Instead of former President Barack Obama designating such a large area, “it would have been more appropriate to identify and separate the areas that have significant objects to be protected,” Zinke wrote in the report.

The secretary also recommended Trump ask Congress take action to enable tribal co-management of the monument. The Interior Department is expected to complete a full review and offer more specific recommendations, including how much the size would change, later this year.

“It’s a little premature to throw out acreage,” Zinke said in a call with reporters Monday.

The move comes as little surprise, given Trump and Zinke’s previous comments criticizing recent monument designations.

Bears Ears is one of 27 American national monuments under threat by a pair of executive orders that Trump signed in April. One order tasks the Interior Department with reviewing all federal monuments 100,000 acres or larger that have been established or expanded under the Antiquities Act since Jan. 1, 1996. The other instructs the Department of Commerce to review all marine sanctuaries and monuments designated or expanded within the last 10 years.

Bears Ears is at the center of the monuments controversy, and the issue has divided many in Utah. Yet Trump gave Zinke a shorter time frame to conduct his review.

President Donald Trump with an executive order reviewing previous National Monument designations made under the Antiquities Act, during a signing ceremony at the Interior Department in Washington, D.C., in April.

In launching his review last month, Zinke insisted that “there is no predetermined outcome on any monument.” For those following closely, however, that seemed like nothing more than a talking point.

In April, when Trump signed the executive order tasking Zinke with reviewing 21 years of designations, he was flanked by Utah Gov. Gary Herbert (R) and the state’s U.S. Sens. Orrin Hatch (R) and Mike Lee (R) — staunch opponents of the Bears Ears monument. Trump spoke as if a reversal was already a done deal, as he praised the three men for their “never-ending prodding” on the issue.

It “is the right thing to do,” Trump told them of his views, adding that the Obama-era designation was done “over the profound objections of the citizens of Utah” and “should never have happened.” Trump boasted that he was looking to end “another egregious abuse of federal power,” “putting the states back in charge” of their lands, and freeing up now-protected areas to “tremendously positive things.”

Jennifer Rokala, executive director of the Center for Western Priorities, called Zinke’s recommendation “an undeniable attack on our national monuments and America’s public lands.”

“Instead of reinforcing America’s conservation heritage, Secretary Zinke is recommending President Trump take actions that are both unprecedented and illegal,” she said in a statement. “The law is clear: only Congress can modify or erase a national monument. This report, while disappointing, is not a surprise. President Trump made it clear the fix was in from the moment he signed the executive order, despite overwhelming public support for national monuments.”

In a video posted to Twitter on Saturday in advance of Zinke’s announcement, Hatch said Trump’s executive order gave Utah residents,…