Trump's cuts to Utah monument spur lawsuit

Pauline Gross
December 8, 2017

The Bears Ears National Monument, created by former President Barack Obama before he left office, includes an estimated 100,000 archaeological sites. The moves earned him cheers from Republican leaders in Utah who lobbied him to undo protections they considered overly broad.

"The representatives of Utah have taken it upon themselves to declare war upon us ..." The White House didn't respond Monday to a CNN request for comment about legal action against Trump's decision. 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.

It marks the first time in a half century that a president has undone these types of land protections. "Trump.pdf" target="_blank">a lawsuit in a Washington, D.C. court on behalf of eight different organizations, alleging that in signing the proclamation, Trump "violated the 1906 Antiquities Act by stripping monument protections from this national treasure".

Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, designated in 1996 by President Bill Clinton, will be reduced from almost 1.9 million acres (nearly 3,000 square miles) to 1,003,863 acres (1,569 square miles). 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 tribes point to a federal lands law from the 1970s that says only Congress can actually reduce or nullify a national monument.

Outside Trump's announcement Monday, roughly 3,000 protesters lined up near the State Capitol. "And guess what? They're wrong", Trump said when he announced his decision Monday.

Bears Ears, created almost a year ago, will be reduced to 201,876 acres (315 square miles).

Grand Staircase-Escalante will become three separate monuments - Grand Staircase, Escalante Canyon, and Kaiparowits - totaling more than 1 million acres.

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Trump acted on a recommendation by Zinke, who also has urged that two other large national monuments in the West be reduced in size, potentially opening up thousands of acres of land revered for natural beauty and historical significance to mining, logging and other development.

Democrats and environmentalists accuse Trump and Zinke of engaging in a secretive process aimed at helping industry groups that have donated to Republican political campaigns. Orrin G. Hatch and Gov. Gary R. Herbert.

Trump said he was reversing federal overreach by drastically cutting the sprawling monuments named by Democratic presidents. He said the decision would "give back your voice".

Gene Karpinski, the head of the League of Conservation Voters, called the move "the largest attack on parks and public lands in our nation's history".

Hatch, who introduced President Trump, said that when "you talk, this president listens" and that President Trump promised to help him with "federal overreach". While past presidents have used the Antiquities Act to protect unique lands and cultural sites in America, Trump is instead mangling the law, opening this national monument to coal mining instead of protecting its scientific, historic, and wild heritage.

President Trump signed an executive order in April directing Zinke to review the protections. The Antiquities Act also expressly states that presidents should protect the important sites while using the smallest amount of land possible.

Zinke has also recommended to Trump that Nevada's Gold Butte and Oregon's Cascade-Siskiyou monuments be reduced in size, though details remain unclear. His plan would allow logging at a newly designated monument in ME and more grazing, hunting and fishing at two sites in New Mexico.

Other reports by GizPress

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