Trump Signs Order on National Monuments, Giving Power 'Back to the People'

By Melanie Arter | April 26, 2017 | 8:04pm EDT
President Donald Trump with Vice President Mike Pence (right) and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke (left) (Screenshot courtesy of C-SPAN video)

( - President Donald Trump signed an executive order Wednesday at the Interior Department to review designations of national monuments under the Antiquities Act of 1906, saying the order puts an end to the “egregious abuse of federal power” and gives the power “back to the states and to the people, where it belongs.”

“The previous administration used a 100-year-old law known as the Antiquities Act to unilaterally put millions of acres of land and water under strict federal control,” Trump said, “eliminating the ability of the people who actually live in those states to decide how best to use that land. Today, we are putting the states back in charge.”


The  Presidential Executive Order on the Review of Designations Under the Antiquities Act orders Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to review “all Presidential designations or expansions of designations” under the act made since Jan. 1, 1996 “where the designation covers more than 100,000 acres, where the designation after expansion covers more than 100,000 acres, or where the Secretary determines that the designation or expansion was made without adequate public outreach and coordination with relevant stakeholders.”

The goal is to determine whether the designation or expansion was made “in accordance with the requirements and original objectives” of the act and balances “the protection of landmarks, structures, and objects against the appropriate use of Federal lands and the effects on surrounding lands and communities.”

“Altogether, the previous administration bypassed the states to place over 265 million acres -- that's a lot of land, million acres,” Trump said. “Think of it -- 265 million acres of land and water under federal control through the abuse of the monuments designation. That’s larger than the entire state of Texas.

"In December of last year alone, the federal government asserted this power over 1.35 million acres of land in Utah, known as Bears Ears -- I’ve heard a lot about Bears Ears, and I hear it’s beautiful -- over the profound objections of the citizens of Utah. The Antiquities Act does not give the federal government unlimited power to lock up millions of acres of land and water, and it’s time we ended this abusive practice,” the president said.

“I’ve spoken with many state and local leaders -- a number of them here today -- who care very much about preserving our land, and who are gravely concerned about this massive federal land grab,” Trump said. “And it’s gotten worse and worse and worse, and now we're going to free it up, which is what should have happened in the first place. This should never have happened.  

“That’s why today I am signing this order and directing Secretary Zinke to end these abuses and return control to the people -- the people of Utah, the people of all of the states, the people of the United States,” the president added.

According to Zinke, the executive order does not “strip any monument of a designation” or “loosen any environmental or conservation regulations on any land or marine areas.”

Instead, it “puts America and the Department of the Interior back on track to manage our federal lands  in accordance to traditional ‘multiple-use’ philosophy by directing the Secretary of the Department of the Interior to make recommendations to the President on whether a monument should be rescinded, resized in order to better manage our federal lands.”

It “restores trust” between the community and the federal government and “roots out abuses of power by previous administrations.” It also “gives rural communities” a voice by directing the Interior secretary to consult and coordinate with state governors who are affected by monument designations.

“The Interior is the steward of America’s public lands. Part of being a good steward is being a good neighbor and being a good listener. In the Trump administration, we listen and then we act," said Zinke.

"For years, the people of Utah and other rural communities have voiced concern and opposition to some monument designations, but too often in recent history, exiting presidents make designations despite those concerns, and the acreage is increasing," he said.

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