More than 1 million comments were submitted to Interior

The public comment period following Trump’s order on monuments has closed.

 

This story has been updated.

The clock has run out. July 10 was the last chance for the public to weigh in on the Interior Department’s review of more than two-dozen national monuments, most of which are located in the West. By the time the comment period closed, the agency had received more than 1.4 million comments submitted to regulations.gov.

The assessment was triggered by an executive order issued by President Donald Trump on April 26. Trump called for a review of 27 national monuments designated under the Antiquities Act since 1996, including Bears Ears National Monument in Utah.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has proposed shrinking Bears Ears National Monument. (Neighboring Monument Valley is visible in the background.)

The Interior Department accepted comments on what to do with the national monuments until 11:59 p.m. Eastern time on Monday night. Twenty-one of the monuments are scattered across the Western U.S., from Rio Grande del Norte and Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks in New Mexico to Hanford Reach in Washington. (One of the other monuments under review is located in Maine, while the other five are marine national monuments.)

While the public comment page at regulations.gov lists an earlier date by which comments on Bears Ears National Monument must be submitted, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke had extended the deadline until July 10. Zinke issued an interim report on Bears Ears in June in which he suggested shrinking the monument, though the extent to which the President or the Interior Department have the legal authority to modify monuments without the help of Congress is unclear. Past presidents have made mostly small changes to boundaries in the past, but the Antiquities Act only explicitly grants the president the ability to create monuments. The final Bears Ears report is expected later this month, while a report on the other national monuments is due in late August.

In the meantime, environmental groups have criticized the assessment: “A truly fair review — based on the facts and overwhelming public opinion — would conclude that every one of these monuments must remain intact to protect our shared American heritage,” Jamie Williams, Wilderness Society president, said in a statement.

The Trump administration and supporters of the review maintain that coordination with local stakeholders and public input were neglected in past monument declarations, particularly in the case of Bears Ears. However, the monument’s creation underwent years of open debate and significant compromise.

The Sonoran Desert National Monument in Arizona is one of 27 national monuments under review by the Interior Department.

Want to brush up on national monuments? Check out these stories:

1. For more on the background of Bears Ears National Monument and the discussion that preceded its creation, read our May 2016 feature story, “In Utah, the fight for a Bears Ears monument heats up.”

2. Get the facts on some of the claims swirling around Trump’s national monument review order and Bears Ears National Monument.

3. “A president has never undone a national monument after its creation,” writes Robinson Meyer for The Atlantic. Read the whole piece unpacking presidential authority under the Antiquities Act.

4. Each monument has its own story; the Taos News explained the particulars of the two New Mexican monuments under review on Sunday.

5. Sometimes, simply designating a site a national monument isn’t enough to protect it. Read about how budget cuts and local politics have undermined the potential of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in Utah.

Emily Benson is an editorial fellow at High Country News