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Trump takes rare step to reduce 2 national monuments in Utah

  • President Donald Trump holds up a signed proclamation to shrink the size of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase Escalante national monuments at the Utah State Capitol Monday, Dec. 4, 2017, in Salt Lake City. Trump traveled to Salt Lake City to announce plans to shrink two sprawling national monuments in Utah in a move that will delight the state's GOP politicians and many rural residents who see the lands as prime examples of federal overreach, but will enrage tribes and environmentalist... Rick Bowmer

  • Tami Sablan and other protesters chant before a visit by President Donald Trump to announce that he is scaling back two sprawling national monuments, Monday Dec. 4, 2017 in Salt Lake City. (Trent Nelson/The Salt Lake Tribune via AP) Trent Nelson

  • Protesters gather before a visit by President Donald Trump to announce that he is scaling back two sprawling national monuments, Monday Dec. 4, 2017, in Salt Lake City. (Trent Nelson/The Salt Lake Tribune via AP) Trent Nelson

  • President Donald Trump lifts a bag of potatoes as he tours the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints Welfare Square food distribution center, Monday, Dec. 4, 2017, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci) Evan Vucci

  • President Donald Trump is surrounded by Utah representatives at the Utah Capitol on Monday, Dec. 4, 2017, as he signs two presidential proclamations to shrink Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments. (Francisco Kjolseth/The Salt Lake Tribune via AP) Francisco Kjolseth

  • President Donald Trump signs a proclamation to shrink the size of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase Escalante national monuments, Monday, Dec. 4, 2017, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci) Evan Vucci

  • President Donald Trump speaks at the Utah State Capitol Monday, Dec. 4, 2017, in Salt Lake City. Trump traveled to Salt Lake City to announce plans to shrink two sprawling national monuments in Utah in a move that will delight the state's GOP politicians and many rural residents who see the lands as prime examples of federal overreach, but will enrage tribes and environmentalist groups who vow to immediately sue to preserve the monuments. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer) Rick Bowmer

  • President Donald Trump speaks on his decision to shrink the size of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase Escalante national monuments, Monday, Dec. 4, 2017, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci) Evan Vucci

  • President Donald Trump points to his shopping cart during a tour of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints Welfare Square food distribution center, Monday, Dec. 4, 2017, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci) Evan Vucci

  • 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. AP

  • FILE - This May 8, 2017, file photo shows Arch Canyon within Bears Ears National Monument in Utah. President Donald Trump is expected to announce Monday, Dec. 4, plans to shrink Bears Ears National Monument as well as Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in Utah that were created by past Democratic presidents. (Francisco Kjolseth/The Salt Lake Tribune via AP, File) Francisco Kjolseth

  • FILE - This July 15, 2016, file photo, shows the "Moonhouse" in McLoyd Canyon which is part of Bears Ears National Monument, near Blanding, Utah. President Donald Trump is expected to announce plans to shrink Bears Ears National Monument as well as Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in Utah that were created by past Democratic presidents. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File) Rick Bowmer

  • President Donald Trump pushes a cart during a tour of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints Welfare Square food distribution center, Monday, Dec. 4, 2017, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci) Evan Vucci



Associated Press
Tuesday, December 05, 2017

President Donald Trump on Monday took the rare step of scaling back two sprawling national monuments in Utah, declaring that “public lands will once again be for public use” in a move cheered by Republican leaders who lobbied him to undo protections they considered overly broad.

The decision marks the first time in a half century that a president has undone these types of land protections. Tribal and environmental groups oppose the decision and are expected to go to court in a bid to stop Trump and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke.

Trump made the plan official during a speech at the State Capitol, where he signed proclamations to shrink the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments. Both monuments encompass millions of acres of land.

State officials said the protections were overly broad and closed off the area to energy development and other access.

Environmental and tribal groups say the designations are needed to protect important archaeological and cultural resources, especially the more than 1.3 million-acre Bears Ears site featuring thousands of Native American artifacts, including ancient cliff dwellings and petroglyphs.

Trump argued that the people of Utah know best how to care for their land.

“Some people think that the natural resources of Utah should be controlled by a small handful of very distant bureaucrats located in Washington,” Trump said. “And guess what? They’re wrong.”

Roughly 3,000 demonstrators lined up near the State Capitol to protest Trump’s announcement. Some held signs that said, “Keep your tiny hands off our public lands,” and they chanted, “Lock him up!” A smaller group gathered in support, including some who said they favor potential drilling or mining there that could create jobs. Bears Ears has no oil or gas, Zinke told reporters, though there is coal in Grand Staircase-Escalante.

“Your timeless bond with the outdoors should not be replaced with the whims of regulators thousands and thousands of miles away,” Trump said. “I’ve come to Utah to take a very historic action to reverse federal overreach and restore the rights of this land to your citizens.”

Bears Ears, created last December by President Barack Obama, will be reduced by about 85 percent, to 315 square miles.

Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, designated in 1996 by President Bill Clinton, will be reduced from nearly 3,000 square miles to 1,569 square miles.

Both were among a group of 27 monuments that Trump ordered Zinke to review this year.

Zinke accompanied Trump aboard Air Force One, as did Utah’s Republican U.S. senators, Orrin Hatch and Mike Lee. Hatch and other Utah Republican leaders pushed Trump to launch the review, saying the monuments designated by the former Democratic presidents locked up too much federal land.

Trump framed the decision as returning power to the state, saying, “You know and love this land the best and you know the best how to take care of your land.” He said the decision would “give back your voice.”