Trump orders review of millions of acres in national monuments

CEDAR CITY – Slamming what he called “a massive federal land grab,” President Donald Trump signed an executive order Wednesday directing his interior secretary to review the designation of dozens of national monuments on federal lands.

The measure orders Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to review approximately 24 to 40 monuments designated in Utah and other states by former presidents under the Antiquities Act of 1906 limiting public access to millions of acres of land.

The act authorizes the president to declare federal lands as monuments and restrict how the lands can be used.

Wednesday’s executive order comes as the president is racking up accomplishments in his first 100 days.

See the video top of this report.

During a signing ceremony at the Department of the Interior, Trump said the order would end “another egregious abuse of federal power,” and “give that power back to the states and to the people where it belongs.”

Trump accused previous administrations of using the act to “unilaterally put millions of acres of land and water under strict federal control” – a practice he derailed as a “a massive federal land grab.”

“Altogether the previous administration bypassed the states to place over 265 million acres, that’s a lot of land, million acres, think of it 265 million acres of land and water under federal control through the abuse of the monument’s designation,” Trump said ahead of the signing. “That’s larger than the entire state of Texas.”

President Donald Trump holds a signed Antiquities Executive Order during a ceremony at the Interior Department in Washington, D.C., Wednesday. The president is asking for a review of the designation of tens of millions of acres of land as “national monuments.”
District of Columbia, , April, 26, 2017 | AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, St. George News

Former President Barack Obama infuriated Utah Republicans when he created the Bears Ears National Monument in late December on more than 1 million acres of land located in San Juan County, Utah. Some of the area is home to tens of thousands of archaeological sites, including ancient cliff dwellings, and is considered sacred to Native Americans.

However, the local Native American tribe and citizens objected to the monument designation arguing that the cliff dwellings and other archaeological sites were already provided protections as a wilderness study area.

Wilderness study areas are roadless tracts of land of at least 5,000 acres that have scientific, scenic or historical value. They have largely been impacted by nature more than human activity. Recreation and other activities are somewhat limited in these areas and generally do not allow for any vehicle use.

In an interview with St. George News, San Juan County Commissioner Phil Lyman said the monument designation has had a negative impact in some of these areas by increasing the number of visitors and in turn disrupting the wilderness and wildlife the designation was meant to protect.

“Our tourism has more than doubled, tripled since the designation,” Lyman said. “We’ve had more people in the Bears Ears area since the designation than we have ever had before. So in the areas that are considered culturally and archaeologically sacred, the monument designation has been contrary to what it was meant for and has actually impacted those areas negatively.”

Trump specifically addressed the Bears Ears monument designation referring to the “profound objections of the citizens of Utah.”

“The Antiquities Act does not give the federal government unlimited power to lock up millions of acres of land and water and it’s time we ended this abusive practice. … This should never have happened,” the president said, referencing Bears Ears.

Trump’s words echoed statements by Zinke who also spoke prior to the signing.

Somewhere along the way the Act has become a tool of political advocacy rather than public interest,” Zinke said. “And it’s easy to see why designations in some cases are viewed negatively by those local communities that are impacted the most.”

The largely Republican Utah Legislature asked Trump to reverse the Bears Ears designation via a resolution passed during its general session earlier this year and while Lyman said 95 percent of his constituency would like to see that happen he’s also aware there is no precedent set for doing so. Lyman voiced concern that if they tried to rescind Bears Ears in its entirety, the action would end up in court for years. To that end, the county commissioner said at the least, he wants to see the monument reduced to less than 200,000 acres and the designation to remain specific to the north end.

Round and square Kivas in the main alcove of cliff dwellings in the Butler Wash Ruins in Comb Ridge in the new Bears Ears National Monument in Southeast Utah, circa 2017 | Photo by lightphoto / iStock / Getty Images Plus, St. George News

“The South end is where the cliff dwellings and the archaeological sites are and that area already has protections on top of protections,” Lyman said. “The monument designation will only bring more people to that area for sightseeing and recreational purposes, which is in part why the local Native American tribe has been, and is still, so adamant about not wanting that area designated a monument. They want the protections that have been in place to remain and for the area to go back to the way it was.”

Lyman and his two fellow commissioners have a meeting scheduled with Zinke next week during which they will discuss the issue of Bears Ears.

Under Trump’s order, the interior secretary will review monument designations dating back to 1996 and beginning with the designation of the Grand Staircase-Escalante monument located in Kane and Garfield counties. The monument, designated by then-President Bill Clinton, takes in 1.8 million acres.

The order limits the review to national monuments comprising 100,000 acres or more or where the secretary determines that the designation or expansion was made without adequate public outreach and coordination with relevant stakeholders.

Zinke will provide an interim report in 45 days on Bears Ears and such other designations as he determines to be appropriate for inclusion in the interim report. Additionally, Zinke will provide a recommendation and a final report of the entire review within 120 days.

This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to address the egregious actions of President Clinton in 1996 and President Obama in 2016 and sets in motion the chance to reverse the process that occurred at those times where local and state voices were not only not considered but entirely ignored,” Garfield County Commissioner Leland Pollock said of Trump’s executive order and the Grand Staircase-Escalante.

Along with the Bears Ears resolution, the Utah state Legislature passed a similar measure in February to reduce the size of the Grand Staircase-Escalante monument.

Over the last 20 years, Zinke said, tens of millions of acres have been designated as national monuments, limiting their use for farming, timber harvesting, mining and oil and gas exploration, and other commercial uses.

Following the signing of the Presidential Executive Order on the Review of Designations Under the Antiquities Act Wednesday, Sen. Orrin Hatch met privately with President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence to discuss the next steps for Bears Ears, including the review process ordered in the president’s executive action. District of Columbia, April 26, 2017 | Photo from video courtesy of the Offices of Sen. Orrin Hatch, St. George News

Zinke said that while designations have done “a great service to the public,” the “local community affected should have a voice.”

Some, including Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, have hailed Trump’s order as the end of “massive federal land grab by presidents dating back to Bill Clinton.

Pollock praised Hatch for his efforts in working on this issue.

“I’ll tell you what. Sen. Hatch did more on this issue than any other Utah congressman and I am absolutely grateful for all the work he put into this,” Pollock said. “We would not be here today if it wasn’t for Hatch.”

The president also lent credit to the senator for his dedication, additionally pointing to the work of Utah Sen. Mike Lee regarding this issue.

While the order is being heralded by many as a step toward undoing the “egregious acts of Clinton and Obama,” there are those on the opposing side who criticized the president’s action.

Sen. Marin Heinrich, D-New Mexico, said that if Trump wants to make America great again, he should use the Antiquities Act to protect and conserve America’s public lands. In New Mexico, Obama’s designation of Rio Grand del Norte National Monument and Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument have preserved important lands while boosting the economy, Heinrich said, a story that has been repeated across the country.

President Donald Trump speaks at the Interior Department in Washington, D.C., Wednesday. The president is asking for a review of the designation of tens of millions of acres of land as “national monuments.”
District of Columbia, , April, 26, 2017 | AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, St. George News

“If this sweeping review is an excuse to cut out the public and scale back protections, I think this president is going to find a very resistant public,” Heinrich said.

Recent polls have shown strong support for national parks and monuments, Christy Goldfuss said. Goldfuss directed the White House Council on Environmental Quality under Obama.

The order is one of a handful the president is set to sign this week as he approaches his 100th day in office. The president has used executive orders aggressively over the last three months, despite railing against their use by Obama when he was campaigning.  

DARLENE SUPERVILLE, Associated Press, and JILL COLVIN, Associated Press, contributed to this report. Associated Press writer Matthew Daly contributed to this report.

Full text of the order follows below.

REVIEW OF DESIGNATIONS UNDER THE ANTIQUITIES ACT

By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, and in recognition of the importance of the Nation’s wealth of natural resources to American workers and the American economy, it is hereby ordered as follows:

Section 1.  Policy.  Designations of national monuments under the Antiquities Act of 1906, recently recodified at sections 320301 to 320303 of title 54, United States Code (the “Antiquities Act” or “Act”), have a substantial impact on the management of Federal lands and the use and enjoyment of neighboring lands.  Such designations are a means of stewarding America’s natural resources, protecting America’s natural beauty, and preserving America’s historic places.  Monument designations that result from a lack of public outreach and proper coordination with State, tribal, and local officials and other relevant stakeholders may also create barriers to achieving energy independence, restrict public access to and use of Federal lands, burden State, tribal, and local governments, and otherwise curtail economic growth.  Designations should be made in accordance with the requirements and original objectives of the Act and appropriately balance the protection of landmarks, structures, and objects against the appropriate use of Federal lands and the effects on surrounding lands and communities.

Sec. 2.  Review of National Monument Designations.  (a)  The Secretary of the Interior (Secretary) shall conduct a review of all Presidential designations or expansions of designations under the Antiquities Act made since January 1, 1996, where the designation covers more than 100,000 acres, where the designation after expansion covers more than 100,000 acres, or where the Secretary determines that the designation or expansion was made without adequate public outreach and coordination with relevant stakeholders, to determine whether each designation or expansion conforms to the policy set forth in section 1 of this order.  In making those determinations, the Secretary shall consider:

(i)    the requirements and original objectives of the Act, including the Act’s requirement that reservations of land not exceed “the smallest area compatible with the proper care and management of the objects to be protected”;

(ii)   whether designated lands are appropriately classified under the Act as “historic landmarks, historic and prehistoric structures, [or] other objects of historic or scientific interest”;

(iii)  the effects of a designation on the available uses of designated Federal lands, including consideration of the multiple-use policy of section 102(a)(7) of the Federal Land Policy and Management Act (43 U.S.C. 1701(a)(7)), as well as the effects on the available uses of Federal lands beyond the monument boundaries;

(iv)   the effects of a designation on the use and enjoyment of non-Federal lands within or beyond monument boundaries;

(v)    concerns of State, tribal, and local governments affected by a designation, including the economic development and fiscal condition of affected States, tribes, and localities;

(vi)   the availability of Federal resources to properly manage designated areas; and

(vii)  such other factors as the Secretary deems appropriate.

(b)  In conducting the review described in subsection (a) of this section, the Secretary shall consult and coordinate with, as appropriate, the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of Agriculture, the Secretary of Commerce, the Secretary of Energy, the Secretary of Homeland Security, and the heads of any other executive departments or agencies concerned with areas designated under the Act.

(c)  In conducting the review described in subsection (a) of this section, the Secretary shall, as appropriate, consult and coordinate with the Governors of States affected by monument designations or other relevant officials of affected State, tribal, and local governments.

(d)  Within 45 days of the date of this order, the Secretary shall provide an interim report to the President, through the Director of the Office of Management and Budget, the Assistant to the President for Economic Policy, the Assistant to the President for Domestic Policy, and the Chairman of the Council on Environmental Quality, summarizing the findings of the review described in subsection (a) of this section with respect to Proclamation 9558 of December 28, 2016 (Establishment of the Bears Ears National Monument), and such other designations as the Secretary determines to be appropriate for inclusion in the interim report.  For those designations, the interim report shall include recommendations for such Presidential actions, legislative proposals, or other actions consistent with law as the Secretary may consider appropriate to carry out the policy set forth in section 1 of this order.

(e)  Within 120 days of the date of this order, the Secretary shall provide a final report to the President, through the Director of the Office of Management and Budget, the Assistant to the President for Economic Policy, the Assistant to the President for Domestic Policy, and the Chairman of the Council on Environmental Quality, summarizing the findings of the review described in subsection (a) of this section.  The final report shall include recommendations for such Presidential actions, legislative proposals, or other actions consistent with law as the Secretary may consider appropriate to carry out the policy set forth in section 1 of this order.

Sec. 3.  General Provisions.  (a)  Nothing in this order shall be construed to impair or otherwise affect:

(i)   the authority granted by law to an executive department or agency, or the head thereof; or

(ii)  the functions of the Director of the Office of Management and Budget relating to budgetary, administrative, or legislative proposals.

(b)  This order shall be implemented consistent with applicable law and subject to the availability of appropriations.

(c)  This order is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by any party against the United States, its departments, agencies, or entities, its officers, employees, or agents, or any other person.
DONALD J. TRUMP
THE WHITE HOUSE,
April 26, 2017.

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7 Comments

  • Pheo April 26, 2017 at 3:56 pm

    “Wednesday’s executive order comes as the president is racking up accomplishments in his first 100 days.”

    Racking up what accomplishments? What significant legislation has passed in his first 100 days? He’s made lots of executive orders, sure, but these will have limited effect. What significant accomplishment does he deserve credit for? Justice Gorsuch? That seat was stolen without any help from Trump.

  • biker11 April 26, 2017 at 8:38 pm

    Excellent Executive order by the President, too bad the sore losers always have something negative to say.All sane Utah residents are very happy to give the states the right to make determinations that OBAMA tried to give to the Federal Government, another win!!

  • lcambridge April 26, 2017 at 10:51 pm

    Now we can look forward to drilling zion…

  • Brian April 27, 2017 at 8:07 am

    The Antiquities Act needs to be rescinded or revised. It was intended to protect specific finds, not so a president 100 years later could use it to land-grab over 2,500 square miles of land (Grand Staircase) with zero input from the state involved. That’s bigger than the entire states of Delaware and Rhode Island, for those keeping track. Bears Ears is almost as big, larger than Rhode Island.

    • Proud Rebel April 27, 2017 at 10:14 am

      Right on!

    • comments April 27, 2017 at 4:07 pm

      I wish the feds would grab it all–maybe not so much with the donald in charge, but still…….

  • kab May 2, 2017 at 4:24 pm

    The increase in national monuments has made it possible for local Utahns who enjoy the outdoors to still escape from the crowds now that Utah is promoting the Mighty 5. Tourism is a business that brings lots of jobs and dollars to our economy for the long term and not just a company’s short term profits. The monuments are a win/win for our environment, overall economy and enjoyment for us currently and those in the future. Let’s keep the monuments for us and our future generations to enjoy.

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