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10 National Monuments the Interior Department Wants to Shrink or Modify

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has proposed that President Donald Trump make changes to 10 national monuments, including Bears Ears in southern Utah, according to a memo addressed to the White House.

In the report, posted online by The Washington Post, Zinke proposes unspecified boundary changes to several monuments, and he recommends reopening vast areas to uses like commercial fishing and logging and additional cattle grazing. The report reviewed 27 monuments designated by past administrations. In all:

Six monuments could shrink or change boundaries

Four won't shrink, but face management changes

17 monuments will remain unchanged

The broad outlines of the document were confirmed Monday by two Republican strategists who said they had been in discussions with the Interior Department about the recommendations. They spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Zinke's recommendations are the latest development in a long-standing fight between those who view these sites as threats to economic development and those who see them as critical pieces of the country's conservation legacy.

It is not clear what Trump will do with Zinke's recommendations.

If the president decides to shrink any of the monuments, that decision is likely to be met with lawsuits from environmental groups.

Here are the monuments designated for changes under Zinke's proposal.

(Alex Goodlett/The New York Times)

A set of ruins nicknamed 'House on Fire' in the Bears Ears National Monument near Blanding, Utah, Aug. 23, 2017.

Bears Ears

Size: 1.35 million acres

Designated by Barack Obama, 2016

Recommendation: Revise boundary

Zinke recommends changing the size of Bears Ears, a vast red-rock expanse in Utah that has been the focal point of the debate over the value of these conservation areas. He does not suggest specific boundaries.

Bears Ears, designated by President Barack Obama in December, has been particularly controversial because of its size. While it is supported by several tribal governments in and around Utah, including the Navajo Nation, it is opposed by state lawmakers who have fought for years to wrestle land from federal control.

Zinke's report also recommends that Trump allow unspecified "traditional use" of the land, which could include activities like drilling and mining. Native American tribes who lobbied for years to protect Bears Ears have vowed to fight the decision.

Zinke also calls on Congress to declare a group of tribes as co-managers of the monument.

(AP Photo/John Locher, File)

In this May 26, 2017, file photo, Susie Gelbart walks near petroglyphs at the Gold Butte National Monument near Bunkerville, Nev.

Gold Butte

Size: 296,937 acres

Designated by Barack Obama, 2016

Recommendation: Revise boundary

Zinke recommends changing the size of Gold Butte, a region of Nevada described by Obama as a place of "chiseled red sandstone, twisting canyons and tree-clad mountains" amid flat stretches of the Mojave Desert that hold "irreplaceable" scientific resources.

The designation was supported by Nevada Democrats, including Sen. Harry Reid, but roundly criticized by Republicans as another "unilateral land-grab." The monument sits in the same county as the ranch of Cliven Bundy, the cattleman who has become a symbol of opposition to federal control of public lands.

The secretary recommends revising the monument's boundaries "to protect historic water rights" but does not specify new borders. He also recommends changing management to allow for "traditional use," which could include mining, drilling and increased grazing.

(AP Photo/Douglas C. Pizac, File)

This May 30, 1997, file photo, shows the varied terrain of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument near Boulder, Colorado.

Grand Staircase

Size: 1.88 million acres

Designated by Bill Clinton, 1996

Recommendation: Revise boundary

The secretary suggests the president alter the boundaries of Grand Staircase-Escalante, an area in Utah protected by President Bill Clinton in 1996. The designation was particularly controversial because it halted a coal mine project that could have provided jobs and revenue in an impoverished part of the state. In Utah, many people trace the anger over Bears Ears back to the designation of Grand Staircase.

In the report, Zinke says monument rules have limited cattle grazing and access to recreation, and he recommends changes to allow for "traditional use."

(U.S. Bureau of Land Management via The New York Times)

A handout photo of the landscape in the Cascade-Siskiyou monument in Oregon and California.


Size: 112,000 acres

Designated by Bill Clinton, 2000

Enlarged by Barack Obama, 2017

Recommendation: Revise boundary

This monument should be made smaller by removing land that could be farmed for timber, according to Zinke's recommendations.

Clinton set aside the area for protection in 2000, calling this region of "fir forests, sunlit oak groves, wildflower-strewn meadows and steep canyons" in Oregon and California a unique "biological crossroads." Obama expanded it before leaving office in January.

The Interior Department report says the monument designation has limited cattle grazing and would reduce federal timber revenue. It recommends the president allow for uses that could include timber harvesting and increased grazing.

(U.S. Bureau of Land Management via The New York Times)

A handout photo of the Palmyra Atoll in the Pacific Remote Islands monument near Hawaii.

Pacific Remote Islands

Size: 316.9 million acres

Designated by George W. Bush, 2009

Enlarged by Barack Obama, 2014

Recommendation: Revise boundary

Zinke recommends changing this marine monument to allow for commercial fishing.

The Pacific Remote Islands is a group of islands, atolls and reefs that lie south and west of Hawaii. Bush set aside the monument in 2009, calling it "an important part of the most widespread collection of marine- and terrestrial-life protected areas on the planet under a single country's jurisdiction."

The monument was greatly expanded by Obama.

(Ian Shive/United States Fish and Wildlife Service via The New York Times)

A handout photo of marine life in the Rose Atoll monument in the Pacific Ocean.

Rose Atoll

Size: 8.61 million acres

Designated by George W. Bush, 2009

Recommendation: Revise boundary

According to Zinke, this marine monument should also have its boundaries or proclamation changed to allow for commercial fishing. His report notes that fishing in this area of the Pacific is important to the economy of American Samoa.

The monument was set aside by Bush in 2009, who wrote that Rose "remains one of the most pristine atolls in the world" and supports "a dynamic reef ecosystem that is home to a very diverse assemblage of terrestrial and marine species, many of which are threatened or endangered."

(AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)

The first light of dawn silhouettes the Katahdin Range east of Chesuncook Lake, Sept. 5, 2001.

Katahdin Woods and Waters

Size: 87,563 acres

Designated by Barack Obama, 2016

Recommendation: Modify management plan

Zinke recommends changing this region's plans to protect future harvesting of timber.

The monument, in Maine, was designated by Obama in 2016 after Roxanne Quimby, a co-founder of Burt's Bees cosmetics, donated land worth about $60 million to the federal government, as well as an endowment of $20 million for operations and maintenance. Quimby's family pledged to raise an additional $20 million to aid the park.

In June, Zinke signaled his support for the monument, despite vocal opposition to it from the state's Republican governor, Paul R. LePage.

(Bureau of Land Management New Mexico via The New York Times)

A handout photo of the Dripping Springs Natural Area for hiking and wildlife viewing in the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks monument in New Mexico.

Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks

Size: 496,330 acres

Designated by Barack Obama, 2014

Recommendation: Modify management plan

The Interior Department report notes that the monument's current management could prevent ranchers from running livestock in the region, and suggests altering it to protect "traditional use," which could include cattle grazing.

Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks, in New Mexico near the border with Mexico, is made of five mountain ranges rising above grasslands of the Chihuahuan Desert. Obama set it aside for protection in 2014, writing that the region was home to "hundreds of artifacts, rock art, dwellings and other evidence of the Native peoples of the area."

(Bureau of Land Management New Mexico via The New York Times)

A handout photo of elk in the Rio Grande del Norte national monument.

Rio Grande del Norte

Size: 242,555 acres

Designated by Barack Obama, 2013

Recommendation: Modify management plan

Zinke suggests changes to protect "traditional use," and the report notes that road closures have discouraged ranchers from renewing their grazing permits within the monument in New Mexico. The report also suggests that Congress should authorize tribal management of designated areas within the monument.

Obama made Rio Grande del Norte a national monument in 2013, calling the region a place of "extreme beauty and daunting harshness," that furthers "understanding of the forces that shaped northern New Mexico."

(National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration via The New York Times)

A handout photo of some of the 54 species of coral in the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts monument southeast of Cape Cod, Mass.

Northeast Canyons and Seamounts

Size: 3.14 million acres

Designated by Barack Obama, 2016

Recommendation: Modify management plan

Zinke calls on the president to alter the monument's proclamation to allow for commercial fishing. Current management prohibits this, with the exception of red crab and American lobster fisheries.

Designated by Obama in 2016, the monument sits about 130 miles southeast of Cape Cod, Massachusetts. In his declaration, Obama noted that the protected area is home to at least 54 species of coral that "together with other structure-forming fauna such as sponges and anemones, create a foundation for vibrant deep-sea ecosystems."

"These habitats," he noted, "are extremely sensitive to disturbance from extractive activities."

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