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What’s to Become of These Iconic National Monuments?

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has recommended shrinking at least three national monuments as part of the Trump administration’s review on public lands.

Zinke submitted his recommendations to the U.S. President yesterday, drawing to a close the administration’s controversial and highly unpopular review of 27 national monuments throughout the country.

The secretary’s full recommendations were not immediately made public. However, the Washington Post reported that his mandate calls for shrinking at least three monuments, including Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante in Utah, along with Oregon’s Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument.

The good news, for now, is that Zinke will not seek to eliminate any national monuments created by past presidents, but he left open the possibility of allowing drilling, mining or other industries on the sites according to the Associated Press.

Trump sparked widespread outrage earlier this year by signing two executive orders threatening the 27 national monuments. Those required the Departments of Interior and Commerce to review recent land and marine national monuments designated or expanded under the Antiquities Act, which was established by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1906, the Huffington Post reported.

The question now is whether Trump will adopt Zinke’s recommendations. If he does so, it could ease some of the fears of the president’s opponents, according to the Associated Press.

But vast reductions in the size of the much-loved monuments or changes in activities allowed on them could also trigger angry resistance, including lawsuits.

Only a 1,045-word summary of Zinke’s report was made public, in which he did not specify any monuments by name but did criticize use of the Antiquities Act to preserve natural habitats and historic sites.

“While early monument designations focused more on geological formations, archaeological ruins, and areas of historical interest, a more recent and broad interpretation of what constitutes an ‘object of historic or scientific interest’ has been extended to include landscape areas, biodiversity, and view sheds,” Zinke wrote in the summary.

“Moreover, features such as World War II desert bombing craters and remoteness have been included in justifying proclamations.”

In June, when Zinke originally recommended shrinking the size of Bears Ears National Monument, a group of five Native American tribes came together to condemn the recommendation, calling it a “slap in the face to members of our Tribes and an affront to Indian people all across the country,” in a statement on the Inter-Tribal Coalition website.

Zinke, a Trump appointee, received criticism during confirmation hearings for voting to make it easier to sell off public lands.

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