Shrinking Zinke

Interior Secretary Seeks to Diminish National Monuments and the Dignity of the Office

Katahdin Woods and Waters

Public lands and wildlife advocates are becoming all too familiar with the truism: if Interior Secretary Zinke is in the news, it’s probably a bad sign for our most treasured places and imperiled species.

Just this week, Secretary Zinke suggested fossil fuel extraction on public lands is in the nation’s best interest and a better use of our public lands than large-scale renewable energy development. And in a single speech, managed to trash the Endangered Species Act (which his Department is in charge of administering); offer a bizarre defense of fracking as “proof that God’s got a sense of humor and he loves us”; and deliver a shockingly authoritarian allegation that one-third of the Department employees weren’t loyal to himself or President Trump.

Last week, Zinke was in the headlines thanks to a White House leak of the heretofore secret report in which he outlined the administration’s plan for, you guessed it, selling out our national monuments. So, as we prepare to celebrate Public Lands Day, let’s take a look at what Zinke has proposed to do.

Making a Mockery of Our Monuments

Defending our national monuments has been a major priority for Defenders since President Trump ordered a “review“of more than a dozen of these special places, which placed them at risk of losing their protections or even their national monument designation. Secretary Zinke initially sent his “recommendations” to the President in August, but publicly released only a vague summary that described the review process rather than his recommendations. We’ve been waiting impatiently ever since for an official release of his full report, and wading through rumors about the contents. Then on September 17, the wait came to an end when The Washington Post published a series of screenshots of the report from an anonymous source.

Gold Butte

Zinke’s report takes aim at ten monuments – seven terrestrial and three marine – though it should be noted, it doesn’t explicitly recommend that any of the 27 should be left untouched. The report recommends that four of the terrestrial monuments be reduced in size – Bears Ears, Cascade-Siskiyou, Gold Butte, and Grand Staircase-Escalante – but what isn’t clear is how much of a reduction he is recommending for each. Zinke also recommends changing the monument proclamation and management plans for all four of these, along with Katahdin Woods and Waters, Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks, and Rio Grande del Norte, presumably to permit more activities like mining, drilling and logging. The report explicitly recommends timber harvest in Katahdin Woods and Waters, which encompasses wild lands and wilderness waters that were donated to the government expressly to become a national monument.

The report also recommends allowing commercial fishing in three marine national monuments: Pacific Remote Islands and Rose Atoll in the Pacific Ocean and Northeast Canyons and Seamounts in the Atlantic. The Pacific monuments might also face size reduction, while the expansion of fishing in Northeast Canyons and Seamounts would be accomplished by amending the monument proclamation.

Zinke’s Folly

All ten of the monuments now most at risk contain outstanding wildlife habitat and protect hundreds of imperiled species. And we still don’t know if and how the president will respond to the Secretary’s review. The choice of whether to uphold our country’s natural heritage or follow the example of “shrinking Zinke” is now in President Trump’s hands. We’ll be watching.

In the Balance

  • Gold Butte National Monument in Nevada is an incredibly valuable corridor for large species such as the bighorn sheep and mountain lion. Analysis has shown the monument is likely to be highly resilient to climate change and contains critical habitat for the threatened Mojave desert tortoise.
  • Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument is a unique haven for wildlife in Utah. Spanning an area the size of Delaware, the monument protects a variety of habitats, from deserts to coniferous forests. Grand Staircase is home to bears, desert bighorn sheep and mountain lions, as well as over 200 species of birds, including bald eagles and peregrine falcons.
  • Bears Ears National Monument in Utah is of great conservation value to many fish, wildlife and plants. More than 15 species of bats can be found throughout the monument and topographic features such as rock depressions collect scarce rainfall to provide habitat for numerous aquatic species. Bears Ears is world-renowned for its prized elk population and is also home to mule deer and bighorn sheep. The area’s diversity of soils and rich microenvironments provide for a great diversity of vegetation that sustains dozens of species of birds, mammals, reptiles and amphibians.
  • Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument in Oregon and California is unique in that it was expressly established to conserve biological diversity. The monument area is a fusion of three different ecoregions, characterized by varying elevations and moisture regimes, and supporting a broad range of species and habitat types. Ongoing research has already discovered that 135 species of butterflies use the monument.
  • Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument in Maine spans three ecoregions, which produces an amazing amount of biodiversity within the designation. The monument provides key habitat for moose, bear, threatened Canada lynx and endangered Atlantic salmon, all of which require large ranges to ensure viable populations. Seventy-eight species of birds also breed in the area.
  • Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument in New Mexico protects portions of five mountain ranges rising above deserts, grasslands and scrublands of the Chihuahuan Desert. Ponderosa pine and seasonal springs and streams are found in the uplands. These ecosystems provide habitat for many endemic and threatened wildlife species, such as the endangered Aplomado falcon. It is also home to a stunning array of reptiles, including black-tailed, banded rock and western diamondback rattlesnakes and tree, earless, Madrean alligator and checkered whiptail lizards, just to name a few. Species such as mountain lions, mule deer, golden eagles, ladder-backed woodpeckers, cactus wrens and kangaroo rats also live within the monument.
  • Rio Grande Del Norte National Monument in New Mexico preserves a large stretch of the Central Migratory Flyway, a key migration corridor for birds such as Canada geese, herons, sandhill cranes, hummingbirds and American avocets. It is also habitat for several bat species and raptors, the endangered southwestern willow flycatcher, rare Gunnison’s prairie dogs, Rocky Mountain elk, black bear, mule deer, pronghorn, red foxes, cougars, bobcats, bald eagles and many other species. The North American river otter was also recently reintroduced into the monument.
  • Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument protects almost 5,000 square miles of ocean biodiversity, much of which is not found anywhere else in the world. The monument supports deep sea corals, sperm, fin and sei whales, Kemp’s ridley sea turtles and a large “bloom” of phytoplankton and zooplankton that feeds whales and other marine species.
  • Rose Atoll Marine National Monument protects the uninhabited easternmost island of American Samoa and its surrounding waters. The reef is nesting habitat for green and hawksbill sea turtles, and is home to 97 percent of American Samoa’s seabirds. The surrounding waters contain 270 species of fish and 100 species of coral.
  • Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument is comprised of seven atolls and islands located south of the main Hawaiian Islands. It is an important seabird colony, and the surrounding waters are important habitat for sea turtles, sharks, whales and many fish species. The monument also protects undersea mountains that are home to many species found nowhere else on earth.

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25 Responses to “Shrinking Zinke”

  1. Michelle Silverthorne

    As a Montanan, I am disgraced that Zinke refers to himself as a “Montanan”. What a shame, if he was a true Montanan, he would serve to protect beautiful and serene lands and value and cherish it’s wildlife. Montana is one of the most beautiful and wild places in our country and if left in the hands of folks such as Zinke, it would be a black, dusty, charred land devoid of life. I’m sorry he ever made it to office in Montana as that propelled him into an even more devastating position and as a suck-up to Trump. Please don’t judge Montanans by Zinke, most of us cherish, respect and value wildlife and wild lands. I will continue to speak-up and fight against Zinke and his ridiculous and dangerous “recommendations”. What a humiliation to Montana he is..

    • Ellen P

      We protect our environment to protect us. No amount of money can help us if our environment cannot support healthy lives anymore.

  2. Rita Nelson

    Leave monuments and Wild Life alone, Wild Mustangs & Burros, they need us to survive. The BLM is not for the U S Wildlife, an important part of our History and life.

  3. lorraine foster

    Leave monuments and Wild Life alone; we need them to survive as truly human!

  4. Janet Prince

    Protect our national parks do not sell them to the highest bidder.

  5. Anita McDonald

    I think that it is a huge mistake for anyone who thinks that it is alright to constantly wanting to continuously to destroy our wildlife and their homes/habitats. Need to stop. need to do more with solar and wind-turbines and make our world a better place for all living creatures.

  6. Prudence Brooks

    Zinke has no brain. Of course, need our natural world, for our health, our sense of belonging to nature and our aesthetic sense. We love the beauty of mother Earth.

  7. Cynthia

    Zinke is a lying, thieving, greedy jerk. His only business is supporting companies who want to pillage and plunder the earth and he gets money from them to do it.
    He’s another of this creepy administrations big assholes. Can’t WAIT for all of them to die off like the dinosaurs they are. Useless pieces of garbage, the whole trump bad joke of an administration.
    THEY CAN ALL GO BACK TO HELL FROM WHERE THEY CAME.

  8. Prudence Brooks

    The BLM is the bed partner of trophy hunters and cow welfare seekers. The BLM cares nothing about a beautiful, a natural wildlife.

  9. Sandra Couch

    Since we have committed to National monuments in different states for what ever the reason, historical remembrance, beauty, wildlife habitat, endangered plant / animal species, or just because it was a popular idea….we need to keep our commitment for the monument for our nation. Why not just destroy Arlington National Cemetery, or the Washington monument, or the Grand Canyon, or Yellowstone or Pearl Harbor??? Such stupid ideas people come up with.

  10. Peggy White

    The monuments and wildlife belong to the American people. They belong to the tourists/visitors, scientists, naturalists and environmental advocates, not miners, drillers, frackers or anyone looking to destroy our lands

  11. John Prybylski

    THIS IS NOTHING MORE THAN ANOTHER trump STOOGE DOING ALL HE CAN TO PUMP UP WALL STREET……ANOTHER MONEY GRAB…DISGUSTING SLOBS ALL…!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! trump = THE MOST DISGUSTING ,PATHETIC,INCOMPETENT ,IGNORANT MORON OUR COUNTRY HAS EVER SEEN…..IMPEACH THIS SON OF A BITCH BEFORE HE STARTS A NUCLEAR WAR….BAD ENOUGH HIS GOING TO POLLUTE THE PLANET AS LONG AS HE IS CALLING THE SHOTS….LOCK HIM UP…!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  12. Mary Lucas

    Our wildlife and our national monuments are our heritage and belong to all Americans. The EPA must protect them.

  13. Lynn Terrill

    The current BLM, like the EPA, are a disgrace. The BLM is trying to give as much protected land as possible to businesses who will drill for oil and gas and/or scrape away the surface for coal so beautiful places are lost to future generations as well as the current ones. Wildlife is not being protected. These are only 2 of Pres.Trump’s selections of department heads who have long opposed the departments they head. We are loosing protections from the EPA and lands set aside because they are beautiful and not replaceable.

  14. Polly Lewis

    These are all vital areas that need to remain protected. Not just for the sake of the wildlife in these areas, but for ourselves and our children and grandchildren.

  15. Claudia

    LEAVE WILDLIFE AND THESE SACRED MONUMENTS ALONE!!!! GREED IS NOT A REDEEMING QUALITY AND THE REASON ZINKE WANTS TO DO THIS IS ALL IN THE NAME OF MONEY!! WHAT A NARCISSISTIC, BOORISH, ASS SELLING IS SOUL TO GET KUDOS FROM TRUMP!!!!! WHILE WERE AT IT, LETS IMPEACH TRUMP AND WATCH ALL HIS CRONIES FALL!
    SORT OF LIKE HUMPTY DUMPTY!!!!!!!! I WOULDN’T WANT TO INSULT HUMPTY DUMPTY LIKE THAT!!

  16. Thomas Filip

    Zinke does not represent me or my beliefs. He doesn’t act in any but his own and that of his party.

  17. Linda M Mansfield

    Leave our wild life alone. Protect our national monuments. Our wild life & health depend on it.

  18. Augie Snyder

    we have enough open/vacant space to ruin without going after monuments and wildlife areas.

  19. N H

    Our beloved America is under threat. A threat that is a menace to our health, children and family. A threat to our beloved wildlife, our wonderful National Momuments, which if we do not protect our Great Nation will look darker than charcoal. Special interests are being seen. They have more power than the average American. This are our retreats when trying to get some stress out from daily life, a time to spend with our children and families to learn from our public places and monuments to our large animal diversity. Why be so unpatriotic to protecting what our motherland provide us with from bees to flowers to animals and places. I guess none in power care for their grandchildren wanting to visit such beautiful places our nation has to offer. Killing different species, endangering so much for what? Please, think about all of us who enjoy the outdoors and the future wildlife natural life explores!

  20. Nancy Fifer

    Be the one member of this abominable administration to do something right!

  21. David M. Dresser Sr.

    I wonder how many of us have considered the “wrong people are in power.”
    The ‘people in power’ seem more interested in wealth & power. Completely lacking interest in our national treasures, nature, air quality, and the ‘little people’.
    if you are not among rich famous & powerful, you are one of the little people.
    I think it’s time to speak-up & ACT in our nation’s interest. WITHOUT VIOLENCE
    David of Dogpatch

  22. Patricia Stevenson

    Our national monuments represent our great nation’s heritage. They should be protected in perpetuity, not ransacked by a rich, spoiled, obnoxious excuse for a human adult! Save our national wild lands!

  23. Dusty Stpanski

    Protect the Monuments and the animals that roam on our free wild lands. The government should be protecting our environment and wildlife not selling it off to the highest bidder. Montana should be ashamed for what it is allowing to happen!

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