SALT LAKE CITY -- President Trump is expected to sign an executive order Wednesday morning directing the U.S. Department of the Interior to review the Antiquities Act. Many see it as a first step in undoing the designation of the 1.3 million acre Bears Ears National Monument in southeastern Utah.
President Obama created the monument late in 2016, despite the opposition of all of Utah’s federal delegation.
“For years I’ve fought to check the abuse of power under the Antiquities Act. That’s why I’ve been working closely with the Trump administration from day one to right the wrongs of previous administrations,” said Senator Orrin Hatch.
U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke outlined the basic content of the executive order late on Tuesday.
“The executive order will direct me, as the Secretary, to review prior monument designations and to suggest legislative changes or modifications to the monuments. The monument designation period stretches from 1 January 1996 under which the act -- and it has to include acts and monuments that are 100,000 acres or more -- so the beginning date is January 1st, 1996, and the other condition is they have to be a total of 100,000 acres or more. That should include about 24 to 40 monuments,” said Zinke.
They are the words Utah’s federal delegation, fighting to undo the Bears Ear’s designation have been waiting to hear.
“For years I’ve fought to check the abuse of power under the Antiquities Act. That’s why I’ve been working closely with the trump administration from day one to right the wrongs of previous administrations,” said Utah Senator Orrin Hatch.
Environmental groups are already lining up against the executive order.
“This executive order is the beginning of an all-out assault on America’s public lands,” said Jennifer Rokala, Executive Director for the Center for Western Priorities.
The people of Utah appear to be split. A UtahPolicy.com poll released on Tuesday shows 52% of the people think Bear Ear’s should either ‘definitely’ or ‘probably’ be rescinded or shrunk, 41% believe it should ‘definitely not’ or ‘probably not’ be changed, 8% were undecided.
Secretary Zinke has 120 days to make his recommendation to President Trump. While he may suggest changes to Bears Ears and/or Grand Staircase-Escalante, he’s unlikely to hand the land back to Utah. Zinke has said repeatedly he does not favor the transfer of federal lands.