WASHINGTON (AP) — Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke says Senate Democrats are holding the department's nominees “hostage'' to a political agenda that includes opposition to his review of presidentially designated monuments.
In a sharply worded letter to Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin, the Senate's No. 2 Democrat, Zinke said it's unfortunate that Democrats have placed holds on four Interior nominees, including the department's top lawyer and budget chief.
The nominees “have nothing to do with this monument review, yet they have been forced to sit on the sidelines'' for months, Zinke wrote Thursday. “As a former Navy SEAL, this is not the type of hostage situation I am accustomed to.''
Zinke offered to meet with Durbin, who requested a briefing last month along with other Democratic senators to discuss the monument review.
President Donald Trump ordered the review this spring following complaints by congressional Republicans that previous presidents had misused a century-old law intended to protect federal lands, creating oversized monuments that hinder energy development, logging and other uses. Trump called some monument designations by his Democratic predecessors “massive land grabs.''
Zinke has recommended that Trump shrink four large monuments in the West, including the sprawling Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments in Utah.
Zinke also recommended that Nevada's Gold Butte and Oregon's Cascade-Siskiyou monuments be reduced in size, although exact details remain unclear. The proposals have prompted an outcry from environmental groups and Democrats who accuse Trump and Zinke of engaging in a secretive process aimed at helping industry groups that have donated to GOP campaigns.
Opponents have promised to take the Trump administration to court to block any attempts to rescind or reduce the monument designations. Former Presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton designated the monuments under the 1906 Antiquities Act, which allows presidents to protect sites considered historic or geographically or culturally important.
In a letter last month, Durbin and 15 other senators complained that Zinke's recommendations “threaten important natural, archaeological and cultural resources,'' especially Bears Ears, a 1.3-million acre site in southeastern Utah that is home to thousands of Native American artifacts, including ancient cliff dwellings and petroglyphs.
“National monuments have preserved our country's unique public lands, extraordinary history and our common culture as a people,'' the senators wrote in an Oct. 23 letter to Trump. “We urge you not to reduce their boundaries in any way.''
Durbin and several other senators wrote a separate letter to Zinke seeking a meeting about the monument review, which they said has been conducted virtually in secret.
Zinke responded Thursday that he visited the four monuments that are being shrunk and met with or talked to lawmakers and governors in all four states.
“While the review does not affect the state of Illinois, I nonetheless understand your interest in this matter, and I appreciate the written comments you and your colleagues provided throughout this review process,'' Zinke wrote to Durbin.
Durbin has placed holds on the nominees in his leadership role. Spokesman Ben Marter said Durbin looked forward to meeting with Zinke, although no date has been set.
“That was probably harder than it needed to be, but the secretary has now reached out to schedule a meeting and Sen. Durbin is looking forward to it,'' Marter said.
Durbin has placed holds on four Interior nominees: Susan Combs, nominated as assistant secretary for policy, management and budget; Joseph Balash, assistant secretary for land and minerals management; Ryan Nelson, solicitor; and Brenda Burman, commissioner of the Bureau of Reclamation, which oversees dams and water projects in 17 Western states.
PROVO, Utah (AP) — A new group is beginning a push to change the name of Squaw Peak in Provo to something more honorable to Native American women.
The Repeak Committee is leading the effort to remove the word “squaw'' from the name of the iconic jagged mountain, The Daily Herald reported Thursday.
The push comes after a U.S. government board voted to rename another geological feature, Moab's Negro Bill Canyon, to Grandstaff Canyon.
Provo resident Chauma Jansen, who is working with the new independent committee, believes the term Squaw is both derogatory and demeaning.
“It is meant to belittle somebody or belittle their worth. Historically it has been used to (mean) prostitution as well as sexual violence against women,'' said Jansen, whose heritage is Navajo, Sioux and Assiniboine.
The mountain located near Brigham Young University was named around the 1850s. The origins are cloudy of the name are cloudy. The most common story is that it was named after a member of the Timpanogos Ute tribe who fell to her death as they were being pursued by white settlers, BYU history professor Jay Buckley said. But, he said, the story may be more anecdotal than historic fact.
The committee is preparing a proposal to send to the U.S. Board on Geographic Names, which is responsible for standardizing geographic names.
A Squaw Peak in Arizona was renamed in 2003 to Piestewa Peak in honor of Lori Piestewa, the first Native American woman to killed in US military combat.
The Provo group hopes to the rename the mountain after a Ute woman, and has reached out to the tribe for name recommendations and approval.
It hopes to finalize the proposal by February. The group will present its message at a lecture at Utah Valley University next week.
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP) — Director Spike Lee asked the audience at the Virginia Film Festival to observe a moment of silence to remember the Charlottesville woman killed after a car plowed through a group of protesters during a white nationalist rally on Aug. 12.
The Academy Award-winning director spoke about racial issues and the country's divisive history Saturday at the Paramount Theater in Charlottesville.
Lee presented his documentary “I Can't Breathe,'' about Eric Garner's 2014 death in police custody. He also showed his 1992 documentary, “4 Little Girls,'' which chronicles the 1963 church bombing in Birmingham, Alabama, that killed four black girls and helped spark the civil rights movement.
Lee said in order to move forward, Americans need to accept that the United States “was built upon the genocide of Native Americans and slavery.''