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Trump orders review of national monuments, says Bears Ears ‘should never have happened’

First Published      Last Updated May 22 2017 02:48 pm


President praises Hatch’s efforts in pushing for a review of designations; tribal leaders and environmentalists say the move could lead to a “polluted wasteland.”

Washington • Beneath a portrait of Teddy Roosevelt, President Donald Trump said Wednesday his order to review national monument designations over the past 21 years would return power to the states and free up federal acreage for public use and access.

Tribal leaders and environmentalists agreed the effort could free up vast swaths of public lands — but for coal mining and oil and gas drilling.

While Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said he didn't want to pre-judge what recommendations he would make on the new Bears Ears National Monument in southern Utah or other monuments, Trump and Vice President Mike Pence said the executive order would result in changes to the designations by previous presidents and potential tweaks to the Antiquities Act that Roosevelt signed into law in 1906.




"The Antiquities Act does not give the federal government unlimited power to lock up millions of acres of land and water, and it's time we ended this abusive practice," Trump said in Zinke's Interior Department office. "I've spoken with many state and local leaders, a number of them here today, who care very much about preserving our land and who are gravely concerned about this massive federal land grab, and it's gotten worse and worse and worse, and now we're going to free it up, which is what should have happened in the first place.

"This should never have happened," Trump added.

Tribal leaders and conservationists panned Trump's order, saying that it could unravel protections for millions of acres. Presidents have changed the boundaries of their predecessor's monument designations but none has ever attempted to remove the protection outright.

Under the order, Zinke has 45 days to recommend possible changes to or rescission of Bears Ears and four months to report back on proposals for about 30 other monuments, including southern Utah's Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument named by President Bill Clinton in 1996.

"Today I'm signing a new executive order to end another egregious abuse of federal power," Trump said, "and to give that power back to the states and the people where it belongs."

The order does not mandate any changes to monuments.

Zinke said he would travel to Utah in early May and visit the Bears Ears region.

'Attack' on tribes • Tribal leaders who had pushed for the Bears Ears monument denounced the new effort that could lead to its undoing.

"The designation of Bears Ears National Monument has been a celebratory moment in our history, where our voice was finally heard and our cultural and spiritual heritage was respected," said Davis Filfred, Navajo Nation Council delegate. "Unfortunately, the Utah delegation has continued to attack tribes and this unnecessary executive order serves to undermine tribal sovereignty. If Secretary Zinke truly believes that 'sovereignty should mean something,' as he had said, we hope he will finally respond to the tribes' multiple requests to meet with him."

After the order was signed, Zinke said that he would meet with tribal leaders as part of his review.

Pence made clear the intent of the order was to reduce the size of existing monuments.

"In just a few moments, President Trump will begin to undo one of the great federal overreaches of recent decades: The abuse of the Antiquities Act by politicians in Washington, D.C., to grab land and power at the American people's expense," Pence said before Trump signed the order. "Under his leadership, we're going to once again work with the states to return power to the people who have the best ability to protect our nation's natural, historic and cultural treasures."

Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, who met privately with Trump and Pence after the signing, said he was unsure what recommendations would come out of the review but that he hopes it would be a solution that all sides could praise.

"I can't speak for the president but I can say he knows what I want," Hatch said. "He's done this basically for me."

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