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Policy & Government

Trump moves forward with a plan to shrink two national monuments

Bears Ears National Monument and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in Utah are on the chopping block.

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President Trump plans to move forward with a plan that will shrink the size of two national monuments in Utah, according to Utah Senator Orrin Hatch.

The Senator said Trump informed him Friday via phone that he would be approve Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s recommendation to shrink Bears Ears National Monument and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.

“I was incredibly grateful 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.

Bears Ears National Monument (established by President Obama) is located in Southeastern Utah with a total of 1,351,849 total acres. The former president named it a national monument during his final days in office. Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument (designated by President Clinton) is also in Southern Utah and is 1,880,461 acres of land.

Alexander Boian, Outdoor Industry Association Vice President of Government Affairs and OIAPAC Treasurer says this is a direct attack on the outdoor industry economy. 

“If what is being reported is actually implemented, it is terrible, and it’s not based in sound land policy,” said Boian. 

He says that the part of the problem is that Bears Ears has become a symbol of the industry and investing in public lands. “It strikes at the symbol of public lands in America,” he said.

But what is even more troubling to him is Grand Staircase-Escalante. “It was established more than 20 years ago in a depressed economy,” he explains. Once the monument was officially established, a robust recreation economy was born. “It demonstrates that investment in outdoor economy will result in a thriving community with thriving businesses.” 

The proposed reductions are not clear. The White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Friday a final report would be released shortly. She also said the president will be visiting Utah in early December.

This controversy all began in April when President Trump signed a review of 27 national monuments based on recommendations from the Interior Department. Trump has said that the Antiquities Act has been misused to make land off limits to development.

Not going down without a fight

Needless to say, Democrats and green groups will fight this decision.

“Any efforts to take away protections for America’s lands and waters will be met by deep opposition and with the law on our side,” said Wilderness Society President Jamie Williams in a statement on Friday.

Boian said their plan is continue to ask outdoor industry executives to press this administration. “We want executives to go to members of congress and register their outrage at what is being done.” 

According to Ethel Branch, Navajo Nation’s attorney, The Navajo Nation is ready to sue the Trump administration for violating the Antiquities Act.

It’s unsure how this will impact tourism to the area at this point since the fate of the land is unknown.

“If the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument changes in size, the important thing for the Kane County Office of Tourism is that it’s still accessible to visitors to enjoy its pristine nature,” said Camille Johnson, Executive Director of the Kane County Office of Tourism. “Whether it’s designated as a national monument or regular BLM land, we will continue to promote the visitor experience it offers.”