President Donald Trump will shrink one of the largest national monuments designated during the Obama administration, according to Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch.
“I’m approving the Bears Ears recommendation for you, Orrin,” Trump told Hatch during a Friday phone call, according to the senator. Trump said he’d follow Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s recommendation to shrink the size of the Bears Ears National Monument.
“I was incredibly grateful when the President called this morning to let us know that he is approving Secretary Zinke’s recommendation on Bears Ears,” Hatch said in a statement.
Hatch has been pushing for the Trump administration to shrink the Bears Ears monument in southeastern Utah, which former President Barack Obama created in 2016.
Bears Ears is one of at least three national monuments that Zinke recommended Trump alter. Zinke submitted his recommendations in August, the result of a lengthy review of potential Antiquities Act abuses ordered by Trump.
Zinke also recommended shrinking Utah’s Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, which former President Bill Clinton created.
“Protecting sacred antiquities is a matter of critical importance, and Secretary Zinke and the Trump administration found a better way to do it by rolling up their sleeves, digging in, and talking with Native American tribes,” Hatch said.
“We’ll continue working closely with locals moving forward to ensure that Utahns have a voice in this process,” Hatch said.
It’s unclear by how much Trump will shrink the Bears Ears monument, though White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said more details will come out during the president’s upcoming visit to Utah.
Bears Ears encompasses 1,351,849 acres, making it one of the largest land-based monuments ever created.
Republicans said Obama had gone beyond what he’s authorized to do under the Antiquities Act, which gives the president authority to designate monuments. The GOP said Obama improperly put large swaths of land under stricter federal control.
The Antiquities Act stipulates that monuments “in all cases shall be confined to the smallest area compatible with proper care and management of the objects to be protected.”
Democrats and environmentalists support keeping Bears Ears as a national monument, making it harder for certain activities, like farming or raising livestock. Most tribal officials supported creation of the Bears Ears monument, though tribal members living on the monument’s borders had reservations.
“President Trump is making it clear that he stands with the most partisan and anti-lands faction of his party, not the majority of Americans,” Wilderness Society President Jamie Williams said in a statement.
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