President Donald Trump signed two executive orders Monday to reduce the size Utah’s Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments.
Trump announced the orders during a speech in Salt Lake City, Utah. The cutbacks will shrink Bears Ears by roughly 85 percent and Grand Staircase-Escalante by nearly half, removing federal protections and restrictions on about two million acres of federal land, according to documents obtained by The Daily Caller News Foundation.
“You know the best how to take care of your land, you know how to protect it, and you know best how to conserve this land for many, many generations to come,” Trump said. “Your timeless bond with the outdoors should not be replaced with the whims of regulators thousands and thousands of miles away.”
The executive orders make up the largest reduction to national monuments in scale by a president in the history of the Antiquities Act, according to The New York Times
The 1.35 million acre Bears Ears National Monument, designated in Dec. 2016 by former President Barack Obama, will be reduced and broken up into two different areas. The areas, Indian Creek and Shash Jáa, will cover about 72,000 acres and 130,000 acres, respectively.
Bears Ears’ new boundaries release more than 90,000 acres of Utah state land that was previously locked inside the monument. About 6,000 acres of privately owned land was released, as well.
Former President Bill Clinton designated Grand Staircase-Escalante in 1996. At 1.9 million acres, the national monument encompassed an area about the size of Delaware.
Under Trump’s new executive order, Grand Staircase-Escalante will be broken up into three new monuments: the Grand Staircase unit, the Kaiparowits unit and the Escalante Canyons unit. Together, the three new national monuments will cover just over 1 million acres.
Trump’s announcement prompted cheers and a chant of “four more years!” from the crowd inside the Capitol building, however, environmentalists and other protesters outside called the decision a sellout to industry interests.
“Trump’s unprecedented, illegal action is a brutal blow to our public lands, an affront to Native Americans and a disgrace to the presidency,” Center for Biological Diversity public lands program director Randi Spivak emailed TheDCNF from Salt Lake City. “He wants to hand over these lands to private industry to mine, frack, bulldoze and clear-cut until there’s nothing left for our children and grandchildren.”
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