Verdict in? Interior Sec. Zinke recommends Trump gut mystery list of parks

Utah's Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument is reportedly among those recommended for reduced protection. 

Credit: Jack Brauer

Trump’s Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke announced his plan to shrink an unknown number of American parks, reportedly including Bears Ears National Monument, extending an unpopular and secretive process.

The Aug. 24 announcement comes after a summer of speculation about the Trump administration's "review" of national monuments--wildlands and cultural sites protected by the Antiquities Act--which targeted all those designated by presidents since the year 1996 (27 in all, from California to Maine).  

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The parks recommended for reduced protection reportedly include Utah's Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments and Oregon's Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument. Beyond that, local communities have been left hanging, waiting to see whether nearby protected treasures are on the mystery list of parks to be gutted that has now been sent to the White House. Zinke has said only that he is recommending alterations to several monuments.  

Recommendations could open parks to development 

Zinke is trying to sugarcoat the recommendations by claiming that the mystery monuments will remain open to the public--with altered protections. But remaining public does not mean these park lands will be managed for conservation or recreation. In fact, many of places on Zinke’s initial review list are coveted by the mining and oil and gas industry, which could be able to lease the lands if they lose protective status.  

Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument (Oregon). Credit: Bob Wick (BLM).

From the very beginning, this months-long, reality show-like spectacle seemed rigged to arrive at decisions that reduce land protection and shrink park boundaries, no matter that the public opposes it. At the same time, it is totally unclear exactly how the individual decisions about parks were made. 

Secretive review to have deep consequences 

 Whatever the final 'hit-list' looks like, the Trump administration's review sets a dangerous precedent and could end up affecting even more parks and public lands than were included in the original review. The roadwork has now been laid to revisit longstanding and carefully considered land protections of all kinds based on the whim of the current president.  

The Wilderness Society will take legal action to blunt this attack and ensure that priceless natural landmarks and cultural sites stay intact.  

In the meantime, it is critical that we contact our senators and ask them to be ready to stand up to the Trump administration and protect America’s parks. Trump and Zinke’s monument "review" was an extremely unpopular step in a larger movement to privatize and develop shared wildlands, and it needs to be stopped in its tracks.