President Trump will travel to the Interior Department on Wednesday to sign an executive order to review the last two decades of presidential monument designations, with many of former President Barack Obama's monuments expected to be scrutinized heavily.
The order "restores the trust between local communities and Washington," said Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke during a briefing with reporters Tuesday.
"The order places America and the Department of Interior back on track to manage our federal lands in accordance with traditional multiple use, ... and directs the Department of Interior to make recommendations to the president on whether a monument should be rescinded, resized, [or] modified," Zinke said.
The review is meant to ensure "local communities will have a voice" in the process, he said, emphasizing repeatedly that the order does not roll back monuments that have been designated over the last 20 years.
The order "does not strip any monument of a designation," nor does it "loosen conservation" rules, Zinke told reporters. "It is a review."
He said critics' assertions that the review will be predisposed to a certain outcome are part of a "false narrative." Zinke said much of the misinformation about the order is the fault of the "modern media." He added that the nation is still "polarized" politically, but the review "does not predispose an outcome."
Shortly before Zinke talked to reporters about Trump's order, Sen. Maria Cantwell of Washington state, the top Democrat on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, criticized the forthcoming executive action, calling it a "pretext to attack" one of Obama's last actions as president, the designation of the Bears Ears National Monument in Utah. The Utah monument has been staunchly opposed by leading Republican lawmakers, many of whom have asked him to repeal the designation.
Cantwell said the 20-year review threatens monuments that have boosted states' economies, while helping to conserve geologically, historically and culturally significant regions. "Time and time again, the Trump administration is pushing for policies that are harmful to our recreation economy, a disaster for our pristine places, and setting a terrible precedent for future conservation efforts," she said.
Zinke said the president's order will direct him to conduct a review of monument designations made from Jan. 1, 1996, during Bill Clinton's presidency, through the present. The monuments that will come under review by the agency must be at least 100,000 acres, which includes between 24 and 40 monuments. "It's the big ones," he said.
The order will direct Zinke to provide an interim report in 45 days and a final report in 120 days. Zinke said the order is meant to fulfill the president's promise of giving everyone a say in the process and will cover both land and marine monuments.
Under the Antiquities Act, the president can designate a monument without prior notice, soliciting public comment or following environmental review procedures, Zinke said.
An official summary of the order obtained by the Washington Examiner said: "Past administrations have overused this power and designated large swaths of land well beyond the areas in need of protection. The Antiquities Act Executive Order directs the Department of the Interior to review prior monument designations and suggest legislative changes or modifications to the monument proclamations."
The order will give local communities a greater say in the process, Zinke repeated to reporters Tuesday, without describing how the review will actually proceed.
Obama created some of the largest marine monuments in history, including one of his last ones off the coast of Massachusetts. Another action he took off the coast of Hawaii quadrupled the size of a previously established monument by former Republican President George W. Bush. The action would prohibit fishing and deep-sea mining within the large marine monument area that is twice the size of Texas. Some local fishermen and the industry protested that the action, saying it would cut their catches in half.