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Photo: John Fowler / Flickr

On Monday, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke recommended that President Trump vastly shrink Utah’s Bears Ears National Monument, removing critical protections for irreplaceable public lands and rewarding corporate polluters and the lawmakers they helped put into office.

Today’s recommendation, which will be formalized to the Trump administration later this year, comes on the heels of more than 1 million public comments that called for the continued protection of Bears Ears.

“Zinke’s public review process was a complete sham from start to finish. He’s doing the bidding of corporate polluters,” said Randi Spivak, public lands program director with the Center for Biological Diversity. “Zinke’s recommendation puts irreplaceable American Indian cultural sites at risk. He ignored pleas from the vast majority of Americans who love national monuments and want them protected from oil, gas and mining companies. The man charged with protecting public lands just told the public their voices don’t count.”

Trump complained that national monuments were a “federal overreach,” but current rules overwhelmingly favor mining, drilling, fracking and livestock grazing.

“The oil industry can already drill on 90 percent of the land managed by the BLM – how much more do they want?” Spivak said. “It’s time for Zinke to stop pretending he’s a Teddy Roosevelt kind of a guy. President Roosevelt would be ashamed of him.”

The Bears Ears recommendation is part of a Trump administration “review” of 27 national monuments across more than 1 billion acres of America’s most spectacular, culturally important and ecologically intact public lands and oceans. The places they protect range from the waters off the coast of Hawaii to Maine’s Katahdin woods.

By ordering Zinke to “review” these national monuments, Trump’s intent is clear: to rescind or shrink the monuments and open them up to oil and gas drilling and other forms of development.

A survey of dozens of organizations reveals that 1 million public comments have been submitted to Interior in support of Bears Ears and other monuments. The regulations.gov website displays each bundle of comments submitted from concerned groups as a single comment, significantly understating the number received.

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