STATEMENT on Emerging Interior Department Pattern of Ignoring Public Input

May 7, 2017


MAY 7, 2017

DENVER—As Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke arrives in Utah, and following Saturday’s rally with thousands of supporters of Bears Ears National Monument on the steps of the Utah state capitol, the Center for Western Priorities released this statement from Deputy Director Greg Zimmerman:

“In the past 24 hours, we learned Secretary Zinke has denied meeting requests from both the Escalante Chamber of Commerce and key Utah tribal leaders, making it clear he intends for his visit to Utah to be a one-sided affair, ignoring input from local stakeholders who support national monuments at Bears Ears and Grand Staircase‚ÄìEscalante.

“This news comes days after we learned that the administration is mothballing Resource Advisory Councils, the primary venue for BLM to receive feedback directly from local stakeholders. Cancelling these meetings while holding a one-sided listening tour across Utah sends a clear signal that Secretary Zinke intends to make decisions behind closed doors and not through an open and transparent public process.”

By contrast, when then-Interior Secretary Sally Jewell visited Bears Ears last summer, she listened to all sides of the monument debate, attending numerous listening sessions and public meetings over four days. Thirty Native American tribes have expressed support for Bears Ears National Monument, along with the National Congress of American Indians, representing some 300 sovereign tribal nations. Locally, six of the seven Navajo chapter houses in Utah also passed resolutions of support.

The Trump administration paid lip service to public input when it announced a public comment period on national monuments with the “Friday trash,” quietly adding Maine’s Katahdin Woods and Waters and Oregon’s Cascade‚ÄìSiskiyou to the official list of monuments being targeted for an illegal elimination or modification. Zimmerman added:

“If President Trump and Secretary Zinke take their fingers out of their ears and actually listen, they will learn that the public is overwhelmingly supportive of America’s national monuments, and any attempt to shrink or eliminate even a single monument will be met with outrage.”