WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump will sign an executive order Wednesday instructing the Interior Department to review national monument designations made over the past two decades.
Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said he was grateful that Trump was moving to roll back what Hatch called “massive federal land grabs” by presidents dating to Bill Clinton. Hatch and other Utah Republicans have long lamented Clinton’s 1996 designation of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in southern Utah.
“For years, I have fought every step of the way to ensure that our lands are managed by the Utahans that know them best and cherish them deeply,” Hatch said in a statement. “That’s why I’m committed to rolling back the egregious abuse of the Antiquities Act to serve far-left special interests,” including Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante.
The Antiquities Act of 1906 authorizes the president to declare federal lands of historic or scientific value to be “national monuments” and restrict how the lands can be used.
President Barack Obama infuriated Utah Republicans when he created the Bears Ears National Monument in December.
While the 1.3 million acres of land is sacred to Native Americans and home to tens of thousands of archaeological sites, including ancient cliff dwellings, and found support among some Native Americans, other Native Americans in San Juan County where the monument is located opposed the monument.
Obama used his power under the Antiquities Act to permanently preserve more land and water using national monument designations than any other president. The land is generally off limits to timber harvesting, mining and pipelines, and commercial development.
Republicans also objected when Obama created the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument in Maine last summer on 87,500 acres of donated forestland. The expanse includes part of the Penobscot River and stunning views of Mount Katahdin, Maine’s tallest mountain.
Republicans have asked Trump to reverse the two designations, saying they add an unnecessary layer of federal control and could stymie commercial development.
Trump’s staff has been reviewing the decisions to determine economic impacts, whether the law was followed and whether there was appropriate consultation with local officials.
Environmental groups blasted Trump’s action.
“Utah’s national monuments are our first line of defense against the very real specter of climate change, providing resiliency to not only the species within them, but also to nearby communities,” said Jen Ujifusa, legislative director of the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance.
“President Trump and the Utah delegation should focus their energies on solving America’s challenges, rather than unraveling the solutions that are already working.”
Written by MATTHEW DALY and JILL COLVIN, Associated Press.
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