Jennifer Yachnin, E&E News reporter
An environmental group filed a lawsuit against Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, accusing the Trump administration of withholding public records in its review of national monuments.
The Center for Biological Diversity announced today it has filed a lawsuit against Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, asserting the Trump administration is “unlawfully withholding public records” in its ongoing review of dozens of national monuments.
In a lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, the environmental group said that Interior has failed to respond to requests under the Freedom of Information Act.
“The Interior Department’s refusal to release the communication records and schedules of its secretary, and its failure to provide Interior Department records generated in connection with its review of national monument designations, undermines FOIA’s policy of government transparency,” the lawsuit says.
CBD is seeking information in relation to Interior’s review of 27 national monuments. President Trump ordered the review in late April, mandating that Zinke assess the boundaries of all monuments created since 1996 that encompass more than 100,000 acres.
To date, Zinke has declared that he will not recommend changes to at least five monuments — the Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve in Idaho, Hanford Reach National Monument in Washington state, Canyons of the Ancients National Monument in Colorado, Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument in Montana and Grand Canyon-Parashant National Monument in Arizona — while calling for significant cuts to the Bears Ears National Monument in Utah.
A final report is due Aug. 24.
An Interior spokeswoman referred requests for comment on the lawsuit to the Justice Department, which declined to comment.
Although Zinke’s daily schedules are available online from Interior, the documents do not necessarily offer details about the secretary’s meetings.
Dates for his visit to the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante monuments in Utah in May, for example, indicate only that the secretary would visit the sites and did not detail his meetings with local officials or other stakeholders.