Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has announced officially what he said informally a few weeks ago: Canyons of the Ancients National Monument has survived the review process intact.
Still in Zinke’s sights is Bears Ears National Monument in Utah. Geographically huge, Bears Ears was designated at the tail end of Barack Obama’s presidential term, in keeping with the desires of a coalition of tribes with ancestral and spiritual ties to the landscape there.
Although no management plan has been announced, Utah lawmakers feared the potential economic loss of extractive leases within the monument.
The Bears Ears designation drew long-settled monuments back into contention and rekindled anger about what President Donald Trump called a “massive federal land grab.”
That shorthand ignores both the unique and threatened resources of the monuments and the fact that the government had only changed the management status of its own lands - it had not grabbed private property.
The administration’s nationwide review of select monuments has been flawed from the beginning. This is not a plan to improve the monument system, but a transparently political effort that intends mainly to undo, or at least devalue, the actions of past presidents. It trivializes the research and public input that preceded the creation of monuments and the management plans that guide them. It gives greater voice to opponents of public land protections - especially the energy industry - while discounting the opinions of monument supporters.
As with so many other recent efforts, it was poorly planned, poorly researched and poorly executed. The issues are more complex than Zinke and the Trump administration are willing to consider.