Former President Bill Clinton denounced President Donald Trump’s decision to shrink Utah’s Grand Staircase-Escalante and Bears Ears national monuments, saying it was a bad move in multiple ways.
Clinton prefaced his remarks by recalling his contentious choice to protect Grand Staircase-Escalante during his presidency — and the positive feedback he got for it five years after — and said he was “mystified and heartbroken” about the recent cuts.
“I think this is the wrong economic decision. I know it’s the wrong environmental decision. I think it’s the wrong cultural decision,” he said. “I mean, this is supposed to be a time in which he honor the native-born over immigrants. The only true native-born Americans are the tribal people who live in the area protected, who all oppose this”
During Trump’s visit to Salt Lake City on Monday, he signed two proclamations to shrink the federally protected lands by about 2 million acres and replace them with five smaller monuments.
While Utah politicians lauded Trump’s decision, environmentalists and tribal groups protested. A coalition of conservation organizations quickly countered the move with a lawsuit, arguing the Antiquities Act doesn’t allow the current president to diminish or rescind former president’s monument designations.
Clinton proclaimed Grand Staircase-Escalante as a national monument in 1996, and Barack Obama did the same for Bears Ears in 2016.
While Clinton’s decision upset local residents and Utah’s majority Republican government — ultimately losing then-Utah Congressman and Democrat Bill Orton his job — Utahns later told Clinton they were grateful because the decision brought eco-tourists and other economic opportunities to southern Utah, he said.
Clinton made the remark Tuesday at Conservation International’s 30th anniversary gala dinner in New York. A transcript of his statement was sent to the Salt Lake Tribune.