FAIRBANKS — Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke announced Thursday he does not plan to eliminate any of the 27 national monuments the Trump administration placed under review in April.
Zinke said he would, however, push for some boundary changes and remains open to allowing drilling, mining or other industries on the sites.
The review began based on the idea that the Antiquities Act of 1906, signed into law by President Theodore Roosevelt, has been misused by former presidents to create oversized monuments that block energy development and other uses.
The review was supported by Alaska Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski, who chairs the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and has long categorized herself as a proponent of reforming the act.
“I strongly support President Trump’s order to review the largest national monuments designated over the past two decades,” Murkowski said after the review began in April. “During the past administration, we saw the Antiquities Act result in sweeping designations that frequently ignored local opposition. This review is a good step forward in our efforts to reform the monument designation process to ensure the concerns of those who stand to be impacted are heard and respected.”
No monuments in Alaska were on the review list.
In a meeting with the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner’s editorial board this week, Murkowski commended Zinke’s effort on the issue.
“He’s really taking this charge very seriously and going out and looking and talking to the people about the process,” she said.
Murkowski said she anticipates some push-back after legislation is made.
“I think you will see some sorting out of the process through the courts after there has been some action that’s been taken,” Murkowski said.
Zinke told the Associated Press the boundary adjustments for some monuments will be included in the recommendations he planned to give President Donald Trump on Thursday and that he is recommending the changes to a “handful” of sites, suggesting some monuments are too large. Zinke declined to reveal his recommendations for individual sites, however.
Murkowski shared Zinke’s concern about oversized monuments.
“It’s important to ask, ‘Was this a designation that was true to the definition under the Antiquities Act that it’s the smallest reasonable area designed to provide for the protection?’” she said. “I think this secretary is taking very seriously the mandate under (the act) that these designations be tailored instead of a very broad brush.”
Along with size adjustments, changes in activities that are allowed on these protected lands could be possible, Zinke said. These may include hunting and fishing.
The 27 monuments — designated by four presidents during the past two decades — include 554 million acres then-President Barack Obama placed under federal protection. Trump referred to this move as a “massive federal land grab.”
Zinke spoke against conservationists who fear the review may lead to mass sell-offs of public lands by the Trump administration.
“I’ve heard this narrative that somehow the land is going to be sold or transferred,” he said. “That narrative is patently false and shameful. The land was public before and it will be public after.”
Moving forward one of the senator’s focuses will be to include local governments in monument designations, she said. She has introduced measures to the House and the Senate, she said.
“My approach has been, ‘Look, these designations are substantive that there be a requirement for further review and acceptance by legislators, by state governors and an additional step of progress,” Murkowski said.
Contact staff writer Erin Granger at 459-7544. Follow her on Twitter: @FDNMPolitics. The Associated Press contributed to this report.