Bad news for Bears Ears: Trump to shrink national monuments established by Barack Obama

The president will personally travel to Utah to continue his crusade against Barack Obama's legacy

By Matthew Rozsa

Staff Writer

Published November 29, 2017 3:00PM (EST)

 (Getty/Tom Pennington/Shutterstock/Photo montage by Salon)
(Getty/Tom Pennington/Shutterstock/Photo montage by Salon)

President Donald Trump plans on flying to Utah on Monday so he can announce a plan to shrink two of the state's national monuments.

The Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments will have their boundaries altered by Trump, according to The Salt Lake Tribune. This announcement will be part of a broader plan spearheaded by Trump's interior secretary, Ryan Zinke, to review the status of all national monuments designed under the Antiquities Act going back to 1996. The 1.35m-acre Bears Ears was designated a national monument by former president Barack Obama, while Bill Clinton declared the 1.9m-acre Grand Staircase-Escalante.

Both environmentalists and Native American tribes have already said that they will fight the Trump administration's attempt to change the boundaries as soon as they are officially announced, arguing that the Antiquities Act does not give him the authority to do so.

"The tribes view this as an affront to themselves and their own self-determination. All of us, all five tribes, will be suing jointly the day he makes an announcement," Natalie Landreth, senior staff attorney for the Native American Rights Fund, told the Tribune. The five tribes that advocated for the monuments include the Hopi, Navajo Nation, Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, Pueblo of Zuni and the Ute Indian Tribe.

In the executive order released in April, Trump said that he wanted Zinke to determine if decisions about national monuments had been made "without adequate public outreach and coordination with relevant stockholders." Zinke subsequently wrote a memo which recommended that it be made easier for extraction industries — fishing, gas, oil and timber, to name just a few — to lease land and water rights in national monuments. By reducing the size of the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments, Trump would make it easier for extraction industries to exploit the lands no longer under federal protection.

By Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a staff writer at Salon. He received a Master's Degree in History from Rutgers-Newark in 2012 and was awarded a science journalism fellowship from the Metcalf Institute in 2022.

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Bears Ears And Grand Staircase-escalante Monuments Donald Trump Ryan Zinke