Trump To Take Aim At Utah’s National Monuments, Reversing Predecessors’ Legacies

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Broken Bow Arch rises from Willow Canyon in the Escalante Canyons region of Utah’s Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.

Howard Berkes/NPR

President Trump is expected to announce his administration will dramatically shrink the size of the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments when he travels to Utah on Monday.

The visit caps months of speculation and a controversial review of the boundaries of large national monuments that protect more than 100,000 acres of U.S. public land. The review, conducted by Trump’s Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, originally looked at more than two dozen national monuments designated by presidential decree since the 1990s.

But Utah, with its new 1.3 million-acre Bears Ears monument and the 1.8 million-acre Grand Staircase National Monument, has always been at the center of the debate, and largely what spurred the review.

On Monday, during a ceremony at the Utah state Capitol, Trump is reportedly expected to announce plans to shrink the boundaries of Bears Ears by up to 85 percent. His predecessor, President Barack Obama, created the monument shortly before leaving office. The Grand Staircase monument, which stems from the Clinton administration, could be cut in half.

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Tribune Editorial: Why are you shrinking our monuments, Mr. President?

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Chris Detrick | The Salt Lake Tribune The view from Rock Springs Point along the west edge of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument Saturday

 

Dear Mr. President,

 

Welcome to Utah.

 

We hope you will enjoy your brief visit to our state Monday, meeting with our elected officials and, we have been led to understand, making those officeholders very happy by announcing that large swaths of Utah’s unique and beautiful public lands will be removed from their current status as national monuments.

Here is what we want to know about that: Why?

 

What possible reason could there be for cutting the size of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in half and reducing the new Bears Ears National Monument to two small slivers of the land preserved just last year by your predecessor?

 

The land is owned by the federal government and held in trust for, legally, all the people of the United States and, morally, all the people of the world. Much of it is possessed of remarkable natural beauty and, especially in the case of Bears Ears, is held sacred by the Navajo and other Native American nations. Taking back the prize that those native peoples worked on, so long and so hard, will of course be seen as nothing more than a gratuitous slap in their face.

 

In the 20 years of its existence, meanwhile, Grand Staircase has inspired the growth of numerous small businesses that have have come to thrive by serving the many tourists who journey there from around the globe. Changing the status quo that those livelihoods have been based on serves no purpose.

 

We know what you have been told about these monuments and their history. Some of it is true.

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