Republic: Interior Secretary suggests monument downsizing

Thursday, August 24, 2017

UPDATED

The Arizona Republic reported that Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke will not recommend eliminating any national monuments, but indicated he will suggest downsizing some of the two dozen he reviewed.

Conservation groups remain opposed to reducing any of the national monuments in size.

Zinke met the Aug. 24 deadline to submit his report to President Donald Trump, but did not make public his specific recommendations for the 21 national monuments under his review, including three in Arizona.

In an interview with the Associated Press, Zinke said he would seek boundary changes to a handful of the monuments, but would not disclose which ones until the White House had reviewed his report.

He also did not directly answer questions about whether any of the monuments would be opened to energy development or mining.

Supporters of national monuments tout economic benefits protected lands bring to a region. While Zinke recognized such potential benefits, more visitation also places a "burden" on the federal government to maintain lands, Zinke said in his review summary.

If Trump eliminates or downsizes national monuments, he will likely face challenges of his authority to do so under the Antiquities Act, the law past presidents used to establish the monuments.

Public opinion seemed to contradict the demands in the letter. In a recent poll of potential Arizona voters for the Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust and The Arizona Republic, a wide majority, 97 percent, agreed that “Arizona’s parks, preserves, forests and open spaces are important."

The poll, conducted by Arizona State University's Morrison Institute for Public Policy, also found that 68 percent of those surveyed agreed that “protecting the environment should be given priority, even at the risk of slowing economic growth.”

READ: Trump's interior secretary won't seek to close any national monuments