DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA – More than 1.2 million comments were received during the federal government’s formal public comment period for the review of 27 national monuments that ended Monday.
Comments were sent to Regulations.gov and thousands more were received via traditional mail.
The 27 national monuments on the review list were designated since Jan. 1, 1996, are more than 100,000 acres, or were considered to have inadequate public input. They are under review in accordance with President Donald Trump’s April 26, 2017, executive order, according to a news release issued Tuesday by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s office.
“Too often under previous administrations, decisions were made in the Washington, D.C., bubble, far removed from the local residents who actually work the land and have to live with the consequences of D.C.’s actions. This monument review is the exact opposite,” Zinke states in the news release.
“President Trump and I opened the formal public comment period – the first-ever for monuments designated under the Antiquities Act – in order to give local stakeholders a voice in the decision-making process,” Zinke said. “After hearing some feedback, I’d like to remind and reassure folks that even if a monument is modified, the land will remain under federal ownership. I am strictly opposed to the sale or transfer of our public lands, and nothing in this review changes that policy.”
Zinke said the comments received, in addition to his “extensive on-the-ground tours of monuments and meetings with stakeholders,” will help inform his recommendations on the monuments.
“I appreciate everyone who took the time to log-on or write in and participate in our government,” Zinke said.
As required by the executive order, Zinke submitted an interim report to the White House in June with various recommendations and observations on Bears Ears National Monument, which suggested the monument be reduced in size to conform with the intent of the Antiquities Act, that of designating the smallest compatible area.
The report also recommended the creation of a national conservation area and official co-management by the local Tribal governments.
The report came after Zinke spent several days on the ground in Utah touring the monument by air, car, foot and horseback, speaking with stakeholders from Tribal, local, state and federal government, as well as representatives from the conservation, historic preservation, agriculture, tourism and education sectors.
The Secretary met with the Bears Ears InterTribal Coalition while in Salt Lake City on May 7, and the Acting Deputy Secretary Jim Cason held a four-hour follow-up meeting with the Bears Ears Commission and the InterTribal Coalition on May 25.
Zinke also traveled to Maine’s Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument, and to Boston to hold meetings on the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts National Marine Monument off the coast of New England. The Secretary plans to visit Oregon, New Mexico, and Nevada in the coming weeks.
Regarding the comment period, the executive order stated:
In making the requisite determinations, the Secretary is directed to consider:
(i) the requirements and original objectives of the Act, including the Act’s requirement that reservations of land not exceed “the smallest area compatible with the proper care and management of the objects to be protected”;
(ii) whether designated lands are appropriately classified under the Act as “historic landmarks, historic and prehistoric structures, [or] other objects of historic or scientific interest”;
(iii) the effects of a designation on the available uses of designated Federal lands, including consideration of the multiple-use policy of section 102(a)(7) of the Federal Land Policy and Management Act (43 U.S.C. 1701(a)(7)), as well as the effects on the available uses of Federal lands beyond the monument boundaries;
(iv) the effects of a designation on the use and enjoyment of non-Federal lands within or beyond monument boundaries;
(v) concerns of State, tribal, and local governments affected by a designation, including the economic development and fiscal condition of affected States, tribes, and localities;
(vi) the availability of Federal resources to properly manage designated areas; and
(vii) such other factors as the Secretary deems appropriate.
82 FR 20429-20430 (May 1, 2017).