Trump defends scaling back Utah monuments

Aaron Brown
December 6, 2017

The two monuments were created by Democrats Barack Obama and Bill Clinton under a century-old law that allows presidents to protect sites considered historically, geographically or culturally important.

President Trump's decision to shrink two national monuments in Utah has already caused an outcry from conservation advocates and Native American tribes.

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. Using the same reasoning as for reducing the size of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Trump wants to cut down the approximately 1.35 million acres, designated as federally protected land by former President Barack Obama on December 28, 2016, by over 1.15 million acres, down to only 201,876 acres. "All five tribes will be standing together united to defend Bears Ears", said Natalie Landreth, an attorney for the Native American Rights Fund, which believes the cut would violate the Antiquities Act. "We will be fighting back immediately".

Before President Trump even finished his triumphal visit to Utah yesterday, the first lawsuits were being filed.

Trump previously had condemned the act of creating the Utah monuments as a "massive federal land grab".

Trump's announcement, which amounts to the largest rollback of national monument land designation in USA history, follows a months-long review by the Interior Department that he ordered in April to identify which of 27 monuments designated by past presidents should be rescinded or resized to provide states and local governments more control of the land.

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Zinke said Tuesday he would focus changes in Gold Butte on the site's water districts.

Zinke said his review looked at 150 monuments, with 27 getting the most scrutiny. The Navajo Nation, the Hopi, the Ute Mountain Ute, the Ute Indian Tribe of the Uintah and Ouray Reservation and the Zuni tribes all are in support of Bears Ears National Monument.

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

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. He also calls for a new assessment of border-safety risks at a monument in southern New Mexico. The federal government controls about two thirds of Utah.

Bruce Adams, chairman of the San Juan County Commission is glad President Trump is considering shrinking monuments across the American West.

Other reports by Free-Prsite

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