President Trump Launches Attack on Bears Ears, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments

Marsha Scott
December 6, 2017

Speaking at the Utah State Capitol, Trump said that his administration would shrink the size of both of these monuments, with Bears Ears being shrunk by up to 85 percent.

Native American tribes and conservation groups are mounting legal challenges, even as the administration turns its focus to possibly shrinking half a dozen more in other states.

The recommendation came as a result of an executive order Trump signed in April asking for a review of his predecessors' use of the Antiquities Act to designate federal lands as national monuments.

Their suit questions President Trump's authority to modify or replace national monuments created by predecessors. But it also gave presidents the authority to create national monuments on their own without Congress.

Unlike national parks, which are established by Congress, the Antiquities Act allows national monuments to be designated either by Congress or the president.

The reasoning behind the move is to designate as protected "the smallest area compatible with the protection of the objects of scientific or historic interest", and the proclamation also opens the newly public lands to "disposition under all laws relating to mineral and geothermal leasing; and location, entry, and patent under the mining laws".

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The Bears Ears National Monument, designated by Obama by proclamation a year ago, now encompasses 1.35 million acres in southern Utah, including the distinctive twin mesas that give the monument its name. Bears Ears was established by President Obama in 2016, while Grand Staircase-Escalante was established in 1996 by President Clinton.

A Zinke-led study into national monument declarations says that Trump should shrink OR and California's Cascade-Siskiyou and Nevada's Gold Butte national monuments by small amounts.

But there's another tricky issue here.

That's partly why there was so much opposition to Bears Ears, which originally was 1.3 million acres in size. The Antiquities Act also expressly states that presidents should protect the important sites while using the smallest amount of land possible. The President's move was met with protests in Utah and in San Francisco by environmentalists and some Native Americans. "Public lands will once again be for public use, because we know that people who are free to use their land and enjoy their land are the people most determined to conserve their land", he said. "He understands what rural communities are about".

Zinke declined to specify how many acres he wants to remove from monument status, stressing that the administration is working with Nevada's governor and congressional delegation to find a solution.

Other reports by MaliBehiribAe

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