Zinke Recommends Shrinking a 'Handful' of the Nation's Most Cherished Public Lands
Interior Sec. Ryan Zinke will recommend unspecified boundary adjustments for a "handful" of the 27 national monuments under review by the Trump administration, according to an interview with the Associated Press.
Zinke commented that he will not ask President Trump to rescind any designations or revert sites to new ownership. Any areas removed from the protected lands would also remain under federal control and public access would remain or improve.
Under Trump's April executive order, Zinke was given 120 days to determine if previous presidential administrations exceeded their authority in monument designations from 1996 to present that are 100,000 acres or greater in size. Republican lawmakers have particularly accused President Obama, who designated more monuments than any other president, of abusing the Antiquities Act to protect land and water.
"No President should use the authority under the Antiquities Act to restrict public access, prevent hunting and fishing, burden private land, or eliminate traditional land uses, unless such action is needed to protect the object," Zinke said in a statement today about the draft report he submitted to Trump.
"The recommendations I sent to the president on national monuments will maintain federal ownership of all federal land and protect the land under federal environmental regulations, and also provide a much needed change for the local communities who border and rely on these lands for hunting and fishing, economic development, traditional uses, and recreation."
The former Montana congressman did not specify to the AP which sites could undergo changes. The White House has not yet issued a comment.
Zinke visited eight of the 27 national monuments under review. He previously recommended no changes to six sites in Montana, Colorado, Idaho, California, Arizona and Washington. He said that the Obama-designated Bears Ears National Monument in Utah should be downsized, despite widespread public opposition to such a plan.
Today's news was a blow to environmental groups that have long expressed fears that the lands could be sold to private development.
"Any recommendation from Secretary Zinke to shrink national monuments is hypocritical at best and ruinous at worst. Secretary Zinke claims to support public lands, but now we know he's just one more Trump Administration stooge for polluting special interests," Sierra Club executive director Michael Brune said.
"Whether the preservation of Native American sacred sites or a natural wonder of the world, public lands and waters are granted monument status for a reason. Stripping these places of that protection devalues the diverse history they preserve, the outdoor economy they support, and the future they offer," Brune continued.
"This misguided recommendation is yet another unpopular action from an unpopular administration—one they are too ashamed to make public. The American people deserve to know what Sec. Zinke, Trump and their friends in the dirty fuel industry plan to do with our public lands under the guise of this sham review."
A recent analysis found that 99.2 percent of the millions of public comments submitted about Bears Ears and other parks opposed Trump's executive order that placed them under scrutiny.
"The recommendation to alter certain national monuments, including reducing Bears Ears in Utah, is the direct result of Secretary Zinke favoring the voices of oil and gas executives instead of the people who submitted nearly 3 million public comments opposing changes to these important places," Greenpeace USA climate campaigner Mary Sweeters said.
"What could have been protected public lands and waters for generations to come now face the risk of becoming oil fields, thanks to an Interior Department full of oil and gas errand-boys like Deputy Secretary David Bernhardt. The public response to the Trump administration's review of nearly 30 public land and marine monuments broke records, and the sentiment that these lands and marine regions should remain protected was nearly unanimous," Sweeters continued.
"From Alaska to Utah, people are prepared to stand up to Trump and Secretary Zinke and demand that the Interior Department protect public places from greedy oil and gas developers looking for short-term profit with long-term consequences."
Ben Schreiber, senior political strategist at Friends of the Earth, had similar sentiments and vowed legal action should Trump follow Zinke's recommendations.
"Today's announcement is another in a long line of blatant handouts to the oil and gas industry," he said. "If Secretary Zinke recommends shrinking Bears Ears National Monument it will be another slap in the face to Native American tribes who lobbied for years to get it designated as a National Monument. This follows on the heels of Trump's approval of the Dakota Access Pipeline despite strong tribal opposition. Zinke's action is illegal and he can rest assured that his latest giveaway to corporate polluters will be litigated in the courts."
Rhea Suh, president of Natural Resources Defense Council, agreed. "These cherished waters and iconic lands have been set aside, for all time, so that future generations may know the natural splendor, cultural diversity and vivid history we share as American people," she said. "That's a promise we've made to our children. It's a promise we're going to keep. If Trump tries to break it, we'll see him in court. That's a promise too."
Zinke declined the AP's request to comment on whether portions of the monuments would be opened up to oil and gas drilling, mining, logging and other industries. However, he dismissed fears about the intention to sell off public lands.
"I've heard this narrative that somehow the land is going to be sold or transferred," he said. "That narrative is patently false and shameful. The land was public before and it will be public after."
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It's going to be back-to-school time soon, but will children go into the classrooms?
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) thinks so, but only as long as safety measures are in place.
Keeping Schools Safe<p>What will safer schools look like?</p><p>In a <a href="https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/2766822" target="_blank">JAMA article</a> published last month, <a href="https://www.jhsph.edu/faculty/directory/profile/1781/joshua-m-sharfstein" target="_blank">Dr. Joshua Sharfstein</a>, a pediatrician and professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, outlined suggestions — many of which are similar to AAP's.</p><p>Remote learning protocols must stay in place, especially as some schools stagger home and in-building learning. If another shutdown needs to occur, children will rely on distance learning completely, so it must be easy to switch to, he said.</p><p>He suggested giving parents a daily checklist to document their child's health. Kids should be screened quickly on arrival and be given hygiene supplies. Maintenance staff should use appropriate PPE and have regular cleaning schedules. A notification system should be in place if a case is identified, Sharfstein recommended.</p><p><a href="https://www.albany.edu/rockefeller/faculty/erika-martin" target="_blank">Erika Martin</a>, PhD, an associate professor of public administration and policy at University at Albany, said nutrition assistance and health services should be included. She called for tutoring programs with virtual options as well as technology access.</p>
Supporting Staff<p>Teachers and staff will be affected by safeguarding measures, noted <a href="https://directory.sph.umn.edu/bio/sph-a-z/rachel-widome" target="_blank">Rachel Widome</a>, PhD, an associate professor of epidemiology and community health at University of Minnesota.</p><p>"In order for all of the in-school precautions to work well, we'll be asking a lot of teachers and staff," Widome told Healthline. In addition to their usual workload, they'll now be asked to monitor mask-wearing, ensure children are keeping distance, and be aware of any symptoms.</p><p>Along with Sharfstein, Widome called for an increase in financial support. More employees will likely be required so teachers and staff members can keep up with the added demands.</p>
Should Kids Go Back?<p>While these guidelines may help get some schools to reopen, many people don't think children should go back to school over fears they could contract the disease and spread it to other vulnerable family members like grandparents, infant siblings, or their parents.</p><p>In a <a href="https://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2020/07/08/peds.2020-004879" target="_blank">Pediatrics</a> commentary, <a href="https://www.md.com/doctor/william-raszka-md" target="_blank">Dr. William V. Raszka, Jr.</a>, an infectious disease specialist at The University of Vermont Medical Center, argued that schools should open because school-aged children are far less important drivers of COVID-19 than adults.</p><p>But he says the risk and benefit is not equal among all students ages 5 to 18.</p><p>"Elementary schools are arguably higher priority for face-to-face schooling, since younger children are at lower risk for infection and transmission, and since parental supervision of younger children's distance learning may be particularly challenging," added Sorensen, who penned a <a href="https://jamanetwork.com/channels/health-forum/fullarticle/2767411" target="_blank">June article in JAMA</a> with reopening tips. "That means middle and high schools are more likely to emphasize distance learning."</p><p>Specific student populations, such as special education students and students with disabilities, would also benefit greatly from more time spent in face-to-face environments, Sorensen said.</p>
What Parents Can Do<p>Parents should ask for and receive frequent updates from schools about plans for the fall. They should also be informed about plans if and when COVID infections are identified, Sharfstein said.</p><p>"I'd like to see parents investing now, during the summer, in doing things that can slow and stop the spread of the virus in their communities," Widome said.</p><p>"Now is a good time for kids to practice wearing masks and get used to them as they may be wearing them for longer stretches if school starts up in person," Widome suggested.</p><p>She recommends parents try different mask designs and materials to see what children are more comfortable wearing.</p><p>"If you are using cloth face coverings, it's good to have extras on hand," Widome added.</p><p>Parents should model healthy behavior at home and while out in public — another thing that could affect how well children adapt to reopening practices, Sorensen said.</p><p>"Children may want to know more about face coverings," added <a href="https://www.linkedin.com/in/leescott/" target="_blank">Lee Scott</a>, chairwoman of the Educational Advisory Board at <a href="https://www.goddardschool.com/" target="_blank">The Goddard School</a>. "Dramatic play, such as creating or wearing a face covering, may help some children adjust to this concept." Schools can also show children photos of what faculty members look like in their masks so the students are familiar with that appearance.</p><p>Johns Hopkins University recently released its eSchool+ Initiative, a slew of resources surrounding education during the pandemic. These include a <a href="https://equityschoolplus.jhu.edu/reopening-checklist/" target="_blank">checklist for administrators</a>, report on <a href="https://equityschoolplus.jhu.edu/ethics-of-reopening/" target="_blank">ethical considerations</a>, and a tracker of <a href="https://equityschoolplus.jhu.edu/reopening-policy-tracker/" target="_blank">state and local reopening plans</a>.</p>
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By Eoin Higgins
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<div id="fea63" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="9a6f211c2bc5aedd34837944cb8eeedf"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1281000111481294849" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Water in Illinois is overwhelmingly public. Why is Tammy Duckworth sponsoring a bill that aims to change that? https://t.co/1V36Kkd99s</div> — The American Prospect (@The American Prospect)<a href="https://twitter.com/TheProspect/statuses/1281000111481294849">1594249201.0</a></blockquote></div>
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