior Department to consult and coordinate with states and tribes affected by monument designations with a report due in 120 days.