Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke Takes a Break From Monumental Task

Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke has embarked on a review of national monuments across the country — when he isn't on vacation.
Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke has embarked on a review of national monuments across the country — when he isn't on vacation.
The creation of a national monument is a serious business, involving years of study, lobbying, paperwork and speechifying. Undoing one is apparently a much more casual and half-assed process, judging by the way the Trump administration is going about it.

Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke embarked on what was touted as a thorough review of more than two dozen national monuments a few months ago, with the aim of possibly "adjusting" the status of certain properties in the inventory that had benefited from previous administrations' expansive use of the Antiquities Act. Although the legality of actually de-listing a national monument has yet to be tested in court, Zinke's road show has been heavily promoted as delivering on a pledge to correct the public-land "abuses" of the Clinton and Obama eras — while instilling widespread anxiety among environmentalists, sport enthusiasts and recreationalists, and other monument defenders.

Zinke has already given a "thumbs-up" reprieve to several of the monuments on the chopping block — including Colorado's Canyon of the Ancients — and suggested that some changes are coming to others. But with just a week left until the date Zinke is supposed to conclude his review, he has only visited eight of the 27 targeted monuments. And he isn't likely to meet with stakeholders for the others before the announced deadline. As the Denver-based Center for Western Priorities points out in a recent broadside, Zinke is currently on a Mediterranean vacation with his wife, Lola, who tweeted this pic from their adventure:

Zinke has canceled meetings with some stakeholders and told others his mind is already made up about "shrinking" the property in question, so maybe this escape to the Bosporus is an acknowledgement that the review was merely a public show of going through the motions. But Lola Zinke's tweet produced an indignant statement from CWP deputy director Greg Zimmerman: “Our national monuments are full of beautiful places to take a summer trip. Secretary Zinke promised a rigorous analysis of national monuments, but what the American public got was a sham review and a foreign vacation."

Under Trump, Interior is becoming the biggest playground for energy and ranching interests since...well, the heyday of the George W. Bush administration. Next week's anticipated announcement should bring into sharper focus how many of the monuments are slated for budget cuts, shrinkage or some kind of repeal.