Newsletter Archive

Sunrise over Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah                                         (Mike Painter)

June 29, 2017

Dear CalUWild friends and supporters—

Our last couple of Monthly Updates have focused heavily on the national monument review that Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke was ordered to undertake. The situation has become extremely complex, so please bear with us as we try to untangle the mess a bit. It will be the only topic addressed in this Update.

The review and recommendations already resulting from it are the broadest and most serious attacks on public lands we’ve seen in many years—an attack on one monument is an attack on them all. So if you have any questions at all, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

It being the season for summertime reading, we’ve included many links, in both Items 1 & 2.

Thanks for your interest and involvement,

1.   Interior Secretary Zinke Issues Preliminary Bears Ears Report;
          Recommends Shrinking the Monument and
          Extends Comment Period.
          Comments Needed on All Monuments
          DEADLINE: July 10
          (ACTION ITEM)

2.   Links to Articles and Other Items of Interest


1.   Interior Secretary Zinke Issues Preliminary Bears Ears Report;
          Recommends Shrinking the Monument and
          Extends Comment Period.
          Comments Needed on All Monuments
          DEADLINE: July 10
          (ACTION ITEM)

As we reported in our last two Updates (April, May), the administration issued an executive order instructing Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to undertake a review of more than 25 national monuments designated since 1996. He was given 45 days to issue recommendations regarding the Bears Ears National Monument in Utah and 120 days for the others. The Interior Department then opened a public comment period for all of them. The Department, however, is not undertaking the review under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), which has procedural guidelines for how comments are to be tabulated and analyzed. As you’ll see below, it is becoming more and more difficult to believe that the public comment period is anything other than just for show.

Two weeks ago Mr. Zinke issued a preliminary report on Bears Ears, and other information has come out from the Interior Department that is causing us to have to change our approach to the review. Yet it is important to keep the pressure up, by submitting comments to the department, as the public is able to read them online. This will provide support for the litigation that is sure to follow any formal attempt at revocation or boundary change. (Although presidents have the authority to designate monuments, the Antiquities Act does not give them the power to modify or de-designate them. This has not been tested in court, though … yet. If you are interested in a readable paper by four law professors from the U of Colorado, UC Berkeley, and UCLA, discussing the applicable law, click here.)

Some of the larger conservation groups have analyzed the comments submitted online, finding that over 90% support leaving all the monuments alone.

Secty. Zinke’s report recommends shrinking the monument, though he stopped short of outright de-designating it.

The report made four major points, listed below, along with responses to each, in italics. (The report can be read and/or downloaded here, free registration or sign-in required.)

1.) The boundaries of Bears Ears should be adjusted to be consistent with the intent of the Antiquities Act (i.e., the smallest area necessary to protect the objects of interest);

The interim report seems to imply that only some archaeological sites are worthy of protection and that these can be easily identified and given isolated protection. The truth is that there are many thousands of archaeological sites, large and small, as well as numerous historic sites, geological features, paleontological resources, as well as plants and animals worthy of protection. The original proclamation spells out these many values in detail. It is the landscape itself—viewed as sacred by numerous Native American tribes as their homeland—that is being protected, not just separate sites.

2.) Congress should authorize tribal co-management of designated cultural areas;

The tribes view this as an insult, given the recommendation that the monument be shrunk. Furthermore, Mr. Zinke said that the tribes were happy with his recommendations. They responded that this was a slap in the face. Minnesota Sen. Al Franken (D) questioned Secty. Zinke about this comment in a hearing. For a short video clip of their exchange, click here. Again, it is the landscape as a whole that they proposed to have protected and which Pres. Obama designated as a monument.

3.) Congress should designate selected areas within the current monument as national conservation or recreation areas;

That will never happen. Rep. Bishop’s Public Lands Initiative was widely recognized as being proposed solely to forestall a monument designation. The Utah congressional delegation has little, if any, interest in actually protecting the land. Congress is too busy with other things right now, anyway.

4.) Congress should clarify the intent of management practices of wilderness or wilderness study areas (WSAs) within a monument.

This one is a mind-boggler: There has never been any question that wilderness and WSAs are to be managed according to one standard: to preserve their wilderness character, as defined by the Wilderness Act. It makes no difference whether the area is in a national park, national monument, national forest, national wildlife refuge, national conservation area, or under BLM management. The secretary displays a total lack of understanding of the law with this “recommendation.”

Mr. Zinke announced he would wait before issuing final recommendations on Bears Ears until after the comment period for the other monuments on the list closes on July 10. Further comments on Bears Ears will now be accepted until that date.

As mentioned above, other aspects of the commenting process have also come to light, calling into question the administration’s interest in broad public participation or accountability. For example:

— Last month, we passed along the recommendation from the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, the Sierra Club, and other organizations that people submit comments directly to them to be printed out, tabulated, and delivered to the Interior Department. They did so and were told that the comments would be counted as one single comment, rather than the number actually received, and regardless of how many unique comments there might be from each organization. (SUWA estimated handing in over 4,000 printed comments alone.)

The Interior Department says that 396,000 comments have been submitted as of June 26. Conservation organizations estimate that over 1,000,000 have been submitted.

— Department officials also said that in order to count, each monument under consideration must actually be named in a comment. Therefore, saying you think that all the monument designations should be left as they are, is useless. Also, comments that name more than one monument will likely be lumped together and not necessarily counted with comments pertaining to a particular monument.



If you previously submitted a comment specific to Bears Ears on the website …

… there is no need to resubmit it.

It would be a good idea, however, to submit an additional comment in response to one or more of the four recommendations above, following the instructions on the page. Then, click on the button requesting that they send you a confirmation email. You will also receive a confirmation number, which you may use to check on the status of your comment. Please forward the entire email you receive to SUWA at, so they can keep an accurate count.

The first point to make in any comment is that the administration has no authority under the law to make any modification to a monument designated by a president. Only Congress may do that.

If you submit multiple comments from the same email address, please be sure you receive a separate confirmation number for each comment. (There were reports that the site was not accepting such multiple comments, but when I tried, things functioned properly.)

If you previously submitted a comment via another organization’s website (SUWA, Sierra Club, Bears Ears Coalition, Monuments for All, etc.) …

… please resubmit it via the website.

Again, click on the button requesting a confirmation email, and forward that entire email to SUWA at

If you have NOT previously submitted any comment on Bears Ears …

… please submit one via the website. Use the four talking points above as well as those discussed in Item 1 of the May Update.

Please note: There is a 5,000-character limit for comments pasted into the text window on the webpage. You may upload attachments, so maybe send a picture (or a document with more characters?).

Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument

The other monument squarely in the crosshairs of Mr. Zinke and his Utah delegation allies is the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument (GSENM). Utah politicians have considered it a thorn in their side since the day it was designated by Pres. Bill Clinton in 1996. CalUWild has a special connection to GSENM, as we founded the organization in response to the development of the monument’s general management plan in 1997, 20 years ago.

Please submit a separate comment regarding GSENM to the website with a follow-up copy to SUWA, using the procedure outlined above.

The Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance has sent out the following message, with some suggested talking points:

The Trump administration appears serious about eviscerating Grand Staircase-Escalante Monument. The Utah delegation is pressing the president to carve out a huge chunk of the 1.7 million acre monument for potential coal mining. And Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke seems to be listening! His visit to the monument in May focused on a driving tour to a coal seam!

It is important that your comments be in your own words. The Department of Interior will count them individually that way. What is most useful is your own statement about why Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument is special to you and why ALL OF IT deserves to be protected. It’s fine if you keep it simple and from the heart.

To help you gather your thoughts, here are a few points of information (you can also click here to view our story map):

•    Grand Staircase-Escalante was designated in 1996. Since then, it has come to be known as the “Science Monument”—yielding several new species of dinosaur and other paleontological finds and providing habitat for 650 bee species, many that are endemic to the area.

•    Grand Staircase-Escalante has incredible camping, hiking and other recreational opportunities. Places like Calf Creek, Peekaboo and Spooky Canyon, Coyote Gulch, and the Hole in the Rock Road are known the world over. If you have your own favorites, be sure to mention them!

•    Polling shows more than half of Utahns want Grand Staircase-Escalante left alone. That’s added to the more than 80 percent of Westerners that the Colorado College Conservation in the West poll showed want existing national monuments left intact.

•    Reviewing any monument is a political act, but especially when it involves one that is more than two decades old and flourishing. No president has ever taken this needless step, and neither should President Trump.

Secty. Zinke commented, regarding Upper Missouri Breaks in Montana, another of the monuments under review, that he’d rather not “open up a wound” there (see next section). This same logic applies just as forcefully to GSENM. Although there was widespread opposition to GSENM initially, much of that has disappeared as the local economies in Kane and Garfield counties have by all measures improved greatly. Most people there, and in Utah as a whole, now favor the monument, despite what some of their politicians are saying. There is no need to open a wound that is healed (or healing).

The Deseret News reported that the Interior Department requested Kane and Garfield counties to draw maps with revised boundaries for Secty. Zinke’s recommendation. There was no mention made of public input to that process.

Other Monuments

The Billings (Montana) Gazette reports: Upper Missouri Breaks will keep its national monument status, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke says. Mr. Zinke commented after speaking at the Western Governors’ Association meeting: “’My likely recommendation will be to leave the Missouri Breaks as is,’ Zinke said. ‘I think it’s settled to a degree that I would rather not open up a wound that has been healed.’”

Mr. Zinke has also indicated that Canyons of the Ancients in Colorado is likely not to be subject to changes, as is Katahdin Woods and Waters in Maine, despite some political opposition there. See, for example, this article: ‘Spiteful and petty’: Maine governor bans signs to Obama-designated monument.

If you have a specific interest in any of these three monuments, by all means, submit a comment in support anyway.

In California, we are especially concerned with the Mojave Trails, Giant Sequoia, and Berryessa Snow Mountain monuments, so please consider submitting separate comments on those.

Mr. Zinke has also just announced that he will visit Gold Butte and Basin & Range national monuments in Nevada in July. Gold Butte is of special concern because it is adjacent to the Cliven Bundy ranch, site of the armed standoff in 2014, and there has been vocal opposition from people to whom Secty. Zinke might be sympathetic.

Space limitations here prevent providing detailed information regarding all the monuments on the “hit list.” However, most of them have “Friends Groups” that support them in various ways. Look for information on their websites regarding comments specific to their monument. Our friends at The Wilderness Society’s BLM Action Center provided us with a list of the monuments and links to their associated Friends Groups.

   Basin and Range, Nevada: Friends of Basin and Range National Monument
   Bears Ears, Utah: Friends of Cedar Mesa
   Berryessa Snow Mountain, California: Tuleyome
   Canyons of the Ancients, Colorado: San Juan Citizens Alliance
   Carrizo Plain, California: Los Padres ForestWatch
   Cascade Siskiyou, Oregon: Friends of Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument
   Craters of the Moon, Idaho: Idaho Conservation League
   Giant Sequoia, California: Sequoia Forest Keeper
   Gold Butte, Nevada: Friends of Gold Butte
   Grand Canyon-Parashant, Arizona: ???
   Grand Staircase-Escalante, Utah: Grand Staircase Escalante Partners
   Hanford Reach, Washington: ???
   Ironwood Forest, Arizona: Friends of Ironwood Forest
   Mojave Trails, California: Mojave Desert Land Trust
   Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks, New Mexico: Friends of Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks
   Rio Grande del Norte, New Mexico: Rio Grande del Norte Coalition
   Sand to Snow, California: Mojave Desert Land Trust
   San Gabriel Mountains, California: San Gabriel Mountains Forever
   Sonoran Desert, Arizona: Friends of the Sonoran Desert National Monument
   Upper Missouri River Breaks, Montana: Friends of the Missouri Breaks Monument
   Vermilion Cliffs, Arizona: Friends of the Cliffs

You can also find more information at

What else?

Encourage your family and friends to submit comments.

Write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper.

Post your thoughts and relevant articles on Facebook or Twitter—these are increasingly important means of communication.

Contact your senators and congressmen/women, letting them know your concerns about the monuments review. Encourage them to cosponsor America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act if they haven’t, and thank them if they have. (Cosponsorship creates a pool of people who are willing to publicly defend areas in the bill against threats that might arise, such as bad legislation, threatened oil leases by the BLM, bad land exchanges, etc.)

House cosponsors from California in addition to chief sponsor Rep. Alan Lowenthal are:

Rep. Jared Huffman (D-2)
John Garamendi (D-3)
Doris O. Matsui (D-6)
Rep. Jerry McNerney (D-9)
Mark DeSaulnier (D-11)
Barbara Lee (D-13)
Rep. Jackie Speier (D-14)
Eric Swalwell (D-15)
Ro Khanna (D-17)
Anna Eshoo (D-18)
Zoe Lofgren (D-19)
Julia Brownley (D-26)
Adam Schiff (D-28)
Grace Napolitano (D-32)
Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-40)
Nanette Barragán (D-44)

Since our last Update, John Garamendi (D-3) has signed on. If you live in his district, please contact his office to say Thank You!

Congress will be on recess for the week of the 4th of July, as well as the month of August. These are not vacations, but times to be working in-district, directly with constituents. Get office meetings set up or attend townhall meetings (with those reps brave enough to still hold them).

Press Coverage

There has been an incredible amount written about the monument review. Here is just a sampling.

Utah Monuments

The New York Times: Interior Secretary Recommends Shrinking Borders of Bears Ears Monument

An op-ed in the Los Angeles Times by Utah writer and photographer Stephen Trimble. Steve has joined CalUWild’s Advisory Board. Shrinking Utah’s Bears Ears National Monument would be one more broken promise to Native Americans

An article in the Pacific Standard: The Unprecedented Dismantling of a National Monument: After recommending that Bears Ears National Monument be reduced in size, one thing is clear: Ryan Zinke is nothing like Teddy Roosevelt.

An article in Astronomy about a site in the Bears Ears: Is The Moon House an American Stonehenge?

An article in Inside Science: Contested National Monuments in Utah House Treasure Troves of Fossils

An op-ed in the Deseret News: The fossils from Grand Staircase-Escalante Monument have made Utah world-renowned

An article in the Salt Lake Tribune on vandalism in the Bears Ears NM: BLM guard station burns in Bears Ears

In General

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra stated his support for the existing national monuments in California and other states. He sent Secty. Zinke this letter.

SUWA took out a full-page ad in the NY Times and Washington Post.

An op-ed in the New York Times: Keep America Wild


2.   Links to Articles and Other Items of Interest

If a link is broken or otherwise inaccessible, please send me an email, and I’ll fix it or send you a PDF copy. As always, inclusion of an item in this section does not imply agreement with the viewpoint expressed.

Public Lands & Politicians

An article in Outside about Utah Rep. Rob Bishop: Environmentalists’ Public-Lands Enemy Number One

Just as the previous Update came out, Utah Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R) announced he would retire at the end of June. The Washington Post published this article at the time. The Post published this piece in response to Fox News’s announcement yesterday that Mr. Chaffetz would be a contributor for the network: Jason Chaffetz won’t need a housing stipend after new Fox News gig.

The Center for Western Priorities takes a look at a potential nominee for Director of the BLM: Three reasons Karen Budd-Falen is unfit to lead the Bureau of Land Management.

In the last couple of years, The Guardian, one of Britain’s major newspapers, has ramped up its coverage in the United States. They now publish an online US edition. They recently announced they are devoting an entire section to coverage of public lands issues in this country: This Land is Your Land, prominently displayed on the homepage.

High Country News is always good reading: Why the next generation needs public lands and Archaeologists are the last line of defense against destruction

Another Loss for the Land-Grab Campaign

Other News

Our friends at WildEarth Guardians write about a BLM report on increased protections for the Chaco Canyon region. The Final Scoping Report my be downloaded here.

A Salt Lake Tribune article: FBI agent charged with lying about LaVoy Finicum’s death in Oregon public-lands standoff

Two articles on the Colorado River: Calls to Rethink the Colorado River’s Iconic Dams Grow Louder and from The Conversation: Climate change is shrinking the Colorado River

Video Links

Episodes 22 & 23 in the US Forest Service’s Restore series:

Pika and Restoration

Meadows and Restoration, Sierra Nevada

Another in Resource Renewal Institute’s Forces of Nature: Environmental Elders Speak series: Jacques Leslie: Hell or High Water. We frequently include Jacques’s writings in the Monthly Update.


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