What happens next for Bears Ears National Monument

By June 10th, 2017, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke will announce his decision on whether to recommend reducing or removing protection for Bears Ears National Monument.

Just a couple weeks after President Trump signed an executive order targeting national monuments, Bears Ears National Monument’s May 26th comment period deadline has passed. In the coming weeks, the Trump administration will supposedly review those comments on its protected status. After that—by June 10th—Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke will make a recommendation about whether to shrink its boundaries, or even whether it should go on being a national monument.

Thanks to wilderness-loving Americans at-large, it will be impossible for the Trump administration to claim “the people” want Bears Ears to have less protection.

A coalition of public lands groups and others estimates that over 685,000 comments were submitted to the Department of the Interior in favor of keeping Bears Ears’ current status. A perfunctory review of those comments finds numerous Utahns (and other Americans) testifying to the exceptional tribal culture and physical landscape of the region, lamenting the lack of protection they have received so far and begging Secretary Zinke to keep the monument intact.

The advocacy group Center for Western Priorities analyzed a representative sample of 500 comments and reports that 96 percent percent of them were in favor of keeping Bears Ears’ and other national monuments’ current protection. This squares with Americans’ longstanding and oft-documented support of monuments and the authority to designate them under the Antiquities Act.

Despite this, some reports claim Secretary Zinke has already made up his mind that monument status should be revoked, which would be a shocking and unprecedented move.

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