Trump moves to ‘reverse federal overreach,’ cuts down Bears Ears, Grand Staircase monuments

Saying it was his duty to “reverse federal overreach” by both the Obama and Clinton administrations, President Trump on Monday signed two proclamations to pare down and carve up both the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments in Utah. At a speech in Salt Lake City, Mr. Trump said previous presidents have greatly abused their power under the century-old Antiquities Act, and stretched the law past its limits in cordoning off millions of acres of land and placing them under government control. “Some people think the natural resources of Utah should be controlled by a small handful of very distant bureaucrats located in Washington. And guess what? They’re wrong,” the president said to a supportive crowd that chanted “Four more years” immediately after his address. The president’s long-awaited actions — the final result of a review of nearly two dozen national monuments undertaken by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke earlier this year — were immediately decried by environmentalists and Democrats who threatened to sue the White House. The legal fight over a president’s authority to chop up national monuments is expected to last for years, and courts have never ruled on the full extent of an executive’s authority in that regard. Mr. Trump didn’t address to the legality of his action, instead saying the decision simply came down to giving land control back to the people. “The families of communities of Utah know and love this land the best and you know best how to take care of your land. You know how to protect it,” he said. “They don’t know your land and truly they don’t care for your land like you do.” Mr. Trump’s proclamations will dramatically shrink both monuments. The Bears Ears National Monument, created by former President Obama in 2016, will be cut from a single 1.35 million-acre monument to three separate sites encompassing roughly 220,000 acres. The sprawling 1.9 million-acre Grand Staircase-Escalante site, a highly controversial monument birthed by President Clinton in 1996, will see its acreage cut in half. The remaining 1 million acres will be divided up into three separate monuments, the White House said. In both cases, the monument designations shut off huge areas of land to energy exploration, some types of recreation, and other activities. At Grand Staircase, the change will allow access to a major coal mine. At Bears Ears, uranium mines likely will now be able to be tapped. The reductions have long been a policy goal of Sen. Orrin Hatch, Utah Republican, and other lawmakers who saw the Trump administration as a golden opportunity to finally reverse egregious federal land grabs. Supporters of Mr. Trump’s actions say they’re the beginning of true reform of how national monuments are created and managed. “These new proclamations are a first step towards protecting identified antiquities without disenfranchising the local people who work and manage these areas,” said Rep. Rob Bishop, Utah Republican and chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee. “The next steps will be to move beyond symbolic gestures of protection and create substantive protections and enforcement and codify in law a meaningful management role for local governments, tribes and other stakeholders.”

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