SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Former Interior Secretary Sally Jewell blasted President Donald Trump’s review of two dozen national monuments Wednesday, calling it a move that is out of step with what Americans want that puts the Republican on the wrong side of conservationist history.
Jewell spoke to attendees of the nation’s largest outdoor retail trade show being held this week in Salt Lake City. She said Trump should be reviewing what public lands are deserving of new protections, not trying to reverse measured decisions by past presidents to safeguard areas that include ancient cliff dwellings, towering sequoia trees, deep canyons and ocean habitats where seals, whales and sea turtles roam.
“President Trump is playing games with our public lands, treating the monuments like they are contestants on a game show,” said Jewell, who served as Interior secretary in the administration of President Barack Obama. “But the consequences, as you know, are real and devastating and create uncertainty for businesses and uncertainty for residents.”
Trump ordered the review based on the belief by him and other critics that a law created by President Theodore Roosevelt that allows presidents to designate monuments has been improperly used to protect wide expanses of lands instead of places with particular historical or archaeological value. Monument designations protect federal land from energy development and other activities.
The final report from Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is due next month, but he has already recommended that the new Bears Ears National Monument on tribal lands in southern Utah be downsized. Zinke has also said three monuments in Colorado, Idaho and Washington will be left alone and removed them from the review.
Jewell said among the problems with the review is that she doesn’t believe presidents have the legal authority to change national monuments. Only Congress can do that, she argued.
That question is set to be dealt with by the courts if Trump goes forward with trying to shrink or rescind monuments.
Jewell, who was the CEO of the outdoor recreation retail company REI before becoming Interior secretary, implored outdoor recreation companies to stand up for public lands and flex the muscle of an industry that says it generates $887 billion in consumer spending.
Jewell said she was hesitant to give her first major public speech since she left her post in January at the Outdoor Retailer show, but she decided she need to speak out “thoughtfully, respectfully and factually” after giving the Trump administration several months to get their footing.
“We have very real threats facing the public lands we love so much,” Jewell said.
“President Trump is putting himself on the wrong side of history. If he acts to revoke national monuments, he will go down was one of the most anti-conservation president in the history of this nation.”
She spoke during the first day of what will be the final Outdoor Retailer show in Utah after two decades of calling Salt Lake City home. The twice-yearly expos have generated an estimated $45 million in annual direct spending to Utah.
The show moves to Denver next year after spurning Utah over Republican state leaders’ stiff opposition to the Bears Ears National Monument and their ongoing push to take more control of federal public lands.
Show organizers thanked Salt Lake City for helping the expo grow from about 5,000 people at the first show in 1996 to about 29,000 last summer and for giving the burgeoning industry a place to gather to share ideas and figure out how to amplify their political voice.
But they also stood firm behind the decision to leave Utah for Colorado. The industry is united in its support for public lands, said Marisa Nicholson, Outdoor Retailer show director.
“It’s about doing what is right,” Nicholson said. “It’s about open spaces and getting outside; action over words.”
Some expo attendees wore hats and T-shirts being sold with the phrase “This land is your land.” Hundreds are expected to participate in a march Thursday to the Utah state capitol. The march is organized by industry officials to show support for preserving public lands.
Jewell said the show’s decision to leave for Denver sends a powerful message to Utah leaders who believe they know best how to manage all lands in the state.
“We’ve got to wake these guys up to recognize that the assets that they are blessed within Utah drive an important part of their economy,” Jewell said. “A lot of people are sad to be leaving Salt Lake City, and I think the city has done great things for the show. But the same cannot be said for the state, the governor and the congressional representatives who spend a lot of time speaking out against public lands.”
By BRADY McCOMBS, Associated Press
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