Monday, 11 December, 2017

US Interior Secretary Urges Size Cuts to More National Monuments

President Donald Trump is expected to announce plans to shrink Bears Ears National Monument as well as Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument in Utah that were created by past Democratic presidents Trump Wants to Drastically Shrink These National Monuments
Charlie Simmons | 06 December, 2017, 01:22

But the Trump administration insists the president can do that, and Zinke said Tuesday that Trump was "absolutely right" to order a review of 27 large monument declarations dating back two decades. He strongly disputed a claim by the outdoor retailer Patagonia that Donald Trump "stole" public land by announcing the shrinking of two such areas in Utah, Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante. Approximately 861,974 acres is being excluded from the redrawn boundaries of the monument, which will also be broken up into three separate areas. Earthjustice, which filed on behalf of ten groups including the Wilderness Society and the Natural Resources Defense Council, challenges the reduction of the Grand Staircase-Escalante Monument, according to AP.

"We want the land to pretty much remain the way it is", he said.

The announcement will likely trigger a legal fight from conservationists and Native American groups, who have said the president doesn't have the legal authority to undo Obama's designation.

A Zinke-led study into national monument declarations says that Trump should shrink OR and California's Cascade-Siskiyou and Nevada's Gold Butte national monuments by small amounts.

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They say it only allows Presidents to CREATE national monuments, but does NOT authorize them to do away with national monuments.

"We need places like Bears Ears where the land remains largely untouched - where the plants remain pure [and] the minerals remain pure because that affects the potency of our prayers and the potency of our ceremonies", said one of the speakers, Navajo Nation Attorney General Ethel Branch.

Unlike national parks, which can only be created by an act of Congress, national monuments can be designated unilaterally by presidents under the 1906 Antiquities Act, which is meant to protect sacred sites, artefacts and historical objects. We worked to establish Bears Ears National Monument and will now fight to protect it. But it's not clear whether this is something that Trump can even do: The courts have never ruled on whether the president actually has the power to shrink a national monument. And when it comes to decisions about the future of public lands, Americans deserve an open and above-board approach - not the sham process the Trump administration has used to try to justify loosening protections. The administration and Republican leaders in Utah say taking the land out of the hands of the federal government will allow the state to decide what to do with it, including protecting some areas and possibly allowing development in others. "An attack on one national monument is an attack on every national monument". The law gives presidents broad authority to declare federal lands as monuments and restrict their use.

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