New Ranking Member Report Documents Industry Influence, Lack of Public Transparency in Trump Admin National Monument Review

Washington, D.C. – A new report released by House Natural Resources Committee Ranking Member Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) documents the strong influence of the oil and mining industries over the soon-to-be-completed Trump administration “review” of 27 national monuments around the country and sheds new light on the review’s unpopularity. The report – Fossil Apostles: Fossil Fuels, the GOP, and the Fate of Our National Monuments – is available at http://bit.ly/2iofeBx.

Today’s report finds that the administration’s review, far from being based on a desire for more public input, suffers from a nearly complete lack of public transparency and that from the beginning, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has failed to engage all but a narrow range of sympathetic stakeholders. The review is being conducted based not on public demand but at the behest of the administration’s industry allies – demands that directly contradict overwhelming public support for maintaining national monuments as they currently exist.

The report cites public polling showing that across seven western states, the greatest support for weakening national monument protections is in Utah, where 60 percent oppose the idea and 30 percent support it.

Shrinking national monuments or rescinding their conservation status based on industry demands, in addition to being extremely unpopular, does not even make economic sense, as the report points out:

Oil and coal companies are already awash in access to public land. According to a detailed review of Resource Management Plans, the oil and gas industry already has access to 90% of the public land managed by the Bureau of Land Management, the federal agency that manages the most federal land. In fact, oil companies are not bothering to produce oil and gas on the public land they have already leased. Fifty-three percent of public land acreage that has been leased to oil and gas companies across the U.S. is not in production as of fiscal year 2016. In Utah, that number is 61%. In addition, oil and gas companies are hoarding nearly 8,000 approved drilling permits that they are not using.

The review has received heavy criticism for its lack of clear criteria and Zinke’s tendency to meet only with opponents of national monument designations. The process has been marked by Zinke’s habit of announcing, with little warning and almost no explanation, that a given monument is either safe or will likely face recommended revisions in size or status.

Zinke is expected to release his recommendations later this week. It remains unclear whether he will recommend unilateral executive action to shrink or rescind monuments, which would be illegal, or congressional action, which would prove extraordinarily politically unpopular.

“This administration cries about the importance of history when it comes to Confederate statues and then throws Teddy Roosevelt’s legacy out the window as a favor to Big Oil,” Grijalva said on releasing today’s report. “The public has spoken and these monuments should be left alone. If President Trump and Secretary Zinke don’t listen, then the courts and the voters will teach them that our public lands are not industry playthings to dispose of as they see fit.”

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