In addition to the boundary revisions, Zinke’s report recommends management changes to a total of 10 national monuments.
Most of those proposed changes invoke some level of regulatory rollback. Zinke recommends “active timber management” in Maine’s Katahdin Woods and Waters and hints at opening three marine monuments to limited commercial fishing. In the case of western monuments, Zinke also recommends tribal co-management of the land.
The recommended changes suggest a pushback against federal land protections in general—Zinke often mentions a mandate for monuments to conserve only “the smallest area compatible,” and suggests that large-scale conservation has generally been enacted against the interests of the communities involved.
“Too often, it is local stakeholders who lack the organization, funding, and institutional support to compete with well-funded national NGOs,” writes Zinke. “As a result, the pubic consultation processes that have occurred prior to monument designations have not adequately accounted for local voices.”
Zinke’s own public consultation process found constituents to be “overwhelmingly in favor” of current monument designations. He describes this not as an indication of public sentiment, but as evidence of “a well-orchestrated national campaign organized by multiple organizations.”
Three new monuments
As a general theme, Zinke’s recommendations are generally to reduce the protection of national monuments, either by reducing their size or by scaling back certain protections. But his report is not entirely focused on regulatory rollbacks—he also identifies three potential sites for the designation of new monuments.
By far the largest of these is the 130,000-acre Badger-Two Medicine Area in Montana’s Lewis and Clark National Forest. That stretch of land connects Glacier National Park, the Bob Marshall Wilderness, and Blackfeet Indian Reservation. The Blackfeet tribe has long sought federal protections to shield the land from oil and gas drilling.
Zinke also suggests two historical monuments: a Union army supply depot in Kentucky (Camp Nelson), and the Mississippi home of civil rights martyr Medgar Evers.
Time will tell
In the wake of Trump’s cuts of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments, several organizations have challenged the president’s right to reduce the size of national monuments (past presidents have done do, but this will be the first time the issue has been discussed in court). The decisions made in those cases will no doubt shape the future of the monuments addressed in Zinke’s report.
In the meantime, those folks who feel strongly about the issue should contact the Trump administration directly. The public comment period for Zinke’s report is over, but no changes can be made the monuments without a presidential proclamation.
Unless otherwise noted, photos are courtesy of the Bureau of Land Management.
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