Zinke Proposes New National Monument in His Home State But Wants to Shrink Them Elsewhere
Interior Sec. Ryan Zinke wants to reshape and repurpose 10 national monuments for drilling, logging and other commercial activities, but you wont see the same recommendations for existing monuments in Montana—Zinke's home state.
Notably, if the former Congressman's plans take shape, Montanans might even find themselves with a new, 130,000-acre national monument in their state.
Tucked in the second-to-last page of the interior secretary's review of national monuments over the summer was the suggestion of creating three new monuments, including the Badger-Two Medicine area next to the Blackfeet Nation reservation by Glacier National Park in Montana.
National Parks Conservation Association spokesman Michael Jamison said it was confusing that Zinke is recommending protection for the Badger-Two Medicine while proposing to shrink other national monuments.
"Everyone is grateful to see Secretary Zinke paying attention to permanent protection of the Badger-Two Medicine," Jamison told the Missoulian in September. "But it's not acceptable to propose monument protection of the Badger while at same time proposing to strip protections from Bears Ears and other sacred places for Native Americans. If monuments aren't permanent, we don't want monument status. If it's so transitory and impermanent it can be undone by the stroke of a pen in some future administration, it's not permanent protection."
The Badger-Two Medicine area of Montana's Rocky Mountain Front has been threatened by oil and gas development for decades, according to the Wilderness Society. National monument status would give it protection from new development.
As the Huffington Post pointed out, in Zinke's review of national monuments, he noted that the Badger-Two Medicine site is considered sacred to the Blackfeet Nation. By the same token, the Bears Ears National Monument in Utah is also a sacred site to Navajo people and other tribes.
Montana residents are also "scratching their heads" over Zinke's new monument suggestion, NPR reported.
Land Tawney, head of the Montana-based Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, told the national radio station that Zinke wants to create a new monument due to political aspirations.
"I think the secretary has talked about wanting to come back to Montana after he's done being secretary and potentially run for governor," Tawney said.
Zinke has also called for mining bans near Yellowstone National Park.
"I think the people of Montana hold our special places very near and dear," he added. "If you do not protect those places I think it's a political nightmare for you in this state."
David Parker, a political scientist at Montana State University, also told NPR that Zinke might even run for president.
"Whatever his ambitions are, Montana is important to that moving forward," Parker said. "You can't say you're going to be on a national stage and be a serious candidate if you don't have strong support in your home state."
In his review, Zinke also suggested monument status for Camp Nelson in Kentucky where African-American soldiers received training during the Civil War and the home of assassinated Civil Rights leader Medgar Evers in Jackson, Miss.
President Trump is expected to announce his decision about monuments in December.