President Donald Trump will sign an executive order to begin a review process of national monuments designated by modern presidents, including former President Bill Clinton and former President Barack Obama, according to Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke.
According to Zinke, the review will feature monuments of 100,000 acres or more designated from January 1, 1996 and advise the president of possible actions. The review will feature an estimation of about 24-40 national monuments and tens of millions of acres designated in the last 20 years.
“It directs the Department of Interior to make recommendations to the president on whether the monument should be reminded, resized, modified in order to better manage our federal lands,” Zinke told reporters in a White House briefing on Tuesday evening.
The review would specifically address Obama’s Bear Ears designation within 45 days in an interim review, with a final review scheduled for 120 days, according to Zinke.
The Bears Ears monument is 1.35 million acres — part of the over 553 million acres of land and sea designated as a monument during Obama’s presidency. Zinke also mentioned a review of the Grand Staircase monument (1,700,000 acres) instituted by Clinton. Clinton added 5.7 million acres of land, while George W. Bush designated 214 millions acres, which included acres of water.
But Zinke specifically mentioned two controversial monuments in Utah, including the more recent designation of Bears Ears monument by Obama.
Zinke said the review would give state representatives and local industry a chance to for more input, fulfilling Trump’s campaign promises.
“I can tell you as a kid that grew up in Montana, who grew up in the West … this is long overdue,” Zinke said.
Zinke said it was “undisputed” that a president had the authority to modify a monument, although it was untested by the courts.
He acknowledged that environmental groups would try to challenge any efforts by Trump to modify any monument.
“Prudent public policy should be the right policy, and I’m not in fear of getting sued, I get sued all the time,” Zinke said. “I don’t think law suits should shape public policy. I think public policy should do what’s right.”
He blamed the media for raising fears that the review would set the stage of increasing oil and gas development of public lands.
“I’ve heard that many times and I think it’s the modern media that we live in today, we’re so polarized today,” Zinke said, promising that the review was not predisposed by a particular outcome.