Trump shrinks Bear's Ears monument in Utah in historic decision

Trump shrinks Bear's Ears monument in Utah in historic decision
President Donald Trump announced he is modifying two national monuments designated by his predecessors, shrinking the areas of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante. Bears Ears was established by the Obama administration last year.

Trump signed the presidential proclamations concerning the two sites in Salt Lake City on Monday, flanked by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and several Utah lawmakers.

“No one values the splendor of Utah more than you do,” he told the cheering audience at the state capitol, presenting the move as reversing the Obama administration’s federal overreach and restoring the public lands to the public.

Trump accused the Obama administration of using a 1906 law to “lock up hundreds of millions of acres of land and water under strict government control.”

“These abuses of the Antiquities Act give enormous power to far away bureaucrats at the expense of the people who actually live here, work here, and make this place their home,” the president said.

Trump's order will reduce the Bears Ears National Monument to 228,784 acres, just 15 percent of its original size. The Grand Staircase-Escalante will shrink by about 50 percent to 1,006,341 acres, according to the White House.

President Barack Obama designated the approximately 1.3 million acre Bears Ears as a national monument in December 2016, saying the order would "protect some of the country's most significant natural, cultural and archaeological resources, including important ancestral grounds for numerous tribes."

According to Obama, the area is home to three Ute tribes, as well as the the Navajo, Hopi and Zuni.

"We’re obviously very disappointed that this administration feels they can completely disregard all the work that the five Native American tribes have done to protect their heritage at Bears Ears, and at their lack of tribal consultation and just basic respect and communication around this drastic action," Gavin Noyes, of the Native-led organization Utah Diné Bikéyah, told Salon. His group is helping the tribes challenge the Trump administration’s decision to reduce the size of the monument area.

While the crowd inside the state capitol cheered Trump, protesters gathered outside voiced their displeasure with the president’s decision.

“I like our public lands to be public lands,” protester Robert Shepherd told the Tribune, adding, “I don’t want them turned over to corporations and private enterprise.”

“For the first time in history, sovereign tribes have come together to fight for their ancestral lands,” Garon Coriz, a descendant of the Anasazi tribe that lived in Bears Ears, told the Salt Lake Tribune. He called Trump's announcement "another broken promise to Native Americans in a long history of broken promises.”

The Navajo Nation has said it will sue the Trump administration over the measure.

“We are prepared to challenge immediately whatever official action is taken to modify the monument or restructure any aspect of that, such as the Bears Ears Commission,” the tribe's attorney general Ethel Branch told Reuters.

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