Presidents have a lot of power to create national monuments. Trump is testing his power to destroy them.
President Donald Trump announced Monday that his administration will roll back federal protections on 2 million acres of land in two national monuments in Utah.
The Bears Ears monument — which was designated by President Barack Obama in one of his last acts in office — stands to lose 1.1 million acres, or 85 percent, of its land area, and the Grand Staircase-Escalante monument will be reduced by 800,000 acres, or 45 percent. The rollback is the first step to opening up these lands to more development and agriculture.
“Some people think the natural resources of Utah should be controlled by a small handful of very distant bureaucrats located in Washington,” Trump said in Utah’s capital Monday, in a speech announcing the changes. “They’re wrong.” The move, he said, is to “to reverse federal overreach and restore the rights of this land to your citizens.”
But he also nodded toward economic interests, saying that federal oversight has led to “unnecessary restrictions on hunting, ranching, and responsible economic development.”
In attempting to decrease the size of the monuments, Trump is stepping into uncharted legal territory. The move will be challenged in court. And as it stands, there’s never been a ruling on whether a president can decrease the size of a national monument. If the courts rule in Trump’s favor, it could mean even more public lands losing protections.