Under the guise of giving the American people what they want, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has been given authority by President Trump to review any national monument created since January 1, 1996 that spans at least 100,000 acres with the intent of either rescinding them or resizing them.
The Washington Post reports that Trump is expected to sign a executive order Wednesday in order to authorize the review, which will consider monuments established by former presidents Barack Obama ,George W. Bush and Bill Clinton under the 1906 Antiquities Act which allows presidents to protect threatened federal lands.
According to Reuters, the move is part of Trump’s promise to reverse environmental protections set by his predecessor as part of his larger plan to use federally-protected land for mining, development and drilling. The national monuments at the center of the executive order are both in Utah. Grand Staircase-Escalante was designated by Bill Clinton in 1996 and Bears Ear was designated by Barack Obama in the last few weeks of his presidency.
The Bears Ear monument was created specifically by the Obama administration in an attempt to preserve the “cultural legacy” of the Navajo and four other tribes but was met with opposition from Utah’s governor who claimed it went against the wishes of the people of the state who are clamoring for development. This is what Zinke has latched onto as justification for the review.
“It restores the trust between local communities and Washington,” Zinke said adding that it will also “give Americans a vice and make sure their voices are heard.” The decision to review Bears Ears in particular has caused concern with conservationists who rightfully see the executive order and its potential for harm as a huge threat. It should be noted that Republican lawmakers in Utah were all staunchly opposed to the designation of Bears Ears, but that’s no surprise there.
Like so many other things happening in this administration, making a change to a national monument after it’s been designated as such is “new ground for the government,” according to Zinke. “I am not going to predispose what the outcome is going to be,” he said. “It is untested, as you know, whether the president can do that.”