Months after the Interior Department inadvertently released documents showing its review of national monuments was slanted toward extracting resources, Democrats now in control of the House of Representatives are looking into that review. The attention is focused on the two monuments in Utah that President Donald Trump has ordered reduced, but the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument is still on the list for potential downsizing.
In 2017, Trump ordered then-Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to examine 27 national monuments.
After the review, Zinke recommended shrinking Bear’s Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante, the two Utah monuments, as well as the Cascade-Siskiyou on the Oregon-California border and Gold Butte in Nevada.
Trump acted on the Utah monuments in December 2017, and has done nothing since. Zinke left office at the end of 2018 under multiple ethics investigations.
The House Natural Resources Committee, which held a hearing Wednesday on the review process, should take a close look at evidence considered or discarded along the way.
Documents mistakenly released last year indicated Interior officials rejected material that supported keeping monuments intact in favor of evidence that suggested protections should be dismantled. In the case of the Cascade-Siskiyou, a mistakenly released document contained a statement from a deputy director that “previous timber sale planning and development can be immediately resumed” if the monument expansion approved in 2016 were revoked.
Whether a president has the power to alter a monument designated by a predecessor remains to be determined. But Congress should not stand for changes made based on a one-sided review.