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Zinke Recommends Shrinking Six Monuments Including Bears Ears

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 recommends shrinking the size of six national monuments, including Bears Ears and Grand Staircase Escalante in Utah and Gold Butte in Nevada, according to a leaked memo from the secretary to President Donald Trump.

President Trump ordered the review of 27 national monuments earlier this year. He complained former presidents misused the Antiquities Act to create oversized monuments that get in the way of energy development, grazing and other uses. 

Five tribal nations consider Bears Ears sacred and are worried about the thousands of archaeological sites.

Zuni museum director Jim Enote said in an interview earlier this year he has seen cave dwellings there desecrated.

MORE: Utah GOPs Try To 'Trump' The Bears Ears Monument

“How could anybody do something like that?” Enote said. “We wouldn’t do that at a cemetery, of course not. If people are able to respect places like cemeteries, or war memorials, or war battlefields, places that are sacred to many people, why can’t they afford us the same kind of respect and civility?”

Tribal leaders said President Obama’s monument designation was already 30 percent smaller than what they wanted to protect.

No other president has tried to eliminate a monument, but they have trimmed them down in size. Conservation groups are preparing to go into legal battle over potential changes.

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