President Donald Trump unveiled a plan Monday in Utah to dramatically scale back two national monuments – calling it an important move for ‘states’ rights.’
‘Some people think that the natural resources of Utah should be controlled by a small handful of very distant bureaucrats located in Washington. And guess what? They’re wrong,’ he said in the cavernous Utah Capitol Rotunda in Salt Lake City.
‘The families and communities of Utah know and love this land the best. And you know the best how to take care of your land. You know how to protect it, and you know best how to conserve this land for many, many generations to come,’ he said.
‘Your timeless bond with the outdoors should not be replaced with the whims of regulators thousands and thousands of miles away. They don’t know your land, and truly they don’t care for your land like you do.’
The Bears Ears and the Grand-Staircase Escalante national monuments span millions of acres in Utah and are among 27 national monuments that Trump ordered his Interior Secretary to review earlier this year.
The result, he said, is that ‘public lands will once again be for public use.’
As Trump signed a proclamation rolling back the Obama- and Clinton-era national monument designations, his audience briefly broke into a chant of ‘Four more years!’
President Donald Trump announced plans Monday in Utah to shrink two sprawling Utah national monuments by nearly two-thirds after Barack Obama and Bill Clinton expanded them
‘Some people think that the natural resources of Utah should be controlled by a small handful of very distant bureaucrats located in Washington. And guess what? They’re wrong,’ Trump said
Trump’s audience broke out into a brief chant of ‘Four more years!’ after he signed the national monument proclamation
‘Your timeless bond with the outdoors should not be replaced with the whims of regulators thousands and thousands of miles away,’ Trump said in the Utah state capitol’s rotunda
Bears Ears, a more than 1.3 million-acre site in southeastern Utah that features thousands of Native American artifacts, including ancient cliff dwellings and petroglyphs, is to be slashed by 85 per cent
The ‘House on Fire” ruins in Mule Canyonare part of Bears Ears National Monument, near Blanding, Utah
‘We’re going to be doing something that the state of Utah and others have wanted to be done for many, many years,’ the president said as he left the White House.
‘It will be one of the great, really, events in this country in a long time. So important for states’ rights and so important for the people of Utah.’
Trump commented Monday as he left the White House for a trip to Salt Lake City.
Trump previously had condemned the act of creating the Utah monuments as a ‘massive federal land grab.’
Utah Republican leaders had complained that the monuments locked up too much federal land.
And Trump said ‘this tragic federal overreach’ had resulted in ‘harmful restrictions on hunting, ranching and responsible economic development.’
The Natural Resources Defense Council, a moneyed liberal advocacy group, promised: ‘We’ll see Trump in court.’
‘We’ll stand up for the public lands and waters set aside as a public trust, in the public interest. And we’ll stand up for the rule of law.’
The NRDC argued that the Antiquities Act, a 1906 law that allows presidents to wall off millions of acres at a time from development, doesn’t permit Oval Office occupants to roll those protections back.
President Trump arrived in Utah on Monday, greeting well-wishers ahead of a speech where he will declare a rollback of multimillion-acre plots of federally protected lands
Trump said Monday on his way to Utah that dramatically scaling back the size of two national monuments would be a win for ‘state’s rights’
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke told a crowd in the Utah Capitol Rotunda that the Antiquities Act, an obscure law that Barack Obama used to broaden federal monuments in Utah, ‘was never meant to prevent. It was meant to protect.’
‘Our public land is for the public to use,’ Zinke said.
During his short Utah visit, the president also met with leaders from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, and toured the Mormon ‘Welfare Square,’ a facility that provides aid – and jobs – to poor families.
He complimented the LDS leaders for ‘the respect you have all over the world’ for taking care of people.
But outside, riot police had to disperse a crowd of people jeering the president with shouts of ‘Shame on you!’
Other protesters outside the state capitol yelled ‘F**k you Trump!’ as the president’s motorcade sped by
Trump traveled to Utah with Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch, a Utahan who has been in office since 1977 and faces a decision soon about whether to run for an eighth term.
Asked Monday if he was encouraging Hatch to run again, Trump gave reporters a clear ‘yes.’
Trump pushed a shopping cart through the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints’ food distribution center at LDS Welfare Square in Salt Lake City on Monday, accompanied by LDS President Henry B. Eyring (left)
Trump He joked during his speech an hour later in the state capitol rotunda that ‘I went around the store. I wanted a nice can of tuna fish and they had plenty!’
Protesters yelled ‘Shame on You!’ and ‘F**k you Trump!’ on Monday in front of the Utah state capitol; a different group of activists were dispersed by riot police outside the LDS Welfare Square facility
That’s seen as a move to block Mitt Romney, the 2012 GOP presidential nominee – who has been openly hostile to Trump – from running.
WHAT’S ALL THE FUSS ABOUT?
When Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante were designated national monuments, most public use of the millions of acres – other than hiking – was prohibited.
That included hunting and fishing, and allowed the Interior Department to issue only a limited number of livestock grazing permits.
It also prohibited Americans from building bathrooms and fire pits.
More consequentially, it put most of those lands off-limits for mining, oil and gas drilling, and logging.
And most motorized vehicles, including trucks, ATVs and motorbikes were shut out.
Returning most of those acres to local control will reverse what oil and gas companies call a federal land grab.
National monuments are somewhat like national parks: lands that are protected by law from most development.
While Congress creates national parks, howveer, national monuments are created by presidents under the 1906 Antiquities Act, a law that allows the White House to unilaterally mark millions of acres off-limits.
The Antiquities Act requires presidents to limit their national monument designations to the ‘the smallest area compatible’ with the care of the land.
Asked if he was sending a message to Romney, Trump would only say: ‘He’s a good man. Mitt’s a good man.’
Hatch introduced Trump on Monday, saying he had the ‘redundant task’ of introducing the most famous man in the world.
Trump’s move to shrink the sprawling Utah national monuments by nearly two-thirds overall has drawn howls from environmentalists and some tribal leaders, who call the move illegal and another affront to Native Americans.
San Juan County, Utah Commissioner Rebecca Benally, a Navajo native, spoke Monday before Trump and said she was outraged by the establishment of the Bears Ears National Monument ‘in our own backyard.’
Benally, a Democrat, said her people had been denied access to ‘an area larger than Rhode Island and Delaware’ where they had harvested medicinal plants and harvested wood for centuries.
She cast the battle over Bears Ears as a struggle between natives who want to stay connected to their ancestral lands and bureaucrats who want to control them.
Trump shrunk Bears Ears by nearly 85 percent and reduce Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument by almost half.
The plan would cut the total amount of land in the state’s red rock country protected under monument status from more than 3.2 million acres (5,000 square miles) to about 1.2 million acres (1,875 square miles).
Sen. Martin Heinrich, a New Mexico Democrat, said after Trump’s speech that his decision ‘tears at the heart of America’s conservation legacy and is a direct assault on sacred lands and tribal sovereignty.’
Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch traveled with Trump aboard Air Force One to Salt Lake City
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke rode in the Bears Ears National Monument in Blanding, Utah earlier this year while plans were being drawn up to shrink their scale
‘President Trump has denied future generations the opportunity to learn about the past and explore the remote mesas and canyons that have inspired visitors and inhabitants, dating back thousands of years,’ he claimed.
‘I’m confident that this shameful action will rightly face the same types of legal challenges as others pushed through by a White House hell-bent on appeasing a few extreme interests at the expense of the interests and values of the American people,’ Heinrich added.
The proposals prompted an outcry from environmental groups, tribal leaders and others who say Trump’s actions threaten important archaeological and cultural resources, especially Bears Ears, a more than 1.3 million-acre site in southeastern Utah that features thousands of Native American artifacts, including ancient cliff dwellings and petroglyphs.
Trump has told Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch and other Utah officials that he will follow the recommendation of Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to shrink both monuments, but the White House and Zinke’s office have not offered details about how they’d redraw the monument boundaries.
How it’s expected to happen: The reduced scale of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument was revealed in leaked documents
Little left: One leaked document showed how the scale of the Bears Ears National Monument could be reduced
The proposed changes would be the most significant reductions by any president to monument designations made under the 1906 Antiquities Act, which gives the president wide authority to protect federal sites considered historic or geographically or culturally significant.
Trump ordered Zinke to review 27 monuments created in the past two decades, with Bears Ears the top priority. Trump called some monument designations by his Democratic predecessors a ‘massive federal land grab’ that ‘should never have happened.’
President Barack Obama created the Bears Ears monument last year after tribal leaders and environmental groups clamored for protection of land considered sacred by Native Americans.
Grand Staircase-Escalante was created by President Bill Clinton in 1996.
Supporters of the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments gathered during a rally on Saturday in Salt Lake City
A spokeswoman for the Interior Department said the newspaper ‘has very old, outdated and inaccurate information.’
The spokeswoman, Heather Swift, declined to offer any other details.
But the NRDC called it ‘an unprecedented attack on our nation’s most cherished public lands.’
‘This is unprecedented – and it’s illegal,’ the group’s president Rhea Suh said.
‘Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante are iconic American lands. In stripping out their needed protections, Trump swept aside the voices of the American people, nearly three million of whom filed formal comments calling for him to leave the monuments alone. Trump is breaking the promise we’ve made, as a nation – to future Americans and to all Americans – to forever protect these lands,’ the group said.
Utah’s Republican leaders, including Hatch, have said the monuments declared by Obama and Clinton unnecessarily locked up too much land and asked Trump to shrink or rescind them.
Hatch said in a statement Thursday that ‘details of the president’s announcement are his and his alone to share,’ but added: ‘I appreciate his willingness to listen to my advice and even more importantly, to give the people of Utah a voice in this process.’
Trump’s action, ‘following Secretary Zinke’s fair, thorough and inclusive review, will represent a balanced solution and a win for everyone on all sides of this issue,’ Hatch said.
Natalie Landreth, an attorney for the Native American Rights Fund, said her group has already drafted a lawsuit to challenge Trump’s action, which she called unprecedented and illegal.
‘He will not be able to bask in one day of applause at the Salt Lake City airport’ before being sued, she said.
Randi Spivak, public lands program director at the Center for Biological Diversity, an environmental group, called Trump’s actions a disgrace. ‘He wants to turn public lands over to corporations to mine, frack, bulldoze and clear-cut until there’s nothing left,’ she said.