Following monument tour and Bunkerville meeting, Zinke cuts Nevada trip short for Cabinet meeting

U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke speaks with members of the media during a news conference near Gold Butte National Monument in Bunkerville, Nevada. Zinke is touring several national monuments as part of an ongoing review, Saturday, July 30, 2017 | Photo by Steve Marcus/Las Vegas Sun via The Associated Press, St. George News

BUNKERVILLE, Nev. (AP) — U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke toured two national monuments in Nevada on Sunday but canceled plans for meetings Monday in the Las Vegas area in order to head back to Washington, D.C., for what he said will be a Cabinet meeting involving President Donald Trump’s top appointees.

In this January 2017 file photo, Jaina Moan, director of the Friends of Gold Butte, and visitors hike at Gold Butte National Monument in Gold Butte, Nevada. U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke made a stop Sunday, July 30, 2017, in rancher Cliven Bundy’s hometown in Nevada during his tour of national monuments on President Donald Trump’s potential chopping block, Jan. 17, 2017 | Photo by Christian K. Lee/Las Vegas Review-Journal via The Associated Press, St. George News

Zinke met reporters outside a rancher’s home in Bunkerville, the hometown of jailed cattleman and anti-government icon Cliven Bundy about 80 miles northeast of Las Vegas. He didn’t meet with any Bundy family members.

As the head of the department that includes the Bureau of Land Management, Zinke made it clear he believes in small-sizing national monuments.

“They can’t be large tracts of public land or private land or state land,” he said.

Zinke toured the Gold Butte and Basin and Range national monuments, which cover a combined 1,500 square miles – more than half the size of Delaware. But he didn’t say he’s made any decisions about whether to downsize the two monuments created last year by President Barack Obama before he left office.

“Monuments have been adjusted … 18 times before, Zinke said. “So I don’t think there’s too much question that a monument can be adjusted. Whether a monument can be rescinded or not, that is a question for the courts.”

Trump announced the review of 27 monuments in May, saying the designations imposed by previous presidents amounted to a massive federal land grab. Monument designations protect federal land from energy development and other activities.

What I’ve learned in this monument review is that every monument is unique,” Zinke said Sunday afternoon.

Gold Butte is the grazing area at the center of the cattle round-up and armed standoff in April 2014 involving Bundy and federal land management agents.

The monument is home to pioneer-era and Native American artifacts, and rare and threatened wildlife, including the Mojave desert tortoise and desert bighorn sheep.

A recent study by the Bureau of Land Management documented nearly 400 ancient rock art panels and more than 3,500 individual petroglyphs scattered throughout the Gold Butte area.

Bundy argues that the federal government has no jurisdiction in such vast rangelands of the West.

He and four of his sons are in jail awaiting federal trial on felony charges that they organized an armed insurrection to turn away Bureau of Land Management agents and contract cowboys and to release cattle collected from the Gold Butte range.

Federal officials say the bureau was trying to enforce court orders issued for Bundy’s years-long failure to pay federal grazing fees.

In an effort to urge Zinke not to change the monuments he toured, Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, a Nevada Democrat, recently made a two-minute videotape, and Rep. Jacky Rosen, a Democrat running for Republican Sen. Dean Heller’s seat in 2018, sent a letter to the interior secretary.

In addition to preserving cultural history, native wildlife and scenic beauty, Gold Butte and Basin and Range generate more than $150 million annually for Nevada’s economy, they said.

Apparently the 2.7 million public comments submitted in favor of keeping these monuments were not enough to help Mr. Zinke make up his mind,” Masto, a member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee overseeing the Interior Department, said about a public comment period that closed earlier this month.

Outdoor retailer Patagonia took out two full-page ads in the state’s largest newspaper Sunday in support of the two Nevada national monuments.

On Friday, Zinke took a helicopter tour of the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument in New Mexico and held a roundtable event with ranchers, county commissioners and university professors.

Last week, he removed Colorado’s Canyons of the Ancients National Monument from the list under review. He previously dropped two others, one in Idaho and one in Washington state. A full report is due next month.

Written by KEN RITTER and SCOTT SONNER, Associated Press.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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  • Caveat_Emptor July 31, 2017 at 3:23 pm

    Maybe I am the only person who views Zinke as taking an all expenses paid vacation while allegedly “on the job”.
    Perhaps, this is compensation for him missing out on the periodic boondoggles he enjoyed as a member of the House.
    Fortunately, there are enough interested organizations to litigate any stupid decisions coming out of Washington.

    • Brian July 31, 2017 at 6:09 pm

      I really like the fact that he’s actually coming out, visiting the areas, talking to locals, seeing with his own eyes what the situation actually is, and whether these national monuments actually need to be 1.8 million acres (!!!) or whether we can possibly, through the use of some crazy mapping technology (you know, like Google Earth), come up with a smaller boundary that still protects what needs protecting without squishing entire industries and towns. I suspect he’ll find it can be done with a scalpel rather than the sledgehammers obama and clinton used.

    • mesaman July 31, 2017 at 8:49 pm

      Why don’t you vocalize or write your complaints to someone who would be interested in them, namely the Secretary of the Interior, Ryan Zinke. I count myself among those that tire of the recliner coaches and outhouse lawyers.

      • Real Life August 1, 2017 at 12:02 am

        You just count as an outhouse with a loud mouth.

        • mesaman August 1, 2017 at 10:32 am

          And if I look below the seat in the outhouse I will find you, you clever little imp, you.

      • Chris August 1, 2017 at 8:06 am

        despite the fact that you lived your entire life as a “recliner coach.”

        • mesaman August 1, 2017 at 10:34 am

          But Chrissy, I worked, too bad you can’t brag about your sordid life.

  • Not_So_Much August 1, 2017 at 6:50 am

    What does the US Constitution say about the federal government owning land?

    • Chris August 1, 2017 at 8:09 am

      It says very little. If you are alluding to the Enclave Clause, you are among the many kooks who misinterpret it. The Enclave Clause refers exclusively to the formation of the District of Columbia. Two centuries of Supreme Court decisions confirms this and supports the power of the federal government to own land.

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