House Democrats Urge Secretary Zinke to Stop All Work on National Monuments

Below is a letter the Utah House Democratic Caucus sent to Secretary of Interior Zinke urging him to cease all work on the Administration’s plans for the Grand Staircase-Escalante and Bears Ears National Mounuments until the courts have ruled.

October 8, 2018

The Honorable Ryan Zinke
Secretary, U.S. Department of Interior
1849 C Street NW
Washington, DC 20240


Dear Secretary Zinke:

We urge you to immediately cease any further work related to monument management plans for the Grand Staircase, Kaiparowits, and Escalante Canyons Units of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument and the Kanab-Escalante Planning Area released on August 17, 2018.  We also request that you delay any further work on plans for the Indian Creek and Shash Jáa Units of Bears Ears National Monument, also released on August 17, 2018.

As you know, President Trump’s Proclamation 9681, which broke up Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments, is currently under litigation.  The courts have yet to issue a ruling on whether the President’s actions were lawful. Many legal scholars agree that the President does not have the authority to wipe out or shrink national monuments.  In spite of that, the Department of Interior appears to be rushing through Environmental Impact Studies and Monument Management Plans (MMPs) with minimal transparency and public input.

A growing body of evidence reveals the Interior Department’s Bears Ears management plan was unfairly and improperly influenced by extraction and development interests.  Despite your repeated denials, it is clear that significant portions of the Bears Ears Monument – which was reduced by more than 1.1 million acres, or 85 percent – was carved out for oil and gas, and uranium mining interests. Similarly, access to coal reserves in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument was apparently the key reason for cutting the size of that 1.9 million-acre monument in half.

This administration’s review process of both these national monuments was flawed and dictated by improper political considerations.  From the beginning, the administration has improperly prioritized mineral extraction and development within both these monuments over the protection of all other precious resources.  Most of the deliberations took place behind closed doors. The Interior Department not only ignored the pleas of five Native American tribal nations, but also proposals from some local public officials and local business owners, and millions of citizens who urged the administration to leave the monuments intact.

The Department's stubborn refusal to delay the Resource Management Plan  (RMP) process until a judicial ruling issues, is "part and parcel" of the unstated goal of satisfying the demands of extraction and development interests.  The process that resulted in the adoption of the original and current RMP (2000), was a three year collaborative effort involving stakeholders from across the political spectrum.  The RMP produced by the effort has strong support both in the gateway communities and in the land management agencies. Instead of adopting a similar process to for the creation of a new RMP, the DOI has adopted an "expedited" planning approach, one which limits public involvement, while granting maximum influence behind closed doors to industry representatives.

As Utah representatives, we are proud of our state’s lands and of our heritage.  The entirety of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments deserve protection.  Aside from the minerals below the ground, these monuments preserve the stunning geology, and numerous objects of historic and of scientific interest. These monuments sustain and celebrate lands that are culturally important to Native American tribes, and they provide opportunities for grazing and world class outdoor recreation alike.

We request that you immediately stop any development or implementation plans for these two National Monuments until the courts have reached a resolution.

Sincerely,              

Representative Patrice Arent                           

Representative Joel Briscoe
House Democratic Whip

Representative Rebecca Chavez-Houck            

Representative Sue Duckworth

Representative Lynn Hemingway                      

Representative Sandra Hollins
House Democratic Caucus Manager

Representative Brian King
House Democratic Leader                               

Representative Karen Kwan

Representative Carol Spackman Moss     

Representative Marie Poulson

Representative Angela Romero
House Democratic Assistant Whip  

Representative Elizabeth Weight

Representative Mark Wheatley


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