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Nevada awaits details about national monument review

As Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke wrapped up his “listening tour” of national monument sites in Utah on Wednesday, officials and advocates in Nevada were still awaiting details on how the Trump administration’s monumental review might impact the Silver State.

Two Nevada monuments designated by President Barack Obama have been targeted for review under Trump’s April 26 executive order: the 297,000-acre Gold Butte National Monument in northeastern Clark County and the 704,000-acre Basin and Range National Monument in remote Lincoln and Nye counties.

The Bureau of Land Management is in charge of both sites, but BLM officials in Nevada said they have yet to receive any instructions regarding the administration’s review.

It’s also unclear whether the interior secretary plans to visit Gold Butte or Basin and Range as part of his evaluation.

During questioning by U.S. Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev., at his confirmation hearing in January, Zinke pledged to visit Nevada and speak with state officials before making a recommendation on the future of Gold Butte National Monument. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)

But an Interior Department spokesman said it is unlikely that Zinke will be able visit all 21 sites identified for reconsideration.

“As the secretary said during his daily media availability yesterday, not all monuments under review are controversial,” spokesman Paul Ross said in a written statement Wednesday. “He is committed to a transparent review process that solicits feedback from stakeholders on all sides of this issue. At this time, dates for future visits have not been set.”

Trump’s executive order called on Zinke to review presidential monument declarations over the past two decades and recommend possible changes to their boundaries and scope. The only site named in the order is the 1.3 million-acre Bears Ears National Monument in Utah, which Obama established on Dec. 28, the same day he set aside Gold Butte using his authority under the Antiquities Act of 1906.

Zinke wraps up Utah trip

Zinke toured Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in Utah during a four-day trip that ended Wednesday night.

Mari St. Martin, spokeswoman for Gov. Brian Sandoval, couldn’t say whether a similar tour of Nevada is in the works.

“The governor’s office has had informal outreach from the Department of the Interior about the review of recent monument designations. The governor does support a fresh look at the process,” St. Martin said in a written statement Wednesday. “His preference is for a more collaborative process toward protecting lands for future generations, which must include our congressional delegation and all local stakeholders.”

She did not immediately respond to a follow-up question about whether Sandoval favors reducing or eliminating Gold Butte and Basin and Range.

Meanwhile, supporters are gearing up to fight for Nevada’s two newest monuments.

Fawn Douglas is an artist, activist and member of the Las Vegas Paiute Tribe who campaigned for the permanent protection of Gold Butte, where galleries of ancient petroglyphs preserve the stories of the people who lived there for hundreds of years.

Douglas said she doesn’t speak for the tribe, but she is organizing a meeting in early June to educate tribal members and other monument supporters about “what the review means and what we can do about it.”

She said she plans to invite Zinke, a former Montana congressman, to the meeting.

“I’m trying to be positive. I have to be or else I’m going to freaking lose it,” Douglas said of Zinke’s review. “I’m hoping he listens to the interests of people besides those who want to exploit the land and destroy it.”

Trump’s order gives Zinke until June to complete an interim report focused mainly on Bears Ears.

Zinke’s final report, due in late August, is expected to recommend possible action by the White House and Congress to scale back or eliminate national monuments that “create barriers to achieving energy independence, restrict public access to and use of federal lands, burden state, tribal, and local governments, and otherwise curtail economic growth,” the executive order says.

Legal experts have said the Antiquities Act does not grant the president authority to revoke or change a predecessor’s designation.

Contact Henry Brean at hbrean@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0350. Follow @refriedbrean on Twitter.

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