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Utah News

Who Will Handle Bears Ears Shrinkage?

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nps.gov

In a report Monday, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke proposed downsizing the Bears Ears National Monument. 

In the language of the original 1906 Antiquities Act, Sec. Zinke’s report notes there are "objects of historic or scientific interest” within Bears Ears, but recommends shrinking its boundaries to "the smallest area compatible" with their preservation. The report did not detail how the monument should be shrunk.

University of Utah law professor, Robert Keiter, said if President Trump were to shrink Bears Ears, the move would likely be challenged in federal court.

“The Antiquities Act is pretty explicit in saying that the president has the authority to declare or establish national monuments,” said Keiter. “It’s silent regarding other powers that might be available to the president. That, I think, pretty much leaves it up to the courts to decide should President trump decide to either reduce the size of Bears Ears National Monument or, alternatively, to seek to rescind or abolish the monument.”

Sec. Zinke’s report urges Congress to take part in how the lands are designated and that Congress should “take action to protect some areas.”

Chris Saeger, director of the Western Values Project, is worried that returning the decision to Congress would be fruitless.

“It’s passing the buck to a Congress that has been incredibly ineffectual,” he said. “Sec. Zinke’s order lays out all of these things that he thinks Congress should do -- Congress tried to do something about Bears Ears last year and they failed pretty spectacularly. Rep. Bishop’s Public Lands Initiative really crashed and burned at sort of the eleventh hour. And I think it’s going to send us back down a very unproductive path to ask Congress to revisit this issue.”

The report also seeks greater tribal co-management.