Utah reacts to President Trump’s visit and his monument announcements

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Glenn Hayes, Grand Junction, Colorado, holds a sign as protesters gather for President Trump's visit to Utah, in front of the Utah State Capitol Building, as he is expected to shrink the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase monuments, iMonday, December 4, 2017.

Utah residents and politicians took to social media Monday in anticipation of President Donald Trump’s visit to announce major changes to two of the state’s national monuments.

Sources familiar with the trip confirmed Tuesday that Trump plans to announce that he’ll shrink both Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante monuments today. The Washington Post obtained leaked documents Tuesday that suggest Trump will strip protections from two of the nation’s most scientifically significant landscapes, the Kaiparowits Plateau and Cedar Mesa. The order likely came from recommendations Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke made earlier this year.

The recommendations have earned both praise and criticism across the state. Here’s a live look at what people are saying today:

Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes: “Today, with the designation of five new monument units, President Trump has taken a historic step to correct the hubris of past administrations. The new designations are much closer in scope to the ‘smallest areas compatible with proper care and management’ of protected objects, as required by the Antiquities Act. These corrections were made after extensive input from local citizens and interests, including tribal members, conservationists, ranchers, hunters, business owners and elected representatives. President Trump and Secretary Zinke have found a balance that considers the needs of our local communities and still protects the singular, stunning, and sacred lands of our state for future generations. Over the history of the Antiquities Act, national monuments have been reviewed and modified by subsequent presidents. It is no surprise, given the disproportionate original designations, that President Trump would reduce these monuments to be more consistent with the intent of the Antiquities Act. Such remedial measures would not be necessary if Congress would clarify the limits of initial monument designations. I echo the statement of Secretary Zinke that executive power under the Act is no substitute for congressional action. We are hopeful that our elected representatives in Washington, D.C. will pass legislation that makes political games with Utah’s public lands less likely in the future. The Utah Attorney General’s Office will continue to monitor the process with interest and will continue to protect Utah, its people, and its lands, from federal overreach.”

Western Watersheds Project Executive Director Erik Molvar: “This effort to open up our national monuments to looting for private profit cannot be allowed to stand. America is getting fed up with politically connected good-old-boys and their cronies in Washington who think they can pillage and plunder the national treasures of our public lands. These National Monuments are the priceless inheritance of our grandchildren, and are sacred to the Navajo, Zuni, Hopi, and Ute peoples. They deserve sound stewardship and protection, and their fragile and spectacular public lands and the natural communities they support must be shielded from the ravages of industrial use and commercial exploitation. We’re fighters, and we won’t stand for these attacks on National Monuments, and neither will the voting public.”

FreedomWorks Foundation President Adam Brandon: “Today we applaud President Trump, Interior Secretary Zinke, and their teams for arriving at this reasonable approach to these national monuments. We agree that priceless historic and natural wonders should be protected for future generations to enjoy. However, we find it despicable that the previous administration preyed on this nonpartisan sentiment in order to achieve political objectives that included expanding the power of the federal government over the states and obstructing industries they didn’t like. Unilaterally declaring national monuments larger than some states is ridiculous on its face. We know our activists in Utah and across the country appreciate the Trump administration’s more humble approach to the power of his pen and phone.”

Chris Saeger, executive director of the Western Values Project: “This decision is a dangerous turn in our nation’s approach to protecting the places that have forged the Western way of life. The fact that an American president would unlawfully remove protections on iconic public lands for political gain should deeply disturb anyone who wants these places, which are a birthright to our children, to continue to benefit all of us. For his part, Secretary Zinke should be ashamed of his role in this craven decision to allow special interests to exploit the kinds of places President Roosevelt signed the Antiquities Act to protect. Fortunately, legal experts overwhelmingly agree that undoing these protections is unlawful and will not stand. Future generations are counting on our system of checks and balances to stand up to this shocking abuse of power.”

Rep. Chris Stewart (R-Utah): “The Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument resides in my district. I have seen firsthand the damage that the monument has caused to the local economy. My constituents have been in a desperate need of change, and today President Trump delivered. President Trump had the courage that no other president had. He listened to local voices that had been left out of the decision-making process for too long. On behalf of the county commissioners, the state legislators who represent the area, and the entire federal delegation, we say thank you, Mr. President.”

Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT): “President Trump did the people of Utah a great favor today by rolling back harmful land use restrictions in southern Utah,” Sen. Lee said. “The president has done his part and now it is time for Congress to act to protect the people of Utah from federal overreach in the future. That is why I will be introducing legislation later this week that would give Utah similar protections from Antiquities Act abuse that the states of Wyoming and Alaska currently enjoy.”

Rep. John Curtis (UT-3): “I am grateful to President for coming to Utah to help us resolve this important issue. Now that the President has created two new monuments in my congressional district, the time has come for congress to ensure that these sites are managed the right way. In the coming days, I look forward to introducing legislation to ensure we are just doing that.”

Executive Director of The Center for Western Priorities Jennifer Rokala: “Today President Trump is sacrificing tribal heritage, paleontological discoveries, and the small business owners who drive America’s outdoor economy, all in the name of coal, oil, and uranium. We’ve never seen an attack on America’s parks and public lands at this scale.“This is the Trump legacy. He is the first president in American history to try to strip protections from millions of acres set aside for our children and grandchildren.”

From Boyd Matheson, Sutherland Institute president: “The changes brought about by the president’s actions were truly the culmination of countless, and often thankless hours of effort by an army of individuals and groups. The president listened to the combined voices of citizens, tribal members, small communities, and elected officials from the county, state and federal levels. The president’s action today is worth celebrating. The way that this reduction in monument size actually came about is worth emulating. The process of getting to good policy is a team effort and the ultimate credit should go to the Utah model – everyone doing their part.”

From Matthew Anderson, director of Sutherland Institute’s Coalition for Self-Government in the West: “Without substantive reform to the Antiquities Act, our national monuments will continue to be popular political footballs being punted back and forth with each change in presidential administration. No one wins in such a kicking game – not our public lands, not the antiquities themselves, and certainly not the people who live in the West’s rural communities. It’s time for all sides to draw on their shared love of public lands and come to a permanent solution.”

Americans for Prosperity Vice President of External Affairs, Chrissy Harbin released the following statement: “Previous administrations abused their power under the Antiquities Act in order to keep land off limits. President Trump and Secretary Zinke’s actions in reviewing and resizing past administration’s monument designations is a welcome step in reducing government overreach. We will continue to work with lawmakers in Congress and the Department of Interior to prioritize conservation efforts, encourage sustainable economic development, and empower the voice of local communities.”

Americans for Prosperity-Utah’s State Director, Evelyn Everton released the following statement: “President Trump’s decision to resize these national monuments after historic federal land seizures is a huge victory for the state of Utah. With over $18 billion of maintenance work needed on federal lands managed by federal agencies, the federal government has proven to be a poor caretaker of federal lands. We applaud the Trump administration’s actions in ensuring local economies that depend on the land’s resources will not be harmed and important historic objects and sites at national monuments will be protected. This will increase economic competitiveness, especially in rural parts of the state.”

DNC Chair Tom Perez: “President Trump’s decision to shrink these national monuments and open them up to oil, gas and mining companies is an appalling overreach of his authority. Trump would rather sell off our public lands to the highest bidder than preserve our greatest natural resources. Even worse, opening up these lands to corporate exploitation will desecrate some of the most important cultural sites considered sacred by many Native American tribes in the region, betraying our government’s commitments to those Native communities. Democrats are committed to standing up against the Trump administration’s efforts to auction off our public lands to special interests and corporate polluters. And we’ll fight tooth and nail to protect our most sacred natural parks, lands, and monuments for future generations.”

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke: “The president is doing this for the right reasons, to make sure Utah has a voice."

House Speaker Greg Hughes: “The little guy’s wish was heard. The community’s voice was heard.”

San Juan County Commissioner Rebecca Benally: “Thank you, President Trump. Thank you for not being a typical politician and passing us over.”

Rhea Suh, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council: “This is unprecedented — and it’s illegal. Presidents use the Antiquities Act to create national monuments and protect our special lands and waters for future generations. This president thinks he can use it to destroy them, grabbing the iconic landscapes and marine areas all Americans own, and handing them over to polluters and private interests. He does not have that authority. We will stand up for the millions of people who’ve asked the Trump administration to preserve — and not rip apart — our national monuments. What’s next, President Trump — the Grand Canyon? See you in court.”

Former Gov. Mike Leavitt: “The process of using the Antiquities Act to set aside vast areas of land was not the intent of that law, and it was not the appropriate process to go through. But I think there is land there that should be protected. I believe there were other designations they could have used other than a national monument to provide protection. “

Utah Democratic Party Chairman Daisy Thomas: "Today, the President has come to Utah to rob Americans of their natural inheritances, public lands, and to perpetuate injustice against the First Nations of the Southwest. His actions are overreaching and damaging to the traditions of the Executive Office. Republican or Democrat, we all agree that a President whose sole agenda is to reverse the actions of a former President is dangerous and counterproductive."

Phil Lyman, San Juan County Commissioner: “It’s momentous,” he said, adding he wants more action to halt gamesmanship by future presidents. “For me, it’s a first down. We’re looking for a touchdown. We need the Antiquities Act [that allow presidents to create monuments] reined in so that we don’t just become a football punched back and forth in the monument debate,” Lyman said. “We’d like to see Congress act so we have certainty about the future.”

Senate President Wayne Niederhauser, R-Sandy: “It puts us in a position where we may let the process work, instead of one person deciding. There was a process where people were coming together, but the previous president [Obama] circumvented that, and decided without listening to all the parties,” he said. “Now we can come together. We believe in the process.”

U.S. Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah: “The hard part starts now. It was easy to come to where we are today. Now we are going to have to up our game and put into statute the protections we are talking about today. It’s not that easy. It’s been done in the past. It can happen again.”

Utah House Majority Leader Brad Wilson, R-Kaysville: “We appreciate him very much listening to our resolutions earlier this year. This is very important for the state, both to have this issue resolved in a way that we think is more equitable — but also to have our voice hear. It’s great,” Wilson said.

Rep. Mike Noel, R-Kanab: “This is an amazing day. We’ve been waiting for this 21 years,” he said. “We’ve been waiting since 1996 to have this downsized. The majority of people are 100 percent supportive of it. We’re excited. I have all my family here to see it.”

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