Trump To Initiate ‘Long Overdue’ Review Of Potential Antiquities Act Abuses

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Michael Bastasch DCNF Managing Editor
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President Donald Trump will order the Department of the Interior to review about 30 national monuments that have been designated over the last 20 years.

Trump’s executive order asks officials to “review prior monument designations and suggest legislative changes or modifications to the monuments,” Department of the Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke told reporters in a conference call Tuesday evening, adding that such a review was “long overdue.”

Zinke said monuments designated in the past 20 years have grown bigger and out of line with what the authors of the Antiquities Act intended. Zinke added large monument designations can hurt jobs and economic activity, especially if local voices are left out of the process.

“The average size of the monuments over the past few years has increased,” Zinke said, adding that designations have gone from a few hundred acres to millions of acres of land. The Antiquities Act says designations should use the “smallest area compatible with proper care and management” of the monument.

“Some of these areas were put off limits to traditional uses,” like logging and ranching, Zinke said.

Interior will review monuments that are 100,000 acres or more and will provide a recommendation to Trump in 120 days on which monuments should be rescinded or modified.

“This is an enormous responsibility. I have to make recommendations that are appropriate, that follow the law,” Zinke said.

The review will stretch from the designation of the Grand Escalante Staircase in 1996 under former President Bill Clinton to the Bears Ears monument former President Barack Obama created shortly before leaving office in 2016.

Bears Ears faced stiff resistance from Utah lawmakers and some San Juan County residents, and federal GOP lawmakers have asked Trump to rescind the more than 1.3-million-acre monument. No president has ever reversed a monument designation.

“We’re happy to see an administration finally taking action to resolve the many abuses of the Antiquities Act.” Molly Block, a spokeswoman for Utah Republican Rep. Rob Bishop, told The Daily Caller News Foundation.

Bishop chairs the House Committee on Natural Resources and has urged Trump to rescind what he sees as Obama’s abuse of the Antiquities Act. He singled out monuments Katahdin Woods and Waters in Maine and Bears Ears.

In both cases, Bishop said the Obama administration ignored local concerns about land use and economic activity — ranching, logging, drilling and mining, for example — in communities surrounding monuments.

Utah Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch also condemned Bears Ears and other monuments Obama created. The former president designated more than 290 million acres of federal land and water for stricter protection under the Antiquities Act.

Republicans say the Obama administration largely ignored local opposition to national monuments, instead paying attention to D.C.-based environmental groups who want more land made off-limits to development.

“That’s why the president is asking for a review of the monuments,” Zinke said, promising local engagement in the review process.

“When you designate a monument, the local community affected should have a voice,” Zinke said. “The loggers, the fisherman, those areas that are affected should have a voice.”

Zinke stressed that the order itself did not strip land marks of their monument designation nor did it loosen environmental laws on development. Environmental groups argue Trump wants to turn national monuments into mining and logging operations.

“It starts with Bears Ears and Grand Staircase and only gets worse from there,” Kierán Suckling, executive director of the Center for Biological Diversity, said in a statement.

“President Trump is clearly doing the bidding of the Utah congressional delegation, who are without question the most aggressive federal lawmakers seeking to seize, dismantle and privatize America’s public lands,” Suckling said.

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