When President Trump “downsized” two Utah national monuments, Interior Ryan Zinke claimed that “Bears Ears isn’t really about oil and gas.” That turned out to be a blatant lie. The New York Times and Media Freedom and Information Access Clinic sued the Interior Department to obtain emails regarding monument downsizing. These show that the maps of oil, natural gas and coal had been drawn long before Zinke’s monument review ever began, and that new boundaries were drawn to match the maps.
Last month the Trump Administration started auctioning oil and gas leases on sensitive areas of Utah public lands that would likely be off limits under proper environmental review. Leases were sold on the edge of Bears Ears National Monument as well as near Hovenweep and Canyons of the Ancients.
The National Park Service has expressed concerns that the flurry of leasing will impact air quality, groundwater and dark skies near Arches and Canyonlands National Parks. Zinke, who seems to misunderstand the public responsibility of government, told an audience at an energy industry conference in Texas that “Interior should not be in the business of being an adversary. We should be in the business of being a partner” and called environmental regulation of drilling “un-American.”
Citizen organizations pressing for proper environmental review before lease sales include Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, Natural Resources Defense Council, Center for Biological Diversity, Sierra Club and The Wilderness Society.