Trump takes rare step to re­duce 2 na­tional mon­u­ments in Utah

El Dorado News-Times - - Front Page -

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump on Mon­day took the rare step of scal­ing back two sprawl­ing na­tional mon­u­ments in Utah, declar­ing that "pub­lic lands will once again be for pub­lic use" in a move cheered by Repub­li­can lead­ers who lob­bied him to undo pro­tec­tions they con­sid­ered overly broad.

The de­ci­sion marks the first time in a half cen­tury that a pres­i­dent has un­done th­ese types of land pro­tec­tions. Tribal and en­vi­ron­men­tal groups op­pose the de­ci­sion and be­gan fil­ing law­suits Mon­day in a bid to stop Trump and In­te­rior Sec­re­tary Ryan Zinke.

Trump made the plan of­fi­cial dur­ing a speech at the State Capi­tol, where he signed procla­ma­tions to shrink the Bears Ears and Grand Stair­case-Es­calante na­tional mon­u­ments. Both mon­u­ments en­com­pass mil­lions of acres of land.

State of­fi­cials said the pro­tec­tions were overly broad and closed off the area to en­ergy de­vel­op­ment and other ac­cess.

En­vi­ron­men­tal and tribal groups say the des­ig­na­tions are needed to pro­tect im­por­tant ar­chae­o­log­i­cal and cul­tural re­sources, es­pe­cially the more than 1.3 mil­lion-acre (2,030-square-mile) Bears Ears site fea­tur­ing thou­sands of Na­tive Amer­i­can ar­ti­facts, in­clud­ing an­cient cliff dwellings and pet­ro­glyphs.

Trump ar­gued that the peo­ple of Utah know best how to care for their land.

"Some peo­ple think that the nat­u­ral re­sources of Utah should be con­trolled by a small hand­ful of very

dis­tant bu­reau­crats lo­cated in Wash­ing­ton," Trump said. "And guess what? They're wrong."

Roughly 3,000 demon­stra­tors lined up near the State Capi­tol to protest Trump's an­nounce­ment. Some held signs that said, "Keep your tiny hands off our pub­lic lands," and they chanted, "Lock him up!" A smaller group gath­ered in sup­port, in­clud­ing some who said they fa­vor po­ten­tial drilling or min­ing there that could cre­ate jobs. Bears Ears has no oil or gas, Zinke told re­porters, though Grand Stair­case-Es­calante has coal.

"Your time­less bond with the out­doors should not be re­placed with the whims of reg­u­la­tors thou­sands and thou­sands of miles away," Trump said. "I've come to Utah to take a very his­toric ac­tion to re­verse fed­eral over­reach and re­store the rights of this land to your ci­ti­zens."

Bears Ears, cre­ated last De­cem­ber by Pres­i­dent Barack Obama, will be re­duced by about 85 per­cent, to 201,876 acres (315 square miles).

Grand Stair­case-Es­calante, designated in 1996 by Pres­i­dent Bill Clin­ton, will be re­duced from nearly 1.9 mil­lion acres (nearly 3,000 square miles) to 1,003,863 acres (1,569 square miles).

Both were among a group of 27 mon­u­ments that Trump or­dered Zinke to re­view this year.

Zinke ac­com­pa­nied Trump aboard Air Force One, as did Utah's Repub­li­can U.S. sen­a­tors, Or­rin Hatch and Mike Lee. Hatch and other Utah Repub­li­can lead­ers pushed Trump to launch the re­view, say­ing the mon­u­ments designated by the former Demo­cratic pres­i­dents locked up too much fed­eral land.

Trump framed the de­ci­sion as re­turn­ing power to the state, say­ing, "You know and love this land the best and you know the best how to take care of your land." He said the de­ci­sion would "give back your voice."

"Pub­lic lands will once again be for pub­lic use," Trump said to cheers.

Hatch, who in­tro­duced Trump, said that when "you talk, this pres­i­dent lis­tens" and that Trump promised to help him with "fed­eral over­reach."

Earthjus­tice filed the first of sev­eral ex­pected law­suits Mon­day, call­ing the re­duc­tion of Grand Stair­case-Es­calante an abuse of the pres­i­dent's power that jeop­ar­dizes a "Di­nosaur Shangri-la" full of fos­sils. Some of the di­nosaur fos­sils sit on a plateau that is home to one of the coun­try's largest known coal re­serves, which could now be open to min­ing. The or­ga­ni­za­tion is rep­re­sent­ing eight con­ser­va­tion groups.

Na­tive Amer­i­can lead­ers said they ex­pect to file a law­suit chal­leng­ing the Bears Ears de­ci­sion soon.

Patag­o­nia Pres­i­dent and CEO Rose Mar­cario said the out­door-ap­parel com­pany will join an ex­pected court fight against the mon­u­ment re­duc­tion, which she de­scribed as the "largest elim­i­na­tion of pro­tected land in Amer­i­can his­tory."

No pres­i­dent has tried to elim­i­nate a mon­u­ment, but some have re­duced or re­drawn the bound­aries on 18 oc­ca­sions, ac­cord­ing to the Na­tional Park Ser­vice. The most re­cent in­stance came in 1963, when Pres­i­dent John F. Kennedy slightly down­sized Ban­de­lier Na­tional Mon­u­ment in New Mex­ico.

Trump's move against Bears Ears, cover­ing lands con­sid­ered sa­cred to tribes that long pushed for pro­tec­tions, marks his lat­est af­front to Na­tive Amer­i­cans.

Trump over­rode tribal ob­jec­tions to ap­prove the Dakota Ac­cess and Key­stone XL oil pipe­lines. He also used a White House event hon­or­ing Navajo Code Talk­ers to take a po­lit­i­cal jab at Sen. El­iz­a­beth War­ren, a Mas­sachusetts Demo­crat he has nick­named "Poc­a­hon­tas" for her claim to have Na­tive Amer­i­can her­itage.

"One week ago to­day, our Code Talk­ers were dis­re­spected. And one week later, we get this," said Navajo Na­tion Vice Pres­i­dent Jonathan Nez, re­fer­ring to the mon­u­ments.

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