Officials Lash Out Against Suggestion to ‘Shrink’ Size of Some National Monuments

A smaller San Gabriel Mountain Monument could be in the future.

By City News Service

The San Gabriel Mountains National Monument, created by President Barack Obama in 2014 and placed under review in April by President Donald Trump, would likely remain in place, but could potentially shrink, under recommendations submitted to the White House today by U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke.

Zinke did not reveal any specifics about his recommendations on the fate of more than two dozen monuments under review across the country. But he said the recommendations “will maintain federal ownership of all federal land and protect the land under federal environmental regulations, and also provide a much needed change for the local communities who border and rely on these lands
for hunting and fishing, economic development, traditional uses and recreation.”San Gab Mon WEB Featurestelprd3829626

Zinke told the Associated Press earlier Thursday that he was not recommending the elimination of any of the national monuments under review, but some of them might be reduced in size. He did not provide any specifics.

A summary of Zinke’s report released by the Interior Department also did not give any specifics about the recommendations.

His failure to publicly reveal any details of his recommendations earned him rebukes from some Southland Democrats.

“The American people have the right to see his entire report,” Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said. “A proposal to strip protections from public lands should be made public immediately.”

Trump’s executive order in April demanded the review of monuments designated since 1996 under the Antiquities Act of 1906, which grants the president authority to declare federal lands of historic or scientific value as national monuments.

Trump said his executive order would “end another egregious abuse of federal power” and “give that power back to the states and to the people, where it belongs.”

He also said the Antiquities Act “unilaterally put millions of acres of land and water under strict federal control … eliminating the ability of the people who actually live in those states to decide how best to use that land.”

Zinke’s report concurred with the need for the study, noting that the Antiquities Act had been used by presidents 26 times since 1996 to create monuments more than 100,000 acres in size.

“No president should use the authority under the act to restrict public access, preventing hunting and fishing, burden private land or eliminate traditional land uses, unless such action is needed to protect the object,” according to the report. It goes on to note that the use of “executive power” under the act “is not a substitute for a lack of congressional action on protective land designations.”

Obama created the 346,000-acre San Gabriel Mountains monument northeast of Los Angeles via executive order. Rep. Judy Chu, D-Pasadena, had originally pushed to have 600,000 acres of the mountain range declared a national monument, but never gained traction for the idea in Congress.

At a news conference in Los Angeles Tuesday, U.S. Rep. Judy Chu (center) called on the Trump administration to keep in place the monument status of 346,000-acres of the San Gabriel Mountains. (Photo courtesy of Office of U.S. Rep. Judy Chu)

At a news conference in Los Angeles Tuesday, U.S. Rep. Judy Chu (center) called on the Trump administration to keep in place the monument status of 346,000-acres of the San Gabriel Mountains. (Photo courtesy of Office of U.S. Rep. Judy Chu)

Some Republican lawmakers criticized Obama’s action at the time, saying it would restrict access to public land and have a negative impact on water resources, flood control facilities and roads.

Chu also lashed out at Zinke for failing to publicly disclose specifics of his recommendations, and indicating only that he was suggesting size-reductions for a “handful” of the monuments under review.

“At the behest of oil companies eager to drill in protected lands, Donald Trump ordered a review of 27 of America’s most beloved national monuments,” Chu said. “Now, after visiting just eight of them, Secretary Zinke is ignoring the outpouring of public support from 2.7 million Americans and recommending that an undetermined number be altered.

“The public deserves to see the complete list of recommendations that were sent to the White House,” she said. “That he is not recommending any of the monuments be eliminated, as was intended at the start of the review, is an acknowledgement that these monuments all comport with the Antiquities Act. And so he is seeking to change them to cater to corporate interests instead.”

Rep. Grace Napolitano, D-El Monte, echoed Chu’s sentiments, saying Zinke and the Trump administration “have shut out the voices of the public, turning a review of some of our precious monuments into one of the least transparent and most complicated federal processes.”

Zinke’s recommendations will be reviewed by Trump, who will have the final say over any possible changes. Some environmental groups have already indicated they would file legal challenges to any effort to change the boundaries of any national monuments.

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August 24, 2017  Copyright © 2012 Eastern Group Publications, Inc.

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