(CNSNews.com) – President Donald Trump announced Monday that he is reversing the federal overreach that put millions of acres of land in Utah under federal control through national monument designations.
“I’ve come to Utah to take very historic action to reverse federal overreach and restore the rights of this land to your citizens,” Trump told a crowd in Salt Lake City, Utah.
“Today on the recommendation of [Interior] Secretary [Ryan] Zinke and with the wise counsel of Senator Hatch, Senator Lee, and the many others, I will sign two presidential proclamations. These actions will modify the national monuments designations of both Bears Ears and Grand Staircase Escalante,” he said.
Bears Ears, which was designated as a national monument in 2016 by President Barack Obama to encompass nearly 1.5 million acres of land, will be modified to two units named Shash Jáa, Navajo for Bears Ears, and Indian Creek, encompassing a total of 228,784 acres of land.
Grand Staircase, which was designated by President Bill Clinton in 1996 will be modified to three units encompassing a combined 1,006,341 acres, an area larger than the state of Rhode Island, the White House said.
“As many of you know, past administrations have severely abused the purpose, spirit, and intent of a century-old law known as the Antiquities Act. This law requires that only the smallest necessary area be set aside for special protection as national monuments,” Trump said.
“Unfortunately, previous administrations have ignored this standard and used the 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.
“For example, the previous administration designated more than a half a billion acres of land and water including Bears Ears. It did so over the loud objections of the people of this state and their elected representatives,” he said.
“The results have been very sad and very predictable. Here and in other affected states, we have seen harmful and unnecessary restrictions on hunting, ranching, and responsible economic development. We have seen grazing restrictions prevent ranching families from passing on their businesses and beloved heritage on to the children – the children that they love,” Trump added.
“We’ve seen many rural families stopped from enjoying their outdoor activities and the fact that they’ve done it all their lives made no different to the bureaucrats in Washington. We have seen needed improvements like infrastructure upgrades and road maintenance impeded and foreclosed. We have seen how this tragic federal overreach prevents many native Americans from having their rightful voice over the sacred land where they practice their most important ancestral and religious traditions,” he said.
The president said his administration will advance the protection of national treasures “through a truly representative process – one that listens to the local communities that knows the land the best and that cherishes the land the most.”
By signing the proclamations, Trump said, he is giving the people back their voice over the use of the land and restoring their access to it. “Public lands will once again be for public use,” he said.
The administration “is not going to sell public lands wholesale,” the White House said. “The Trump Administration will protect objects in the ‘smallest area compatible’ with the proper care of the objects to be protected.” It will also make sure “local communities have a voice by restoring traditional ‘multiple use’ activities on Federal lands and waters.”
“This will increase economic growth and prosperity, especially in rural communities, by allowing grazing, commercial fishing, logging, and in some cases, mineral development,” the White House said. “Monument designations should be used to protect objects and not to unnecessarily restrain public access.” Furthermore, restricting “vegetative management and maintenance activities” has led to “poorly maintained roads and even closures.”