An area larger than Yellowstone National Park could be opened up for fossil fuel development as a result of the Trump administration’s ongoing review of national monuments, according to a study from environmentalists who deeply oppose such energy exploration.
The study from Greenpeace says that more than 2.7 million acres of U.S. land currently designated as national monuments sit above coal, gas, and oil reserves. Two of the most controversial monuments included in the review, Utah’s Bears Ears National Monument and Grand Staircase-Escalante, sit atop significant fossil fuel deposits. In the case of Bears Ears, Greenpeace said, oil, gas, and coal deposits are below roughly 90 percent of the 1.35-million acre monument.
The news comes as Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, who is heading up the administration’s review, visits Bears Ears to hear from all sides of the debate. He’s expected to offer his final recommendations on which monuments, if any, should be rescinded or shrunken in size within 120 days.
But Democrats seized on the Greenpeace report to argue that Mr. Zinke’s review is misguided.
“Sixteen presidents from both parties have set aside iconic landscapes, like Hanford Reach in my state, that contain so much natural, cultural, historical, and scientific value for the benefit of all Americans,” Sen. Maria Cantwell, Washington Democrat, said in response to the Greenpeace report. “President Trump’s misguided effort to undo these designations is wrong, and I will fight it every step of the way.”
In addition to the Utah sites, land in California, Montana, and Colorado could be opened up for energy development if monument status is removed.
In response, the Interior Department stressed that no decisions have been made, pushing back against the notion the entire review is a smokescreen designed to promote fossil fuels.
“The sole purpose of the monument review is to ensure stakeholders from all sides have a voice in the process and in land management decisions,” the department said in response to the Greenpeace study. “There is no pre-determined outcome on any monument currently under review.”
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