Trump to order review of national monuments

Posted April 26, 2017

Zinke did not offer any specifics on possible executive actions, expected on Wednesday and Friday, calling for reviews of national monument designations under the Antiquities Act of 1906 and access to offshore oil and gas exploration, according to a Reuters report.

Utah Republicans were infuriated when Obama created the Bears Ears National Monument in December on more than 1 million acres of land that's sacred to Native Americans and home to tens of thousands of archaeological sites, including ancient cliff dwellings.

While the president has the ability to designate public lands as national monuments, it's unclear whether the Antiquities Act allows for the White House to rescind or diminish the size of previously designated monuments.

Utah Republicans, angry that Obama designated the land for federal protection, have called on the Trump administration to remove the protection and give the parcel back to the state - possibly to authorize drilling.

Monument supporters state that the order will result in a verification that the monument was created under proper use of the Antiquities Act. The monuments are controversial in the rural West.

Speaking at an an Outdoor Industry Association event Tuesday, Zinke said the department's employees sometimes appear "too heavy-handed" in the name of law enforcement on public lands.

Utah Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch also condemned Bears Ears and other monuments Obama created. "I'm not scared of getting sued", he said.

St. Clair, who led the monument push on behalf of his mother, Burt's Bees co-founder Roxanne Quimby, who acquired the land, said there's strong local support for the monument, especially now that residents can see the trails and loop road take shape thanks to a $40 million endowment.

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Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke told reporters on Tuesday Trump's executive order would require him to conduct the review of around 30 national monuments and recommend which designations should be lifted or resized over the coming months.

At the onset of the Antiquities Act use in the early 1900s, Zinke said new monuments were about 422 acres, while today's monuments often comprise millions of acres.

Zinke told the Senate Energy and Commerce Committee this year that he would be open to reviewing recent national monument declarations. "The president is satiating the greed of industry and blatantly dismissing the wishes of the vast majority of Americans, who overwhelmingly want to see these areas protected for future generations".

Thanks to national monument designations, places that celebrate America's diversity and history are forever protected. EOG Resources, a Texas-based company, was recently approved to drill near Bears Ears.

"This executive order is the beginning of an all-out assault on America's public lands", Center for Western Priorities Executive Director Jennifer Rokala said in a statement. Secretary Zinke has said as much.

Trump previously went on the record as wanting to keep public lands in public hands, seeming to repudiate the ascendant "land takeover" fringe in state legislatures and the halls of Congress. In the case of Bears Ears, he said that the federal government should coordinate with Utah officials and lawmakers.

For now, it remains unclear exactly how aggressive the Trump administration will be in dismantling Obama's public lands legacy and weakening the Antiquities Act.

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