U.S. President Donald Trump signed an executive order in April to identify national monuments that can be rescinded or resized – part of a broader push to open up more federal lands to drilling, mining, and other development.
In a formal report he’s sending to Trump on Thursday, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke will ask the president to shrink “a handful” of national monuments that previous presidents designated to protect land and water but will not ask him to eliminate any of the 27 protected areas that were under review since his April executive order, he told the Associated Press.
The recommendations come as part of Trump’s effort to reverse a slew of environmental protections ushered in by former President Barack Obama under the 1906 Antiquities Act that he said were hampering economic growth.
Zinke did not specify the changes he is recommending in the AP interview but did say that any areas removed from national monuments would remain under federal control and public access would either stay the same or improve.
“There’s an expectation we need to look out 100 years from now to keep the public land experience alive in this country,” Zinke told AP. “You can protect the monument by keeping public access to traditional uses.”
The move has enraged conservationists who have opposed any potential reductions in the size of national monuments.
“On the eve the National Park Service’s 101st anniversary, Secretary Zinke is proposing to wipe large swaths of America’s parks off the map,” Jennifer Rokala, executive director of the Center for Western Priorities, said in a statement.
“Today’s recommendations cement his legacy as the most anti-park Interior Secretary in history,” she said. “If President Trump takes any action to erase national monument acreage, he will trigger a court battle that will drag on for years.”