Bluffs along the Columbia River are among the scenic attractions of Hanford Reach National Monument near Richland. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said Thursday that Hanford Reach is no longer under review for possible modification of its protected status. (AP Photo/David Foster, File)

Bluffs along the Columbia River are among the scenic attractions of Hanford Reach National Monument near Richland. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said Thursday that Hanford Reach is no longer under review for possible modification of its protected status. (AP Photo/David Foster, File)

Interior chief: No changes to Idaho, Washington monuments

By Nicholas K. Geranios / Associated Press

SPOKANE — Craters of the Moon National Monument in Idaho and the Hanford Reach National Monument in Washington state are no longer under review for possible modification, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said Thursday.

The monuments were among 27 covered by President Donald Trump’s April executive order calling for a review of monuments created since 1996.

Thursday’s announcement that no changes will be made to the two monuments came after public comments and conversations with stakeholders, Zinke said.

“When the president and I began the monument review process we absolutely realized that not all monuments are the same and that not all monuments would require modifications,” Zinke said.

The Hanford Reach, which includes the last free-flowing stretch of the Columbia River, is located north of Richland, Washington. The reach was designated by President Bill Clinton in 2000. It covers 195,000 acres and much of the land was once a security zone around the Hanford Nuclear Reservation and has remained largely undisturbed since World War II.

“Sportsmen and women from all over the country go to Hanford Reach for some of the best fishing and bird hunting around,” Zinke said. “It’s also home to some of the most well-preserved remnants of human history in the area.”

The environmental group Conservation Northwest hailed the decision.

In addition to being the last free-flowing stretch of the heavily-dammed Columbia, the Hanford Reach is “a vital area of increasingly rare desert grassland habitat,” the group said. The Hanford Reach is home to 43 species of fish, 42 mammal species, 258 bird species and many other animals, the group said.

Craters of the Moon covers 54,000 acres north of Burley in eastern Idaho. There have been calls recently to turn the monument, established in 1924 and expanded in 2000, into Idaho’s first national park.

“As a former geologist, I realize Craters of the Moon is a living timeline of the geologic history of our land on the Great Rift,” Zinke said.

“Whether it’s hiking up the alien-like lava flows … or just driving through the scenic loop, there’s a lot to see and learn at this historic location,” Zinke said.

Trump had called the designation of the 27 monuments “a massive federal land grab” that “never should have happened.”

Critics of the review worried it could lead to reducing the size of national monuments or completely removing protections from some.

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