Environmental groups and Democrats blasted the GOP plan.
"The message that Utah is sending by even suggesting this is nothing short of outrageous," said Steve Bloch, legal director for the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance. "This would be a tragic mistake for the president to undo two decades of conservation work that has been heralded across the world as a visionary step by President Clinton to protect a world-class resource," he said, referring to Grand Staircase.
House Minority Leader Brian King, D-Salt Lake City, questioned, "Have they made any attempts to find out what people down there think?"
He said many residents in the Grand Staircase area now make their living in part from visitors to the monument. "I think people are getting a little ahead of themselves."
No president has ever attempted to rescind a monument, and many contend no such authority exists in law.
But Noel — who is under consideration by the Trump administration to become director of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management — said presidents have in 14 cases adjusted boundaries or the size of monuments, "so that's a given we can do that."
Bloch discounted that.
"The fact that presidents have made minor boundary adjustments over time, none of which were reviewed by federal courts, does not mean that President Trump has a green light to vastly alter the size of either Bears Ears or the Grand Staircase," he said.
Meanwhile, Noel told GOP lawmakers he feels legal arguments are strong that a president can rescind a monument. "A president can make a monument. Another president can reverse a monument."
But Bloch said the "conservation community would quickly litigate" any attempt to rescind Bears Ears or vastly reduce Grand Staircase.
Ever since President Barack Obama created the Bears Ears monument on Dec. 28 on his way out of office, local elected leaders have hoped aloud that Trump would try to reverse it. Now at the same time, they want him to erase parts of Grand Staircase, which was created over objections then by President Bill Clinton on Sept. 18, 1996.
"Both these monuments are in my district," Noel said. "Both of these monuments were illegal in my view. They were done as a result of wanting to pay off environmentalists," the conservative lawmaker alleged, citing provisions of the 1906 Antiquities Act that require a monument to be as small as possible to protect threatened resources.
Grand Staircase includes 1.9 million acres, which is larger than Delaware. Bears Ears has 1.35 million acres.
Noel said while GOP lawmakers plan to ask Trump for a full repeal of Bears Ears, "If that doesn't work, the next thing would be probably a partial repeal with an area selected around Bears Ears."
He said some talk was made of trying to reverse Grand Staircase after the Clinton administration when George W. Bush took office, but that administration declined.