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Interior Secretary Zinke Proposes Shrinking Bears Ears Monument

Bears Ears
U.S. Forest Service-
The land surrounding the twin buttes that make up Bears Ears is considered a place of healing, a sacred place to several tribes in the Southwest.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has recommended the president and Congress shrink the size of Bears Ears National Monument in southern Utah. President Donald Trump has ordered the secretary to review any monument bigger than 100,000 acres.

Secretary Zinke would not give the number of acres or even a percentage he’d subtract from former President Barack Obama’s 1.3 million acre monument designation. He did say the boundary would still include the actual Bears Ears geological formation and cultural sights that receive the most traffic.

“I think what we’ve lost sight of is the process,” Zinke said to a teleconference press briefing. “When you have heavy handedness from Washington and you don’t have a local voice there lies a lot of frustration particularly in the West.”

Zinke said he will ask Congress to authorize the tribes co-manage the land. Obama had established a Bears Ears Commission made up of tribal members to help manage the monument. Zinke also would like Congress to review which lands should be national conservation areas and which should be set aside for recreation. He said a monument wasn’t the most appropriate designation for the entire area. 

Archaeologists estimate more than 100,000 cultural sites at the current monument represent more than 12,000 years of history. And several tribes consider the land beyond the Bears Ears formation sacred.

The public has until July 10 to comment.

Laurel Morales was a senior field correspondent at KJZZ from 2011 to 2020.