Trump expected to reduce Grand Staircase by 60 percent, Bears Ears by 80 percent

In this undated file photo, the Upper Gulch section of the Escalante Canyons within Utah's Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument features sheer sandstone walls, broken occasionally by tributary canyons. | Associated Press photo by Douglas C. Pizac, St. George News

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — President Donald Trump is expected to significantly downsize two sprawling Utah national monuments that protect more than 3 million acres of the state’s red rock country, Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch’s office said Tuesday.

Ron Dean, Hatch’s Central and Eastern Utah Director, testified during a meeting in Utah of a state legislative public lands committee that he expects Bears Ears National Monument will be cut by at least 80 percent of its current size, while Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument will be reduced by about 40 percent to 60 percent.

Trump told Hatch and Gov. Gary Herbert last month that he would follow the recommendation of Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and shrink both monuments, but the White House and Zinke’s office have not offered details about how they’d redraw the monument boundaries.

In this May 9, 2017, file photo, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke takes a horseback ride in the Bears Ears National Monument with local and state representatives in Blanding, Utah. | Photo by Scott G Winterton/The Deseret News via AP, St. George News

Dean said Tuesday that while he hasn’t seen Zinke’s recommendations, he could speak with “some certainty” on how much of a reduction Hatch’s office expected to see.

Utah’s Republican leaders, including Hatch, have said the monuments declared by Democratic Presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton unnecessarily locked up too much land and asked Trump to shrink or rescind them.

The monuments were created under a 1906 law that allows presidents to protect sites that are considered historic, geographically or culturally significant. Trump ordered Zinke to review 27 monuments created under the law, with Bears Ears the top priority.

Bears Ears, which a coalition of tribal leaders spent years advocating for, covers about 1.3 million acres of land considered sacred by Native Americans and home to thousands of archaeological sites, including cliff dwellings and petroglyphs.

Grand Staircase-Escalante, which includes about 1.9 million acres was named by Clinton in 1996.

Zinke’s spokeswoman Heather Swift did not immediately respond to questions seeking details about Zinke’s recommendations.

Zinke, who visited both monuments in May, told The Salt Lake Tribune on Monday that he thinks Bears Ears will end up larger than two existing national parks in Utah, keeping the monument at least 180,000 acres.

The plans for a dramatic reduction to the rugged spaces drew criticism Tuesday from U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, the No. 2 Senate Democrat, after Zinke met with Durbin and four other Democratic senators.

Durbin said in a statement that he’s concerned Trump plans to shrink Bears Ears by about 80 percent and called for Zinke to be more transparent and release maps of the proposed changes.

“It is clear that this decision is not based on protecting some of the most extraordinary natural resources in our nation, but rather on protecting political alliances,” Durbin said.

Trump is expected to offer more details about his plans for the monuments when he visits Utah in early December.

Written by MICHELLE L. PRICE, Associated Press

Associated Press writer Matthew Daly in Washington contributed to this report.

Email: news@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

 

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3 Comments

  • jaybird November 16, 2017 at 5:51 am

    This is what your republican congress wanted so developers and land grabbing oil/gas corps can fund their libfestyles. Great work Utah.

  • Audrey Chick November 16, 2017 at 8:17 am

    If you take this land grab by the liberal democrats and socialists to its natural conclusion, this has been a huge step toward taking control of all the nation’s wealth. Thanks, President Trump for seeing this for what it was and at least reducing the paralyzing grip this imposes on our freedoms and our state.

  • Lee Sanders November 16, 2017 at 12:44 pm

    Audrey B., I wonder if those who say it’s a good deal OR a bad deal to cut the size of the monuments down actually know why they were established as large as they were. There are reasons other than protecting wildlife migration routes and protecting the areas from natural resources ” exploitation, plunder and despoilment” to make them as large as they did. People like to say “land grab” and I’m wondering who they think the land was “grabbed” from? Citizens of Utah? No, the public lands belong to the citizens of the United States, all of us. The Native Americans? No, they’re mostly in favor of the current configuration. I see so much knee-jerk negative reaction to what those “liberal democrats” do and wonder if they really know the facts before they sound off. I think in actuality we all know why the politicians in Utah want the Monuments degraded and it’s not for the good of the land.

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