|Trump signs proclamations shrinking Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments|
In Salt Lake City, Utah, Donald Trump on Monday signed a pair of proclamations to dismantle the Bears Ears National Monument and the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, two of the state’s national treasures.
Trump's actions reverse President Obama's orders to designate both Utah national monuments as protected lands.
Make no mistake about the move. It was made solely to open the door for oil, gas and other development on public land that has been protected before Trump's move.
The Bears Ears National Monument, a 1.35 million-acre home to thousands of Native American archeological and cultural sites, will shrink by about 85 percent.
The 1.87 million-acre Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, the largest land national monument in the country, will be cut in half.
The action by Trump is the largest reduction of national monuments in US history.
Trump will now face legal challenges over the new proclamations, most notably from the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition, the group of five Native American tribes that petitioned for Bears Ears to be given monument status.
Ethel Branch, the attorney general for the Navajo Nation, told reporters in a call ahead of Trump’s trip to Utah that the looming announcement was “absolutely shocking” and totally “disrespectful” of the decades of work that went into establishing Bears Ears...
“There was absolutely no consultation with our nation in advance of this decision. We were greatly upset by that. And ultimately, the president doesn’t have authority to take the steps he seeks to take on Monday. We plan to challenge that in court.”
While previous administrations have reduced the size of monuments before there is however no legal precedent that establishes Trump’s authority to abolish, shrink or otherwise weaken national monuments as only Congress has the legal power to rescind or weaken protections for monuments designated under the Antiquities Act.
Trump has threatened the future of 25 other national monuments as he has already signed executive orders in April ordering Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to review multiple sites for measures such as Monday's actions in Utah.