WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said on Thursday he has sent recommendations to President Donald Trump from his 120-day review of over two dozen national monuments, but did not disclose which sites would be affected or how they would be changed.
Zinke looked at whether 27 national monuments across the country created by presidents since 1996 should be reduced in size, rescinded or left intact.
Zinke did not name the monuments he plans to recommend changes for but said in a statement on Thursday that the report would “provide a much needed change for the local communities who border and rely on these lands for hunting and fishing, economic development, traditional uses, and recreation.”
Zinke told the Associated Press in Billings that he will not recommend eliminating any national monuments but will recommend changing the boundaries for a “handful” of sites, the wire service reported.
Trump “is currently reviewing his recommendations to determine the best path forward for the American people,” a White House official said. Timing for the public release of the recommendations has not been set. [L2N1L41B5]
In April, Trump ordered Zinke to carry out a review of the sites, arguing that previous administrations “abused” their right by creating massive monuments under the Antiquities Act of 1906 and put millions of acres of land, mainly in western states, off limits to drilling, mining, logging, ranching and other activities without adequate input from locals.
The Antiquities Act enables a president to declare certain areas of historic or scientific interest a national monument if “confined to the smallest area compatible with proper care and management of the objects to be protected.”
No president has ever revoked a previous designation but a few presidents have reduced the size of some monuments.
Conservation groups and the growing outdoor retail industry have launched public campaigns over the last few weeks to urge Zinke to leave the monuments intact, and have vowed to challenge him in court.
Reports that Zinke will recommend re-sizing some monument designations drew quick admonishments from environmental groups.
“Any recommendation from Secretary Zinke to shrink national monuments is hypocritical at best and ruinous at worst,” said Michael Brune, director of the Sierra Club.
Republican Rob Bishop of Utah, chairman of the House natural resources committee, said he has not yet seen the full report but was briefed on some aspects of it by Zinke. He said his committee will eventually take up legislation to carry out some of Zinke’s recommendations and attempt to reform the Antiquities Act.
“If we don’t do reform of the Antiquities Act, we will have failures in the future. We don’t need to eliminate the Antiquities Act totally but need to go back to what its original purpose was,” he said.
Reporting By Valerie Volcovici; Editing by Dan Grebler