New documents show Trump administration minimized benefits of public lands in effort to shrink national monuments

Newly public documents from the Interior Department show the Trump administration intentionally dismissed evidence that public lands boost tourism as they sought to shrink the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments.

The Washington Post reports thousands of pages of emails provide details how Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and his aides made sure their review of protected lands in the west would highlight the value of energy extraction and other development.

Comments that the department’s Freedom of Information Act officers made in the documents show that they sought to keep some of the references out of public view because they were “revealing [the] strategy” behind the review.


The new documents show that as Zinke conducted his four-month review, Interior officials rejected material that would justify keeping protections in place and sought out evidence that could buttress the case for unraveling them.

As a result of Zinke’s review, President Donald Trump slashed the size of the Grand Staircase-Escalante and Bears Ears monuments, arguing Presidents Clinton and Obama overstepped their authority by protecting hundreds of thousands of acres from development.