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Carrizo Plain spared by national monument review

Greta Mart/KCBX

San Luis Obispo County’s Carrizo Plain National Monument is not on the list of monuments nationwide recommended for elimination or size reduction by U.S. Dept. of the Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. According to a leaked copy of Zinke’s report to President Trump, none of the six California national monuments on the original review list are up for revision. But Zinke did recommend changes to ten of the 27 national monuments on the review list, including Bears Ears in Utah, Cascade-Siskiyou in Oregon and Gold Butte in Nevada.

A copy of Zinke’s report - labeled “draft deliberations - not for distribution,” can be found on Document Cloud, an online publishing platform. The Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post were the first news outlets to report on the memo that the Trump administration refused to make public.

Zinke had an August 24 deadline to make his recommendations to President Trump about the status of 27 national monuments across the county, after Trump signed an executive order in April directing Zinke to undertake the review. But on August 24, Zinke simply issued a statement saying he had submitted his report to the White House; he did not explain or elaborate on what that report said.

“This complete lack of transparency is appalling and it demonstrates the arbitrary nature of Zinke’s review,” said Linda Castro, Assistant Policy Director for the California Wilderness Coalition, in a statement Monday.

The Pacific Remote Islands and Rose Atoll - two of the marine national monuments recommended for changes - are in the Pacific Ocean, and Zinke is recommending opening them up to commercial fishing. Noah Oppenheim is the executive director of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations. He says members of his industry will fight the proposed changes to marine national monuments and sanctuaries like Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary.

“We strongly condemn the motivation of this executive order, which represents an oil grab by the Trump Administration,” Oppenheim told KCBX in August. “If we keep our marine resources healthy and our marine ecosystems thriving, then we can fish in a sustainable way...forever. But if we open up these sanctuaries to oil and gas, we threaten that very ability in a fundamental way." 

“[Sunday night], we learned Secretary Zinke recommended that President Trump reduce six national monuments, including two marine monuments, and modify numerous others to allow for drilling, mining, and logging in these protected areas," said Central Coast Congressman Salud Carbajal in a statement. "As more details emerge, it is clear that this is the beginning of an unprecedented attack on our public lands. While I am relieved that so far no recommended changes have been made regarding the Carrizo Plain National Monument on our Central Coast, we must continue to fight to protect thousands of acres of our public lands that include critical wildlife habitats, significant archeological sites, and recreational open spaces, so that they are kept intact for future generations to enjoy."

In his memo, Zinke acknowledges that tourism related to the monument status fosters jobs and local businesses. But, said Zinke, “in some instances the jobs and revenues resulting from tourism do not necessarily offset the lost or forgone revenue resulting from the limitations placed on land development.”

It’s unclear what action President Trump will take on Zinke’s recommendation. The Department of the Interior has yet to comment on the public release of his report.

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