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Interior Secretary Zinke promotes healthier herds for hunters

Feb 9, 2018, 6:22 PM | Updated: Feb 10, 2018, 8:55 am
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke signs secretarial order to improve conservation and big game migratio...
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke signs secretarial order to improve conservation and big game migration

SALT LAKE CITY – Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke wants healthier big game herds for hunters and wildlife watchers across the West.

Zinke appeared at the Western Hunting & Conservation Expo at the Salt Palace Convention Center on Friday to sign a secretarial order to provide more resources for habitat restoration, conservation and research to help big game thrive.

“We will coordinate together, work with landowners, and prioritize to make sure that our kids, and our kid’s kids will have the same opportunity that we have to enjoy our great outdoors, to enjoy the legacy of hunting and fishing,” said Zinke.

Through Secretarial Order No. 3362 , the interior department will use its land management and scientific expertise to study and improve the migration corridors for antelope, elk and mule deer. Priority states currently include Utah, Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Washington, and Wyoming.

A repeat visitor

This was Zinke’s third visit to Utah in less than a year.

He first visited last May to tour the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase Escalante National Monuments as part of a review directed by President Donald Trump, that ultimately lead to vast size reductions of those protected areas.

Zinke said those changes will stand because of broad support among political leaders and the public in Utah.

“We didn’t take one square inch out of federal protection,” Zinke said. “What we did do is we added 1,000,000 acres back in to make sure that traditional activities are protected, which means grazing, recreation, hunting, public access to roads not closed because public lands belong to the people not special interests.”

Public Lands still a contentious issue

100 protesters gather outside the convention center

Earlier, before Secretary Zinke arrived, about 100 Utahns stood in support of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments.

“The experiences that these places facilitate are worth everything,” said Olivia Juarez with the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance. “So, I’m here to defend that.“

Using their bodies, the protesters illustrated the shrinking of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments to 15 percent and 50 percent of their original size, the reductions made by President Trump in December.

The protesters believe the removal of those protections will impact recreation and Native American cultural activities in those areas. They also fear the extraction of coal and oil from those areas.

“The preservation of these lands guarantees that people can access these resources in a sustainable way and that they are maintained for all future generations,” said Juarez.

They want to see the previous protections restored. Multiple organizations are challenging the reductions.

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Interior Secretary Zinke promotes healthier herds for hunters