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Still No Word On New Boundaries For Bears Ears, Grand Staircase

U.S. Department of Interior
U.S. Secretary rode the Bears Ears backcountry with some of the new national monuments harshest critics in May, on the first stop of his national monuments review. The White House is looking at his recommendations.

U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has submitted what he called a “draft” report after reviewing 27 national monuments over four months. He told the Associated Press Thursday he’s not suggesting eliminating any monuments. But he does want to scale back a few that, in his view, go beyond the limits of the law.

The White House, which has begun reviewing Zinke’s recommendations, has given no word yet on how much it might want to shrink two monuments here in Utah.

“It is fair and obvious that they need time to read the report,” said Utah Congressman Rob Bishop, who is also chairman of the U.S. House Natural Resources Committee.

Once the administration releases the details, Bishop said, he’ll introduce legislation to revamp the Antiquities Act, the law that created the monuments now under review. He said the law needs to reflect Congress’s original intent.

“The process is broken,” Bishop said in a telephone conference call with reporters. “It is not working as was intended. It needs to be reformed. And this is not about energy development. This is not about it's not about whether we're anti-park.”

Nizhone Meza is the legal and policy director for the Native American group, Utah Dine Bikeyah. It was part of the five-tribe coalition that persuaded the Obama administration to create the Bears Ears National Monument just eight months ago.

She said supporters remain hopeful the Trump administration will preserve the spirit and the 1.35-million-acre boundary of Bears Ears.

“It’s inspiring,” she said of the monument in San Juan County, which includes archaeological treasures, as well as areas that have been sacred to Native Americans for generations. “And I think that we need stay in that mindset, that we should still be positive.”

Environmental groups criticized the Trump administration for refusing to release details of the proposed boundary changes, but neither Bishop nor the White House is saying when that might happen.

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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