Trump signs executive order requiring review of national monuments

by Marta Holmes April 27, 2017, 2:19

That time frame encompasses the "bookends" of two of the most controversial national monument designations in recent history: President Clinton's Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in 1996 to President Obama's Bears Ears National Monument in 2016.

The Antiquities Act of 1906 allows the president to declare federal lands as monuments and restrict how the lands are used.

He will reportedly sign an executive order requiring Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to carry out a review of every national monument created in the past 21 years-both onshore and off.

"President Trump is putting our national monuments on trial so he can put them on the chopping block", said Heidi McIntosh, Earthjustice's managing attorney in the Rocky Mountains. Under this designation, Katahdin Woods and Waters - an expansive piece of land in ME that includes much of the Penobscot River watershed that was enacted by Obama in 2016 - would not be reviewed, despite the calls.

Critics say former Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush set aside large swaths of land and sea for protection, making them unavailable for oil and natural gas development, as well as mining. Trump's order opens the door to that possibility. It will be the first monument to go under review, Zinke said. The Bears Ears National Monument will cover over 1 million acres in the Four Corners region. He had proposed setting aside a smaller portion of land in the rugged mountain range than the almost half-million acres that was eventually designated.

However, Trump's allies supported the move and praised his efforts.

In Colorado, the only monument that qualifies for the review is the Canyons of the Ancients National Monument and Anasazi Heritage Center in the southwest corner of the state, which was designated by President Bill Clinton on June 9, 2000. Others were frustrated that the land could no longer be used for mining or development. In the past few years, we have seen legislation to sell off public lands, reduce law enforcement on public lands, and divest millions of acres of public lands to states that can't afford to manage them.

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Democratic Congressman Raul Grijalva of Arizona, ranking member of the House natural resources committee, warned Zinke not to make an "ideological" decision, adding that previous monuments were done "after years of close federal consultation with multiple local stakeholders".

Yet Trump seems to be targeting that monument more than anything else. Orrin Hatch, Republicans are urging Congress to withhold money for the national monument in response to the designation. But it does direct Mr Zinke to suggest "legislative changes or modifications" to the monuments under review.

Mr Trump on Wednesday referred to his predecessor's use of the Antiquities Act as a "massive federal land grab". "While designating monuments is a noble goal, this law, like many others, has strayed far from its original objective", House Speaker Paul Ryan said in response to the review.

"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.

The fierce debate over public land in the West is expected to intensify following President Donald Trump's signing of an executive order Wednesday that could lead to the reduction or elimination of some national monuments.

Dunn said the Land Office and the BLM have been negotiating a land exchange which would transfer about 41,000 acres of state-owned surface and mineral rights within the monument to the BLM. Dunn is seeking re-election in 2018.

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