No boundary changes for 2 national monuments in New Mexico


Zinke's recommendations were revealed in a leaked memo submitted to the White House.

A leaked memo from Zinke to the president, coming after a four-month review, recommends that two Utah monuments - Bears Ears and Grand Staircase Escalante - be reduced, along with Nevada's Gold Butte and Oregon's Cascade-Siskiyou.

National monument designations add protections for lands revered for their natural beauty and historical significance with the goal of preserving them for future generations.

Energy, mining, ranching and timber industries have cheered the review, while conservation groups and the outdoor recreation industry threatened lawsuits over what they see as an effort to undo protections of critical natural and cultural resources.

Zinke also wrote that former President Obama's proclamation establishing both New Mexico monuments should be amended to "protect objects and prioritize pubic access, infrastructure repairs, fix and maintain traditional uses, tribal and cultural use and hunting and fishing rights".

Trump ordered the review earlier this year after complaining about improper "land grabs" by former presidents, including Barack Obama.

U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, a 1st District Democrat who strongly supports the monument designation, criticized the Trump administration for a lack of transparency in the review process. On the opposing side, though, comments called for "rescinding or modifying the existing monuments to protect traditional multiple use, and those most concerned were often local residents associated with industries such as grazing, timber production, mining, hunting fishing, and motorized recreation", Zinke writes.

No president has tried to eliminate a monument, but some have trimmed and redrawn boundaries 18 times, according to the National Park Service.

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The review raised alarm among conservationists who said protections could be lost for areas that are home to ancient cliff dwellings, towering sequoia trees, deep canyons and ocean habitats.

Zinke had previously announced that no changes would be made at six national monuments - in Montana, Colorado, Idaho, California, Arizona and Washington.

An aerial photo of Tramp Ridge in Gold Butte National Monument on Friday, July 21, 2017.

Zinke also proposed opening these publicly held national monuments up to drilling, logging, commercial fishing, and other activities for private profit.

Although the details of Zinke's report to Trump did not become public until Sunday night, he was widely expected in ME to recommend changes to allow some timber harvesting within Katahdin Woods and Waters.

The Wilderness Society is threatening legal action, calling the recommendations an unprecedented assault on our parks and public lands.

Trump could seek to alter the monuments with an executive order, an action that conservation groups said would be immediately challenged in federal court in the District of Columbia. But while he said the recommendation "basically says we should continue to do exactly what we are doing", St. Clair said it all depends on how the Trump administration implements the vague language within the report.