President Donald Trump is set to drastically slash two major pieces of federal lands in the American West in what’s seen as a major blow to legacy monuments created by both Barack Obama and Bill Clinton.
According to The Washington Times, Trump will travel to Salt Lake City, Utah on Monday to announce he’s slashing the size of two large swaths of federal land in Utah created under the Clinton and Obama administrations, the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument and the Bears Ears National Monument.
The plan, which has long been in the works, has drawn protests from environmentalists and Native American activists, who claim that the cuts are an insult to Native Americans and illegal, according to Fox News.
However, conservatives have long contended that both monuments were nothing more than an usurpation of land by the federal government by abusing the 1906 Antiquities Act.
The move has been a long time in coming; in October, it was reported that Trump had called Utah GOP Sen. Orrin Hatch and told him he was approving a plan by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke that would reverse federal protection on 3.6 million acres of land. In the case of Bears Ears National monument, that means a 85 percent reduction of federally-protected land.
Zinke has been reviewing the situation since this spring; the decision that Trump is expected to announce Monday would return control of the land to local governments as opposed to putting it under federal oversight.
While both the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument and the Bears Ears National Monument have been controversial land grabs, the latter has generated far more attention as of late.
On his way out the door last year, former President Obama decided to use the Antiquities Act to create the monument — one of 29 he created during his presidency for a grand total of 553 million acres of land under the control of the federal government.
The problem with that is that while the Antiquities Act does give the president the power to create monuments, it specifically states that they need to a) be confined to as small an area as possible and b) limited to “protecting specific artifacts or other items of cultural and historical significance,” according to The Washington Times.
Something tells me that could have been accomplished without taking 553 million acres. GOP Rep. Rob Bishop agrees, especially in the case of the two monuments in his home state of Utah.
“Utah has become ground zero for politically motivated national monument designations that are excessive in size and contemptuous of peoples’ livelihoods,” stated Rep. Bishop, chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee.
“The president has stood against prior abuses of executive power, and his administration has demonstrated a commitment to work in concert with local communities to protect unique public antiquities and objects the right way.”
This didn’t stop 5,000 protesters from coming out to Utah’s State Capitol on Saturday to rally against the plan. Because, you know, Donald Trump, “the resistance,” #NotMyPresident, etc.
“I want him to visit Bears Ears before he takes any action,” Navajo Nation Attorney General Ethel Branch said.
Well, I’m sure the president can visit it as state property — the way that it was before Obama took it.
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