President Trump officially shrinks Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments

President Trump announced Monday in Utah his plan to shrink Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments. The announcement at the foot of the Utah State Capitol building came in the form of a presidential decree that aims to unprotect more than 2 million acres of federal land.

“I’ve come to Utah to take a very historic action: to reduce federal overreach and restore the rights to this land to your citizens,” President Trump stated.

The long-anticipated decision came after a four-month review of 27 national monuments by Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke earlier this year. The report he filed to the president recommended altering boundaries to six national monuments, while changing management plans to four others.

As The Boston Globe points out, “It represents the most significant reduction ever to a previous president’s national monument designation.”

That stated, President Trump would not be the first president to ever shrink a monument — Woodrow Wilson reduced Mount Olympus by half its size in 1915 and Franklin Roosevelt diminished the Grand Canyon monument by nearly 72,000 acres in 1940. Both of these sites eventually became national parks.

Environmental groups, conservationists and many of the native tribes in the Utah region say the move will threaten historical sites and wilderness while possibly opening the door for land sales to natural resource extraction companies.

But many conservative lawmakers and Westerners claim the decision combats years of federal land grabs by democratic administrations. Both sides of the aisle were present for the president’s speech in Utah announcing the decision on Monday.

Many analysts see this divide as a dispute that will be solved by the court system. As The New York Times stated:

“The decision to reduce Bears Ears National Monument, a sprawling region of red rock canyons, is expected to trigger a legal battle that could alter the course of American land conservation, possibly opening millions of protected public acres to oil and gas extraction, mining, logging and other commercial activities.”

President Trump has been outspoken from the outset about his feelings on the Utah national monuments he decided to reduce on Monday, and he has also been vocal about his support for fossil fuel industries. Whether or not that opens these now unprotected lands to fossil fuel companies for federal leases remains to be seen.

As the president stated in his speech today, “Some people think that the natural resources of Utah should be controlled by a very small handful of distant bureaucrats located in Washington. And guess what, they’re wrong. Our precious national treasures must be protected, and from now on they will be protected. Public lands will once again be for public use.”

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