President Trump Reclaims Public Lands for Public Use

(by Pat Fillows)

Today President Trump signed two proclamations effectively scaling back the size of  federally protected lands in Utah.

Citing what he perceives as governmental overreach by his predecessors, President Trump stated that both President Obama and President Clinton acted outside their authority when declaring huge tracts of western lands off limits to use and development.

President Trump called this an abuse of the “purpose, spirit and intent” of a  the Antiquities Act, which requires presidents to limit the monument designation to “the smallest area compatible with proper care and management of the objects to be protected.”

“These abuses of the Antiquities Act give enormous power to faraway bureaucrats at the expense of people who work here, live here, and make this place their home,” President Trump said.

“Because we know that people who are free to use their land and enjoy their land are the people who are most determined to preserve their land.”

This is the largest rollback of federally protected lands in U.S. history.

Per the President’s order, the Bears Ears National Monument will downsize from over 1.5 million acres of restricted use land, down to 220,000 acres.

Bears Ears National Monument, designated by President Barack Obama currently encompasses 1.5 million acres in southern Utah, including the twin mesas that give the monument its name.

The Bears Ears and its surrounding areas are considered sacred to many American Indian tribes.

The Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument will still maintain over 1 million acres, but will shrink from over 2 million according to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke.

Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, designated by President Bill Clinton in 1996 contains a series of escalating canyons and gorges. At 2 million acres it is the largest land area designated as a national monument, also located in southern Utah.

Ranchers, local governments, and some tribal leaders, as well as other residents; have applauded the President’s decision.

But some environmental groups and most tribal groups have condemned the decision promising to bring the fight to court while questioning the president’s ability to rescind a national monument without an act of Congress.

Under the 1906 Antiquities Act, national monuments can be designated by either Congress or the president.

President Obama was the most active in doing so, designating new and expanded monuments,  and bringing more land and water under federal protection than any prior president.

President Trump’s proclamations specifically targeted the two monuments in Utah.