Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke wrote a memorandum to the president recommending changes to the Bears Ears National Monument boundaries to decrease the size of the monument.
In the memorandum Zinke said the current boundaries go beyond the scope of the Antiquities Act, which states a president may establish a monument in “the smallest area compatible.”
A president may choose to establish a national monument where “historic landmarks, historic and prehistoric structures, and other objects of historic or scientific interest that are situated on land owned or controlled by the Federal Government to be national monuments.”
Bears Ears contains objects such as rock art, dwellings and ceremonial sites, which “reflect its long historical significance to Native Americans,” according to the memorandum. However, Zinke said the designated area for the Bears Ears National Monument encompasses more area than is necessary to preserve these objects and sites.
“It would have been more appropriate to identify and separate the areas that have significant objects to be protected to meet the purposes of the Act,” Zinke said in the memorandum.
He also said some of the Bears Ears land is already protected as a wilderness study area and does not need to be included under the Antiquities Act.
Zinke made four recommendations to President Donald Trump:
- The president revise the Bears Ears National Monument boundary, as outlined in the Antiquities Act
- The president request Congress give tribes co-management of the designated cultural areas in the revised Bears Ears National Monument boundaries
- Congress designate selected areas within the current Bears Ears National Monument as national recreation or national conservation areas
- Congress clarify the intent of the management practices of wilderness or wilderness study areas within the Bears Ears National Monument
Sen. Mike Lee released a statement commending Secretary Zinke for the report and recommendations.
“I commend Secretary Zinke for producing a balanced and factual report that should be seen by both sides as genuine progress towards a consensus solution to land use issues in San Juan County,” Lee said in the statement.