“The Trump administration’s announcement today on Bears Ears is nothing less than an attack on the future of all American monuments, parks and public lands,” said Jamie Williams, president of The Wilderness Society. The recommendation ignores thousands of public comments in favor of the monument and makes “a mockery of the claimed public process,” Williams said.

Zinke said he will issue a final report in late August, when he is due to make recommendations on Bears Ears and 21 other national monuments on federal land in 11 states, including Grand Staircase-Escalante in Utah, Giant Sequoia in California, Nevada’s Basin and Range and Katahdin Woods and Waters in Maine.

The review also targets five marine monuments in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.

Zinke rejected a plea by some Utah Republicans to recommend that the monument designation be rescinded entirely, an unprecedented step that would invite a near-certain legal challenge. Instead, Zinke said some of the sprawling, 1.3 million acre site should be designated for conservation or recreation, categories that are less restrictive than monuments.

Noting the contentious nature of the monument designation, Zinke called on Congress to approve a land-management bill for Bears Ears and other federal lands. The Republican-controlled Congress has failed to approve a significant public lands bill in recent years, but Zinke said that was because of veto threats by Obama.

He summed up his optimism in two words: “President Trump.”


Associated Press write Brady McCombs in Salt Lake City contributed to this story.


Follow Matthew Daly on Twitter: @MatthewDalyWDC