Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has sided with Republican lawmakers, local ranchers, and business interests in the battle over Bears Ears. In a report released Monday, Zinke calls for significant shrinking of the 1.3 million-acre national monument in southeast Utah that former President Obama created in the final weeks of his presidency, the New York Times reports. Opponents—including Native American tribes in the region and environmentalists—argue that the move would be a "slap in the face" to the tribes with ties to the land, as well as a clear violation of the Antiquities Act that President Theodore Roosevelt signed in 1906. The vast region designated by Obama contains an estimated 100,000 archaeological sites.
In his memo to President Trump, Zinke said the monument should be "right sized" to "the smallest area compatible" with protecting the areas with the most artifacts. GOP Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch, who pushed the administration for action on Bears Ears, praised the report as an "unquestionable victory for Utah," reports the Deseret News. Rep. Adam Sarvana, a Democrat on the House Natural Resources Committee, said the plan looks like an attempt to designate "a few stops on a boardwalk arcade" rather than "a professionally conserved landscape the way national monuments are typically designated." A final report on the area, one of 27 monuments over 100,000 acres being reviewed, is due by July 10. (Read more Bears Ears National Monument stories.)