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Zinke Begins Utah Listening Tour

Utahns for and against national monuments have been asking the Trump administration to weigh in on Bears Ears ever since it was created in December. U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke arrived in Utah Sunday to hear their concerns firsthand.

Around two hundred protestors gathered outside the federal Bureau of Land Management’s state office as Zinke met inside with leaders of the five tribes that will help manage the new Bears Ears National Monument.

“There’s a lot of anger out there,” he said afterward, speaking with reporters. “There’s a lot of mistrust out there.”

Zinke’s visit coincides with an open public comment period on 27 national monuments that have been created in the past two decades. He invited all Utahns and all Americans to voice their concerns. Zinke insists his mind is NOT made up.

“I’m talking to all parties,” he said, “and getting a perspective of making sure that Utah and all the stakeholders have a voice.”

He’s scheduled to tour the new Bears Ears National Monument on foot, in a plane and on horseback over the next two days. Then he visits the Grand Staircase Escalante Monument.

The Interior Secretary also met Sunday with Utah Republican leaders. They’ve organized the tour to make a case that Bears Ears should be rescinded and the Grand Staircase should be shrunk.

“We’re going to make sure Utah functions the way it should function and that it’s protected and that it’s not just shoved around by radical people from elsewhere,” said Sen. Orrin Hatch, a Utah Republican who joined Zinke Sunday at the BLM.

Native Americans and conservationists throughout the state are among the monument supporters who complain they’re being excluded from the Zinke meetings.

Judy Fahys has reported in Utah for two decades, covering politics, government and business before taking on environmental issues. She loves covering Utah, where petroleum-pipeline spills, the nation’s radioactive legacy and other types of pollution provide endless fodder for stories. Previously, she worked for the Salt Lake Tribune in Utah, and reported on the nation’s capital for States News Service and the Scripps League newspaper chain. She is a longtime member of the Society of Environmental Journalists and Investigative Reporters and Editors. She also spent an academic year as a research fellow in the Knight Science Journalism program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In her spare time, she enjoys being out in the environment, especially hiking, gardening and watercolor painting.
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