Trump Wants to Drastically Shrink These National Monuments

Hoodoos are among the natural wonders in Bears Ears National Monument.                       Bill Weir

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.

Trump announced Monday that he would follow Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke's recommendations to reduce Bears Ears National Monument by over 80% to 228,337 acres and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument by roughly 45% to about one million acres.

Lucas St. Clair, whose family donated the land, said he remained optimistic that the president would retain the property for future generations.

"The Antiquities Act was created to protect rather than prevent, and no president, under the authority of the Antiquities Act, has the authority to arbitrarily remove the public from their lands, reduce public access, reduce hunting and fishing and reduce traditional uses, unless those uses threaten the object", Zinke said.

Leaked maps revealed proposals to shrink boundaries at Bears Ears national park from 1.3 million acres to 201,000 acres while Grand Staircase Escalante will be slashed by half to just under one million acres.

"We want the land to pretty much remain the way it is", he said.

In a statement Monday, Heidi McIntosh from Earthjustice's Rocky Mountains office said: "President Trump has perpetrated a bad violation of America's public lands and heritage by going after this dinosaur treasure trove". A coalition of Native American tribes also said it would sue the Trump Administration over the reduction of the Bears Ears Monument.

Unlike national parks that can only be created by an act of Congress, national monuments can be designated unilaterally by presidents under the century-old Antiquities Act, a law meant to protect sacred sites, artifacts and historical objects.

This is the largest elimination of protected land in American history.

The laws states that once a president designates a piece of land a national monument, it can not be changed.

According to Earthjustice, the Antiquities Act grants presidents the authority to designate public land as federally protected areas under national monuments to safeguard significant features of natural, cultural, historic or scientific interest. They say Monday's action will open the public land to mining and drilling. Grand Staircase-Escalante will be reduced from almost 3,000 sq. miles to 1,569 sq. miles. 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. The most recent instance came in 1963, when President John F. Kennedy slightly downsized Bandelier National Monument in New Mexico. The law gives presidents broad authority to declare federal lands as monuments and restrict their use.

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