Nick Wagner, Deseret News
Rep. Rob Bishop speaks to supporters during the Utah GOP election party at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2016.
SALT LAKE CITY — Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, said he believes it’s possible for President-elect Donald Trump to unravel controversial monument designations under the Obama and Clinton administrations, including the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.
Bishop said he’s meeting Monday with members of Trump’s transition team to discuss issuing new executive orders to upend previous designations he calls “outrageous and controversial,” as well as overturning any action President Obama may take regarding the proposed Bears Ears national monument.
“The more outlandish, the larger, the more outrageous and the more problems the designations present themselves, the easier and more defensible it is,” Bishop said.
“If it was outrageous, it would increase the possibility it would be upheld,” he said.
No U.S. president has ever used an executive order to undo a presidential proclamation by a predecessor creating a national monument, but Bishop said the lack of precedent doesn’t forestall it from happening.
Steve Bloch, an attorney with the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, said what Bishop is calling for is “beyond the pale.”
“It would be venturing into uncharted waters for Rep. Bishop to suggest the president should do something different here,” Bloch said.
Some U.S. presidents have altered boundaries of previous monument designations or diminished their footprint, which have also not been challenged, Bishop said, stressing that “the idea of rescinding it is not specifically stated, but it is not denied.”
Bishop said he believes monument designations that did not follow the intent of the Antiquities Act — by carving out land protections in the smallest footprint possible to provide safeguards for specific antiquities — are rightfully vulnerable to being overturned by an executive order from a new president.
“Because it was not well done, it would be easier to obtain,” he said, pointing to the surprise 1996 designation by then-President Bill Clinton of the 1.7 million-acre Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.
The monument’s creation, made by President Clinton from a state away in Arizona, roiled Utah’s political leaders in a move that locked up one of the nation’s most abundant reserves of coal.
Earlier this summer, Garfield County leaders declared a state of emergency they said was brought on by punitive federal land policies that have ruined their economic livelihood.
The call for 1.9 million-acre Bears Ears monument in San Juan County has resurrected fears that President Barack Obama will follow Clinton’s lead and put a big chunk of land in Utah off-limits to activities such as mining, grazing or off-roading.