SALT LAKE CITY — President Donald Trump signed proclamations Monday to scale back two sprawling national monuments in Utah, responding to what he has condemned as a “massive federal land grab” by the government.
Trump traveled to Salt Lake City to outline his intention to shrink the Bears Ears and the Grand-Staircase Escalante national monuments spanning millions of acres in Utah.
The two national monuments were among 27 that Trump ordered Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to review earlier this year.
Trump said in a speech at the Utah State Capitol that past presidential administrations had “severely abused” the purpose and spirit of a federal law that allows them to protect public lands by turning them into national monuments.
Trump said his action means that “public lands will once again be for public use.”
Utah’s Republican leaders, including Sen. Orrin Hatch, pressed Trump to launch the review, saying the monuments declared by Presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton locked up too much federal land.
Trump’s plans to curtail the strict protections on the sites have angered tribes and environmentalist groups who have vowed to sue to preserve the monuments.
In December, shortly before leaving office, Obama irritated Utah Republicans by creating Bears Ears National Monument on 1.35 million acres of land sacred to Native Americans and home to tens of thousands of archaeological sites, including ancient cliff dwellings.
Trump signed an executive order in April directing Zinke to conduct a review of the protections.
Trump is able to upend the protections under the 1906 Antiquities Act, which gives the president broad authority to declare federal lands as monuments and restrict their use.AlertMe