On Sunday, Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke stood in front of a small, windowless conference room in Salt Lake City next to one of the long standing Generals of the Sagebrush Rebellion, Senator Orrin Hatch. He was there to kick off his listening tour as required by an Executive Order signed by President Trump to, as Sec. Zinke stated, to make sure each Monument larger than 100,000 acres created since 1996 got a fair hearing.
by Stacy Bare, Director Sierra Club Outdoors
A few hours south were the millions of acres of land sacred to Native Americans that contained treasured archaeological sites, red rock, sage brush, dark night skies, incredible ecological diversity, and miles of vistas to provoke awe in any woman or man, that we would be talking about that afternoon. The two Utah monuments that bookend the time frame of the EO review, Grand Stair Case Escalante and Bears Ears, are objects of contempt for Utah’s Republican Leadership.
Sec. Zinke was quick to start off his remarks reminding the assembled group of media that the Executive Order does not strip any existing National Monument of its designation, and reiterated that neither he nor President Trump supported the transfer or sale of public lands. He made the claim that neither he, nor the President, had any specific predetermined outcome for the process, and, somewhat surprisingly on the same day the Trump administration removed five scientists from a prominent Environmental Protection Agency Advisory board, made the claim that he was a “firm believer in NEPA [the National Environmental Policy Act, a critical environmental permitting process]” and saw NEPA process as an important tool to protect clean air and water.
He talked about the importance of the Monument process specifically, as an effective tool to save and preserve our nation’s shared cultural and natural treasures. He referenced the first National Monument, Wyoming’s Devil’s Tower, a Native American holy site like Bears Ears. Zinke argued that, even at just 1,200 acres, Devil’s Tower was controversial for its size at the time, no doubt drawing a stiff contrast to the vast, 1.35 million acres now under protection at Bears Ears
He also talked about the beauty of Bears Ears, the importance of considering tribal sovereignty in any decision-making, and how excited he was to again be riding a horse through Bears Ears to experience it firsthand. Something he hadn’t done since his first day as the Secretary when, DC traffic be damned, he rode a horse to work.
He said, even if the delegation in Utah or other parts of the administration never will, that federal lands are all of America’s—not just the purview of those who happen to neighbor their borders and that each voice, the local and the far away were weighed equally in the final judgement—though he did want to make sure the DoI was a good community partner and needed to rebuild trust with some local communities that have lost trust in the agency.
It all sounded great. Sec. Zinke is a good public speaker. He comes off as warm, understanding, compassionate, and the type of guy that will hold fast to his word. He’s a doer and I feel like with both of us having served our country in uniform, however different our jobs, we have some shared values and I want to believe him.
I want to believe Zinke will act to preserve our public lands for all people and that he will fight against any sale or transfer of public lands. In one response about the importance to access of public lands he talked about how important it was to connect people to their land for the benefits of time outdoors. He even spent time discussing his vision of an interconnected system of public lands to increase access and opportunities for people to get outside. I was sold. Secretary Zinke was my guy in the administration.
YET, he only met with a highly curated and skewed group of interests while he was in Utah. Pro-monument supporters were moved out of the way so he would minimize the number of people he saw for the monument. Worse, important pro-monument stakeholders, even the All American chamber of commerce for the two rural communities most heavily impacted by the monuments, Boulder-Escalante were denied meetings along with military veterans and pro-monument Native American community organizations.
He’s taking public comment for 15 days (!) to potentially override years of consultation. He continues to carry the opposition message that there is no support for Bears Ears, though polling shows differently. He says there is no preconceived outcome, but being shepherded through our State with the Republican delegation–who likely hasn’t told him that the boundaries of Bears Ears closely match their own proposal coming out of their Public Lands Initiative–it sure feels like he’s creating a story of opposition.
I want to believe him, I want him to be my guy, but I just can’t.
In a best effort, however to give the good Secretary the benefit of the doubt, we need to ensure that when the online comment period opens up for these monuments later this month, that we all submit comments. Comments, as Sec. Zinke asked, that are substantive: about why we need, love, and want our existing monuments that fit, in his own words, “the Muir model;” untrammeled by man. You can take immediate action on Bears Ears by signing our online petition here or here
Finally, get in touch with Senator Hatch via phone call, post card, fax, or email and ask the question he said there wasn’t time to answer before the media briefing rather than just take his word for it, “What can’t Native Americans do on a National Monument that they could before Monument designation? Would they be able to use the land in the way they are using it now if either Monument was mined, drilled, fracked, or logged?”
Here’s how to get in touch with Senator Hatch:
Washington DC Office
104 Hart Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
Tel: (202) 224-5251
Fax: (202) 224-6331
Cedar City Office
77 N. Main Street
Cedar City, UT 84720
Tel: (435) 586-8435
Fax: (435) 586-2147
1006 Federal Building
324 25th Street
Ogden, UT 84401
Tel: (801) 625-5672
Fax: (801) 394-4503
51 S. University Ave.
Provo, UT 84601
Tel: (801) 375-7881
Fax: (801) 374-5005
Salt Lake City Office
8402 Federal Building
125 South State Street
Salt Lake City, UT 84138
Tel: (801) 524-4380
Fax: (801) 524-4379
St. George Office
196 East Tabernacle, Rm 14
St. George, UT 84770
Tel: (435) 634-1795
Fax: (435) 634-1796
Stacy Bare is the director of Sierra Club Outdoors. He received a Bronze Star for meritorious service in Iraq and began climbing to deal with addiction, depression, and suicidal tendencies. He lives in Salt Lake City, Utah, with his wife and new baby daughter.
About us: The Climbing Zine was started in 2010 by Al Smith III and Luke Mehall. It continues to the day with the mission of representing the true essence of climbing. Our crown jewel is our printed version, but we also do the interweb thing, and Kindle.