US interior chief recommends changes on some protected lands

FILE – In this May 28, 2013, file photo, a hiker walks on a rock formation known as The Wave in the Vermilion Cliffs National Monument in Arizona. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said he’s recommending that none of 27 national monuments carved from wilderness and ocean and under review by the Trump administration be eliminated, including the Vermilion Cliffs National Monument. (AP Photo/Brian Witte, File)

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke announced Thursday he won’t seek to rescind any national monuments carved from the wilderness and oceans by past presidents. But he said he will press for some boundary changes and left open the possibility of allowing drilling, mining or other industries on the sites.

Twenty-seven monuments were put under review in April by President Donald Trump, who has charged that the millions of acres designated for protection by President Barack Obama were part of a “massive federal land grab.”

If Trump adopts Zinke’s recommendations, it could ease some of the worst fears of the president’s opponents, who warned that vast public lands and marine areas could be stripped of federal protection.

But significant reductions in the size of the monuments or changes in what activities are allowed on them could trigger fierce resistance, too, including lawsuits.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Zinke said he is recommending changes to a “handful” of sites, including unspecified boundary adjustments, and suggested some monuments are too large. He would not reveal his recommendations for specific sites but previously said Utah’s Bears Ears National Monument needs to be reduced in size.

The White House said only that it received Zinke’s recommendations and is reviewing them.

Conservationists and tribal leaders responded with alarm and distrust, demanding the full release of Zinke’s recommendations and vowing to challenge attempts to shrink any monuments.

Gene Karpinski, president of the League of Conservation Voters, called Zinke’s review a pretext for “selling out our public lands and waters” to the oil industry and others.

Jacqueline Savitz, senior vice president of Oceana, which has been pushing for preservation of five marine monuments included in the review, said that simply saying “changes” are coming doesn’t reveal any real information.

“A change can be a small tweak or near annihilation,” Savitz said. “The public has a right to know.”

A tribal coalition that pushed for the creation of the 2,100-square-mile (5,400-sqaure kilometer) Bears Ears monument on sacred tribal land said it is prepared to launch a legal fight against even a slight reduction in its size.

Republican Utah state Rep. Mike Noel, who has pushed to rescind the designation of Bears Ears as a monument, said he could live with a rollback of its boundaries.

He called that a good compromise that would enable continued tourism while still allowing activities that locals have pursued for generations — logging, livestock grazing and oil and gas drilling.

“The eco-tourists basically say, ‘Throw out all the rubes and the locals and get rid of that mentality of grazing and utilizing these public lands for any kind of renewable resource such as timber harvesting and even some mineral production,'” Noel said. “That’s a very selfish attitude.”

Other sites that might see changes include the Grand Staircase-Escalante monument in the Utah desert, consisting of cliffs, canyons, natural arches and archaeological sites, including rock paintings; Katahdin Woods and Waters, 136 square miles (352 square kilometers) of forest of northern Maine; and Cascade Siskiyou, a 156-square-mile (404-square kilometer) region where three mountain ranges converge in Oregon.

The marine monuments encompass more than 340,000 square miles (880,000 square kilometers) and include four sites in the Pacific Ocean and an array of underwater canyons and mountains off New England.

Zinke did not directly answer whether any monuments would be newly opened to energy development, mining and other industries Trump has championed.

But the former Montana congressman said public access for uses such as hunting, fishing or grazing would be maintained or restored. He also spoke of protecting tribal interests.

“There’s an expectation we need to look out 100 years from now to keep the public land experience alive in this country,” Zinke said. “You can protect the monument by keeping public access to traditional uses.”

The recommendations cap an unprecedented four-month review based on a belief that the 1906 Antiquities Act had been misused by presidents to create oversized monuments that hinder energy development, grazing and other uses. The review looked at whether the protected areas should be eliminated, downsized or otherwise altered.

The review raised alarm among conservationists who said protections could be lost for ancient cliff dwellings, towering sequoia trees, deep canyons and ocean habitats.

Zinke previously announced that no changes would be made at six of the 27 monuments under review — in Montana, Colorado, Idaho, California, Arizona and Washington.

In the interview, Zinke struck back against conservationists who had warned of impending mass sell-offs of public lands by the Trump administration.

“I’ve heard this narrative that somehow the land is going to be sold or transferred,” he said. “That narrative is patently false and shameful. The land was public before and it will be public after.”

National monument designations are used to protect land revered for its natural beauty and historical significance. The restrictions aren’t as stringent as those at national parks but can include limits on mining, timber-cutting and recreational activities such as riding off-road vehicles.

The monuments under review were designated by four presidents over the past two decades.

Zinke suggested that the same presidential proclamation process used to create the monuments could be used to enact changes.

Environmental groups contend the Antiquities Act allows presidents to create national monuments but gives only Congress the power to modify them. Mark Squillace, a law professor at the University of Colorado, said he agrees with that view but noted the dispute has never gone before the courts.

Conservative legal scholars have come down on the side of the administration.

No president has tried to eliminate a monument, but some have reduced or redrawn the boundaries on 18 occasions, according to the National Park Service.

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McCombs reported from Salt Lake City. Associated Press writer Michael Biesecker contributed from Washington.

Governor signs law limiting Illinois police on immigration

Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner smiles while surrounded by law enforcement officials and immigrant rights activists in Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood Monday, Aug. 28, 2017, after signing legislation that will limit how local and state police can cooperate with federal immigration authorities. The narrow measure prohibits police from searching, arresting or detaining someone solely because of immigration status, or because of so-called federal immigration detainers. (Ashlee Rezin/Chicago Sun-Times via AP)

CHICAGO (AP) — Illinois will limit how local and state police can cooperate with federal immigration authorities under a plan signed into law Monday by Gov. Bruce Rauner, a move that puts the first-term Republican at odds with his party on immigration issues.

The narrow measure prohibits police from searching, arresting or detaining someone solely because of immigration status, or because of so-called federal immigration detainers. But local authorities will be able to communicate with immigration agents and hold someone for immigration authorities if there’s a valid criminal warrant, according to the new law.

Rauner acknowledged at the signing — a heavily-attended, festive event in a predominantly Mexican neighborhood — that it was a tough proposal many didn’t want him to support, but he said he was convinced after talking with law enforcement and immigrant leaders.

“This took months and months of difficult negotiations,” Rauner said after a mariachi band performed and top Democrats gave supportive speeches. He said it helps Illinois take another step toward “continuing to be a welcome state.”

Proponents insist the measure falls short of a “sanctuary” law because it leaves the door open to communication and ensures the state complies with federal law. But Republican opponents have tried to characterize it that way, something that comes as President Donald Trump has threatened to crack down on sanctuary cities, which have laws friendly to immigrants living in U.S. without legal permission.

The move places Rauner in a tricky spot as Democrat-heavy Illinois’ first GOP governor in over a decade. He faces re-election next year and will need to shore up support from Republican strongholds outside Chicago.

Rauner said he believed the measure would increase safety and “improve connectivity” between immigrants and law enforcement to make the state safer.

Detainers are requests from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to law enforcement agencies to hold a suspected deportable immigrant long enough for immigration authorities to pick them up. But federal courts have found the requests aren’t sufficient for local jails to hold someone after bail has been posted or beyond their sentence, with critics raising constitutional and liability questions for jails. California and Connecticut don’t honor them, a practice many counties nationwide already follow.

Trump has called for more links between federal and local authorities to fix a broken immigration system and deport criminals. He’s threatened to withhold public safety funds from sanctuary cities such as Chicago, which has filed a lawsuit in response. In light of his crackdown, Miami-Dade County has reversed a sanctuary policy and Texas beefed up laws to allow police to ask about immigration status on traffic stops and requiring law enforcement to honor detainers or face punishment. However, the Texas law faces a court challenge.

In Illinois the measure was only approved after it was scaled back from an initial proposal that included the creation of “safe zones,” like schools and hospitals where immigration agents wouldn’t be allowed to make arrests.

Law enforcement agents, who attended Monday’s event, said the plan would allow them to focus energy on safety, encourage immigrant victims of crime to come forward and build trust. Tension between the groups was on display briefly during the event as Illinois Sheriff’s Association executive director Greg Sullivan used criminal justice terminology to discuss the “removal of illegal criminal aliens” to the crowd of immigrants and activists. Several interrupted, yelling their preferred term of “undocumented.”

Rauner’s hesitance to back the bill has been obvious. The former businessman has avoided talking about national issues such as immigration, particularly when it comes to Trump. He’s said he favors comprehensive immigration reform, but has not detailed what that means.

This month during his first national television interview on FOX News, he repeatedly declined to discuss Chicago’s lawsuit or sanctuary laws. He pivoted to his ongoing fight over state funding issues with majority Democrats. In response, conservative media outlets such as Breitbart News, blasted Rauner for not denouncing the measure. A Chicago Tribune columnist said Rauner signing the bill “opens a breach on his right political flank.”

Ahead of the signing, Rauner would only say the measure was “reasonable,” prompting groups in support such as the Illinois Business Immigration Coalition, which includes high-profile Republicans and CEOs, to boost advocacy.

Backers say the law, reviewed by State Police and the Illinois Attorney’s General office, will help protect immigrants from federal harassment.

“It’s obviously a benefit to an undocumented person to know the police are not going to be putting them under suspicion everywhere they go,” Senate President John Cullerton, a Democratic sponsor of the bill said at the signing. “There are also benefits to law enforcement.”

The law takes effect immediately.

The legislation is SB31