BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — Environmentalists sued the administration of President Donald Trump on Thursday seeking to pry loose details of plans to shrink national monuments and marine areas and open protected areas to commercial fishing, energy extraction, logging and other industries.
The lawsuit alleges the White House Council on Environmental Quality and the Interior Department illegally ignored Freedom of Information Act requests for documents related to the issue.
Trump has said intends to shrink two monuments in Utah — Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante.
Additionally, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has recommended shrinking Nevada’s Gold Butte, Oregon’s Cascade-Siskiyou and two marine monuments in the Pacific Ocean. More logging would be allowed at Maine’s Katahdin Woods and Waters and grazing and commercial fishing at other monuments.
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Plaintiffs in the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., include the Sierra Club, Wilderness Society, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance and other groups.
“If the Trump administration thinks what they are about to do is legal, why are they keeping it secret?” asked Yvonne Chi with Earthjustice, the law firm representing the plaintiffs. “We expect the record to show that the administration has been speaking with industry groups
Administration officials declined to comment.
Trump ordered Zinke to review 27 national monuments and marine areas in April. The monuments are protected under the Antiquities Act, a 1906 law that gave presidents broad powers to set aside lands of “historic or scientific interest.”
Trump has complained that a “massive federal land grab” by former presidents including Democrat Barack Obama placed millions of acres of lands and vast areas of ocean under onerous restrictions, at times over the objections of local communities.
Environmental groups and American Indian tribes have said the Trump administration’s actions threaten to degrade scenic landscapes, valuable archaeological sites and important wildlife habitat.
The Associated Press also has sought documents related to the monument review through a Freedom of Information Act request filed in August. But the AP has yet to receive a response from the Interior Department.
Follow Matthew Brown on Twitter at www.twitter.com/matthewbrownap