Trump moves to rescind National Monuments
President Trump this week is expected to take the first step toward potentially undoing national monuments created by his predecessors, and may set off an unprecedented legal battle in the process.
Mr. Trump’s looming executive order, first reported by The Salt Lake Tribune on Monday, will direct the Interior Department to review all monument designations for the past two decades, dating back to President Bill Clinton’s creation of the massive Grand Staircase-Escalante Monument in Utah in 1996.
The Interior Department is also expected to zero in on the 1.3 million-acre Bears Ears National Monument, also in Utah and established by former President Barack Obama in the final weeks of his term.
Mr. Obama set a record for the most land and sea set aside as national monuments, taking presidential authority under the century-old Antiquities Act to new levels. And by cordoning off those huge swaths, he shut them down to energy development and other activities.
Bears Ears was especially controversial. Not only did it come during the last month of Mr. Obama’s tenure, but the designation was made over the objections of many Utah lawmakers.
Critics of Mr. Obama’s use of the Antiquities Act welcomed news that the Trump administration plans to revisit the issue.
“We’re happy to see an administration finally taking action to resolve the many abuses of the Antiquities Act,” said Molly Block, spokeswoman for the House Natural Resources Committee, which has jurisdiction over national monuments.
But should Mr. Trump seek to formally roll back Bears Ears or any other monument, he’ll be entering a legal gray area, and his actions surely will be challenged in court by environmentalists.
The Antiquities Act, signed into law in 1906, gives the president clear authority to designate national monuments.
What’s unclear, however, is whether a president has the power to revoke a monument. Past presidents have decreased the size of monuments, but no president has tried to outright eliminate one.
“This is a frightening step toward dismantling the protection of some of America’s most important and iconic places: our national parks and monuments,” said Kieran Suckling, executive director of the Center for Biological Diversity.