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Interior Secretary issues recommendations for review of monument designations

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On December 5, U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) Secretary Ryan Zinke released a final report with recommendations for numerous monument designations under the Antiquities Act. In the report, Secretary Zinke recommended that no land be removed from the federal estate, even if removed from a monument. He also recommended the addition of three new monuments, the modification of four monument boundaries and expanded access for hunting and fishing in monuments.  

Presidents have the authority to designate national monuments under the Antiquities Act of 1906 to protect cultural sites, historic landmarks and objects of scientific significance that are under federal ownership. The recommendations from Secretary Zinke are in response to an executive order signed by President Trump in April 2017 directing the U.S. Department of the Interior to review 27 national monument designations and expansions greater than 100,000 acres signed by presidents since January 1996. They also came one day after President Trump signed proclamations that reduced the size of two large national monuments located in southern Utah: Bears Ears National Monument, designated by President Barack Obama in December 2016, and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, designated in 1996.

In addition to keeping any lands removed from national monuments under federal control – specifically, the agency that managed the land prior to designation as a monument – Zinke recommended beginning the process to consider three new monuments: The Badger II Medicine Area in Montana, Camp Nelson in Kentucky and the Medgar Evers Home in Mississippi. He also suggested modifications to the boundaries of the Bears Ears, Grand Staircase-Escalante, Cascade-Siskiyou and Gold Butte National Monuments. Finally, the report recommends an ongoing review of monument policies to ensure public access for hunters and anglers. Many of the recommendations called on the president to amend monument designations to prioritize public access, infrastructure upgrades and repair, traditional and tribal use of the land, and hunting and fishing rights. In his report, Secretary Zinke noted that DOI consulted with local, state and tribal partners, taking into account the concerns of local communities in developing these recommendations.

While NACo has not taken a stance on these specific recommendations, America’s counties support amending the Antiquities Act to provide for greater transparency and accountability, including requiring greater consultation with state, county and tribal governments before monuments are designated, and we thank Secretary Zinke for engaging with local partners as he developed his report. NACo will continue to work with the federal government to ensure special use designations, including monuments, are supported by local governments and affected stakeholders.

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