Word that U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is proposing to downsize Gold Butte National Monument in Nevada drew condemnation from environmentalist advocates and Democratic elected officials, but a measured cheer from the head of a southern Nevada water district with springs in the area.
Zinke recommended shrinking existing boundaries for four protected areas and two marine monuments.
The White House has not released a memorandum outlying Zinke's recommendations about national monument changes, but the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal obtained a copy of the 19-page report.
"Over the last several months, I have had discussions with Secretary Zinke regarding his recommendations".
A White House spokeswoman declined comment.
The monument near Taos covers 242,500 acres along the Rio Grande Gorge and has drawn widespread support from sportsmen, rafters, conservationists and Taos Pueblo.
Zinke's memo to Trump noted the Mesquite water district's "historic water rights" and that five of its six springs are now in the 464-square-mile monument created last December by President Barack Obama.
Finally, we join with our colleagues across the country in expressing deep alarm at Interior Secretary Zinke's recommendation urging that Congress amend the Antiquities Act. National monument status is meant to protect and preserve special places that have value for all Americans. Timber industry groups had threatened to sue over the expansion, although they held off on that suit while this decision came through.
U.S. Sen. Tom Udall, D-New Mexico, said Monday he was concerned about the lack of specifics in the memo, saying "New Mexicans are still in the dark about the future of our treasured monuments".
Legal scholars agree the AntiquitiesActgrants the president authority to designate and expand national monuments, but not to eliminate or shrink them. "We will not allow these special lands and waters to be handed over to private interests for drilling, commercial fishing, logging, and other extraction".
The 19-page report, obtained by The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal, was delivered to the White House on August 24 as directed by President Trump's executive order for a review of the national monuments created since 1996 that were larger than 100,000 acres. Utah lawmakers also had considered a state plan, which at one point included more than one million acres.
Since April, when President Trump ordered a review of national monuments created since 1996 to end "egregious use of government power", observers have been waiting for news on how Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke would approach these federal lands.
Commercial fishing also would be allowed at two Pacific sites, west of Hawaii and near American Samoa.
Papahanaumokuakea, established by President George W. Bush in 2006 for environmental as well as historical and cultural reasons, protects the habitat of more than 7,000 marine species, a quarter of which are believed to be found nowhere else.
Lisa Pohlmann, Executive Director for the Natural Resources Council of ME, said in a press release that "without more details, we can not yet judge whether these recommendations are acceptable or consistent with the overwhelming view of the ME people".
Two marine monuments in the Pacific Ocean also would be reduced under Zinke's memo, and a third monument off the MA coast would be modified to allow commercial fishing.