- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 21, 2017

House Democrats demanding transparency on the Interior Department’s national-monument review process might want to start by checking Google, according to House Natural Resources Chairman Rob Bishop.

In a Wednesday reply to Rep. Raul Grijalva, the committee’s ranking Democrat, Mr. Bishop said he found the information the Democrat has sought after “a few cursory Google searches,” adding that the department has made the details readily accessible to the public online.

“Along with the extensive news coverage that detailed Secretary [Ryan] Zinke’s meetings and travels across the State of Utah, the Department also included information on his itinerary and media availability for every day of his trip,” said the Utah Republican in his letter.

“In addition, the Secretary thoroughly documented his entire trip through his public Twitter account, where he proved himself to be quite the amateur photographer when it comes to photographing the beautiful natural landscapes of my state,” Mr. Bishop said.

Mr. Grijalva fired off a letter last week to Mr. Zinke asking him to provide a detailed itinerary and list of his meetings in Utah and elsewhere, along with an accounting of public comments, “in the spirit of the transparency and open government.”

“As you prepare to make recommendations on the future of beloved national monuments, the American public deserves to know and understand the basis for your decisions,” said the Arizona Democrat in his letter.

Mr. Grijalva wasn’t amused by Mr. Bishop’s reply, calling it “disappointing that House Republican oversight of the off-the-rails Trump administration goes no further than a Google search.”

In a June 12 report, Mr. Zinke recommended scaling back the Bears Ears National Monument in southeastern Utah, designated by President Barack Obama in the last days of his administration over the objections of Utah Republicans, local officials and San Juan County tribal communities.

While Mr. Bishop praised the move, Mr. Grijalva challenged the Trump administration’s “claim to be acting with public support.”

“We’re seeking an actual accounting of the comments received and a more detailed idea of the meetings Secretary Zinke held because the information they’ve made public is pretty thin,” Mr. Grijalva said. “We wouldn’t need to ask Chairman Bishop to join our request if this administration abandoned its unprecedented stance that Democrats are not entitled to responses when they write letters.”

Mr. Bishop declined to join the Democrat’s request for more information.

In a May 1 memo, the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel said federal agencies are not obligated to respond to congressional oversight requests unless made by the full committee.

In his letter, Mr. Bishop said that the Interior Secretary went above and beyond in soliciting comments on national monuments, holding a “first-of-its-kind public comment session, something that has never been done in the history of the Antiquities Act.”

“You can find the comments submitted by the public at the attached link,” said Mr. Bishop.

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