Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

US Interior Chief Says He Won't Eliminate Protected Lands (Copy)

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

US Interior Chief Says He Won't Eliminate Protected Lands (Copy)

Article excerpt

BILLINGS, Mont. * Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke announced Thursday he won't seek to rescind any national monuments carved from the wilderness and oceans by past presidents. But he said he will press for some boundary changes and left open the possibility of allowing drilling, mining or other industries on the sites.

Twenty-seven monuments were put under review in April by President Donald Trump, who has charged that the millions of acres designated for protection by President Barack Obama were part of a "massive federal land grab."

If Trump adopts Zinke's recommendations, it could ease some of the worst fears of his opponents, who warn that vast public lands and marine areas could be stripped of federal protection.

But significant reductions in the size of the monuments or changes to what activities are allowed on them could trigger fierce resistance, too, including lawsuits.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Zinke said he is recommending changes to a "handful" of sites, including unspecified boundary adjustments, and suggested some monuments are too large.

The White House said only that it received Zinke's recommendations and is reviewing them.

Conservationists and tribal leaders responded with alarm and distrust, demanding the full release of Zinke's recommendations and vowing to challenge attempts to shrink any monuments.

Gene Karpinski, president of the League of Conservation Voters, called Zinke's review a pretext for "selling out our public lands and waters" to the oil industry and others.

Jacqueline Savitz, senior vice president of Oceana, which has been pushing for preservation of five marine monuments included in the review, said that simply saying "changes" are coming doesn't reveal any real information.

"A change can be a small tweak or near annihilation," Savitz said. "The public has a right to know."

A tribal coalition that pushed for the creation of the 2,100-square-mile Bears Ears National Monument on sacred tribal land in Utah is prepared to launch a legal fight against even a slight reduction in its size, said Gavin Noyes of the nonprofit Utah Din Bikyah. Zinke has previously said Bears Ears should be downsized. …

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