Three months into his reign of error, President Trump ordered a review of more than two dozen national monuments — federal land excluded from various uses — with an eye toward reducing the amount of protected land and loosening the management plans covering what activities would be allowed where. Environmentalists (and The Times editorial board) warned that Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s subsequent analysis and recommendations seemed framed more by a desire to increase exploitation of public lands than by a desire to preserve them. And now an errant release of internal emails shows the environmentalists were right.
The Washington Post reports that Interior officials, responding to Freedom of Information Act requests, mistakenly sent journalists and activists thousands of pages of internal emails that reveal government officials cherry-picked data to justify reducing the scope of some monuments while ignoring 99% of 2.7 million public comments against changing the designations. The president ultimately reduced the 1.35 million acre Bears Ears National Monument, designated by President Obama in 2016, by 85%, and the 1.7 million acre Grand-Staircase-Escalante, designated by President Clinton in 1996, by about half. Other proposals are still on the president’s desk, though there has been little indication whether he intends to act on them.