President Trump has reportedly promised to shrink the 1.3-million-acre Bears Ears National Monument in southeastern Utah.
The Salt Lake Tribune reports Utah Senator Orrin Hatch is saying the president told him in a phone call, “I’m approving the Bears Ears recommendation for you, Orrin.”
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke had reviewed 27 monuments and recommended shrinking some, including Bears Ears, which was created by President Obama in 2016 under the Antiquities Act. Hatch reportedly also said Trump pledged to take action to allow coal-mining in Utah’s two-decade-old Grand Staircase-Escalante monument. Hatch said in a statement he was “incredibly grateful” for Trump’s decision and for the administration’s willingness to listen to locals. But environmental groups responded with dismay. The deputy director for the Center for Western Priorities, Greg Zimmerman, said in a statement that Trump’s administration “will stop at nothing to sell out America’s parks and public lands.” Zimmerman continued, “The president couldn’t care less about the cultural history protected by Bears Ears National Monument, he simply sees more places to drill and mine.”
Hatch did not say how much Bears Ears might be downsized or who would create the new boundary. If the president acts on his own to alter national monuments, rather than asking Congress to do it, the action is sure to be challenged in court. The Antiquities Act does not specifically grant presidents the authority to undo monuments, only to create them.