Utah ranchers tell Interior Secretary Zinke monument unnecessary | AspenTimes.com

Utah ranchers tell Interior Secretary Zinke monument unnecessary

Zinke may recommend Utah monument be repealed

Michelle L. Price and Brady McCombs
The Associated Press

MONTICELLO, Utah — Fifth-generation Utah rancher Bruce Adams has enjoyed a prime seat next to U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke this week as he reviews a national monument created on lands that Adams’ ancestors helped settle in 1879.

Adams, a county commissioner who opposes the monument, sat next to Zinke on a helicopter ride Monday and narrated the landscape of the Bears Ears National Monument. On Tuesday morning, Adams was scheduled to saddle up horses for Zinke’s ride in the monument, one of 27 that President Donald Trump ordered Zinke to review to determine if they were properly established.

Adams gave Zinke a cowboy hat bearing the phrase “Make San Juan County Great Again” and delivered a clear message: The national monument designation is unnecessary and could hurt our ability to make a living off grazing and agriculture while taking away trust fund revenue for public schools.

“A monument is an overlay of protections that are already there. And so it becomes about control,” Adams said. “Not only control of the land, but control of the people that are living there and trying to make a living on the land.”

Echoing a common refrain from many locals in this southeastern corner of Utah, Adams said he and the locals cherish and take care of the vast expanse of tribal lands, canyons and plateaus where people hunt, fish and go camping. In Blanding, with a population of 3,400 people, banners are up around town that say “#RescindBearsEars.”

“Let us just live our lives here in San Juan County,” Adams said. “We’re respectful people.”

Zinke is getting an earful from locals and Utah’s top Republican leaders who think President Barack Obama went too far in designating Bears Ears National Monument. They hope to persuade the administration to reverse the decision or at least downsize the 1.3 million acre monument.

Supporters of the monument are making their voices heard, too, to let Zinke know that they worked behind the scenes for years to get protections from sacred tribal lands home to an estimated 100,000 archaeological sites, including ancient cliff dwellings. Tribal members visit the area to perform ceremonies, collect herbs and wood for medicinal and spiritual purposes and do healing rituals.

They offer a counterpoint to Adams, suggesting the monument will help the economy by bringing more visitors who will spend money at hotels and restaurants. They point out that the monument designation still allows grazing, hiking, hunting and fishing.

Bears Ears supporters have greeted Zinke throughout his trip. After his arrival Sunday in Salt Lake City, Zinke was met by about 500 protesters who chanted, “Save our monuments, stand with Bears Ears.”

In Bears Ears on Monday, supporters stood with signs as he arrived to take a hike to an ancient ruin. One woman asked why he only met with tribal leaders for an hour. Zinke, who was shaking another supporter’s hand, turned around to face the woman and said: “Be nice.” The woman responded that she always is.

Zinke has insisted there is no predetermined outcome of his review, rooted in the belief of Trump and other critics that a law signed by President Theodore Roosevelt allowing presidents to declare monuments has been improperly used to protect wide expanses of lands instead of places with particular historical or archaeological value.

Zinke told reporters Tuesday that while everyone agrees lands protected in Utah’s new Bears Ears National Monument need protections, he isn’t ruling out the possibility that he’ll recommend President Donald Trump rescind the monument.

On Monday he said that it’s clear that sacred tribal lands in Bears Ears should be preserved, but openly questioned whether he thinks the those lands, with ancient ruins and rock art, should remain a monument, or if its borders should be shrunk or expanded. He is due to make a recommendation about Bears Ears by June 10 and issue a final report on all monuments about 2½ months later.

Conservation groups contend that the monument review puts in limbo protections on areas across the country that are home to ancient cliff dwellings, towering Sequoias, deep canyons and ocean habitats where seals, whales and sea turtles roam.

Environmental groups have vowed to file lawsuits if Trump attempts to rescind monuments — a move that would be unprecedented.

On Wednesday, Zinke is set to head west and visit the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, created in 1996. It is the oldest monument on the list of those to be reviewed.

Zinke has said multiple times that he wants to hear from locals and from different points of view — including from Native Americans who may not be in lockstep with a coalition of five tribes that pushed for the monument.

“A lot of the anger that is out there in our country is that local communities and states just don’t feel like they’ve had a voice,” Zinke, a Montana Republican, said.