The battle has already begun over whether President Trump acted within his authority in drastically downsizing two national monuments in Utah. On Monday, Trump issued two proclamations from the state capitol in Salt Lake City that reduced Bears Ears National Monument by some 85 percent and Grand Staircase-Escalante by about half. Just hours later, the nonprofit Earthjustice filed suit in U.S. District Court on behalf of eight conservation organizations. The suit argues that the 1906 Antiquities Act, which gives presidents the right to create national monuments, does not grant them the ability to shrink them, a power reserved to Congress.
On Tuesday, the Navajo Nation announced that it, too, would litigate the president’s actions. Navajo President Russell Begaye said, “The Bears Ears Monument is of critical importance, not only to the Navajo Nation but to many tribes in the region.”
But while tribes, conservation groups and companies in the outdoor industry decried the downsizing, others praised it. Jay Lehr, science director for the Heartland Institute, a free-market think tank in Illinois, said in a statement that, “The idea of keeping lands for the public has always been a false premise, and these lands have never contributed to the nation’s tax base.” The Heartland Institute’s president, Tim Huelskamp, called Trump’s action exciting and said it reduces “Washington’s encroachment on Western states.”