U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is recommending no reduction in the size of two New Mexico national monuments, but he is seeking some changes in how they are managed.
The Wall Street Journal and Washington Post obtained and reported on Sunday evening about Zinke’s previously secret recommendations to President Donald Trump after reviewing dozens of monuments designated by recent presidents under the 1906 Antiquities Act. Zinke’s charge was to determine if the monuments went too far in grabbing land.
While Zinke is recommending shrinking at least four other monuments — Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante in Utah, Gold Butte in Nevada, and Cascade-Siskiyou in Oregon — the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks and Rio Grande del Norte in New Mexico aren’t on the list of recommended monuments to shrink. Both were designated by former President Barack Obama.
But Zinke did recommend some management changes for the New Mexico monuments. From the Washington Post:
The secretary urges Trump to request congressional authority “to enable tribal co-management of designated cultural resources” in three ancestral sites: Bears Ears, Rio Grande del Norte and Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks.
Also from the Post:
While concerns about ranching are raised more frequently than any other objection in the report, Zinke also writes that “border security is a concern resulting from the designation” of Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks near New Mexico’s border with Mexico. Both the Homeland Security Department and the Pentagon should assess risks associated with the monument, he suggests, given the proximity of nearby military installations.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection issued a letter in January 2014, before the site was designated, saying it would not impede security and would “significantly enhance the flexibility” of agents patrolling a five-mile strip along the border that was then an official wilderness study area.
The report specifically mentions the Potrillo Mountains in Doña Ana County, near the border with Mexico — the area CBP was referring to in 2014 — saying this area “lends itself to a drug smuggling route and needs to be monitored.”
For the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks monument, which Zinke visited in July, the report also recommends that the management plan “should be revised to continue to project objects and prioritize public access; infrastructure upgrades, repair, and maintenance; traditional use; tribal cultural use; and hunting and fishing rights.”
For the Rio Grande del Norte monument, the report makes the same recommendations.
Zinke’s report was apparently leaked to the two news organizations, as the Trump Administration has thus far refused to release it. The report is marked “Not for Distribution.” The White House hasn’t taken action on Zinke’s recommendations.