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STATEMENT: Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s Utah Visit Was an Embarrassment to the Interior Department and Teddy Roosevelt’s Legacy

DENVER—Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke wrapped up a four day tour of Utah, where he visited Bears Ears National Monument and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. The secretary’s visit was billed as a “listening tour” to hear from locals, but he did not hold a single public meeting, spent nearly the entire trip alongside national monument opponents, and failed to meet with key tribal leaders who have worked to protect threatened cultural sites as a national monument.

As the much-anticipated visit comes to a close, the Center for Western Priorities issued the following statement from Deputy Director Greg Zimmerman:

“It was amateur hour in Utah this week. Secretary Zinke’s one-sided listening tour amounted to little more than a series of staged photo ops with national monument opponents, while the loud pleas from the local monument supporters fell on deaf ears.

“Several times during his visit, Secretary Zinke indicated his mind is already made up— he wants to eliminate or shrink Bears Ears National Monument. Any action to undermine the Bears Ears, or any monument, will leave a dark stain on Secretary Zinke’s tenure at the Interior Department.”

During his trip, Secretary Zinke stood by as Senator Orrin Hatch insulted Native American tribes, then wagged his finger at a Native American monument supporter who asked why he refused to spend more than an hour listening to the tribes that originated the proposal for Bears Ears National Monument. The next day, Secretary Zinke borrowed a horse from San Juan County Commissioner Bruce Adams, who claimed “no one really settled here” before his white ancestors arrived in Utah.

Although Secretary Zinke claimed the outcome of his “review” is not preordained, his actions and words in Utah indicate otherwise. He told the Deseret News, “Bears Ears is a little large to me,” and during a press gaggle, said Bears Ears will “be public land after the monument.”

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