Interior head suggests reducing Bears Ears National Monument

In this May 9, 2017, file photo, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke rides a horse in the new Bears Ears National Monument near Blanding, Utah. 

The Associated Press

RENO (AP) — Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke recommended scaling back the size of the Gold Butte National Monument in southern Nevada on Tuesday, drawing praise from Republican Sen. Dean Heller but sharp criticism from congressional Democrats and conservationists who vowed to fight any such move.

Zinke said he would focus the limited changes on efforts to protect local governments’ access to water on the site.

The new size and boundaries for Gold Butte aren’t available because the maps aren’t final, but an area surrounding the water district at Spring Valley will be cut out, Zinke said Tuesday in a conference call with reporters. He said keeping the water district within the monument would prevent maintenance, repairs and infrastructure.

“It was inappropriately put in the monument,” Zinke said. “That’s the revision.”

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He’s also said he’s recommending making it “explicit” and not “implied” that hunting and fishing are allowed.

Zinke made no mention of plans for Nevada’s Basin and Range Monument.

Designated by President Obama under the Antiquities Act, Gold Butte protects more than 400 square miles of desert landscapes featuring rock art, sandstone towers and wildlife habitat for the threatened Mojave Desert tortoise and other species.

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