President Donald Trump announced a reduction in the acreage of two of Utah's sprawling wilderness national monuments on Monday saying he wanted the people of Utah to control the land.
Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke had recommended that Trump vastly reduce the size of the monuments and seek congressional authorization to turn over the remaining landmarks to be co-managed with Native American tribes. Using the same reasoning as for reducing the size of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Trump wants to cut down the approximately 1.35 million acres, designated as federally protected land by former President Barack Obama on December 28, 2016, by over 1.15 million acres, down to only 201,876 acres.
The reasoning behind the move is to designate as protected "the smallest area compatible with the protection of the objects of scientific or historic interest", and the proclamation also opens the newly public lands to "disposition under all laws relating to mineral and geothermal leasing; and location, entry, and patent under the mining laws".
According to a lawsuit, obtained by TMZ, Trump's controversial decision to strip 900,000 acres from Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument is an attempt to reverse President Clinton's 1996 decision to create the Monument.
In a statement Monday, Heidi McIntosh from Earthjustice's Rocky Mountains office said: "President Trump has perpetrated a awful violation of America's public lands and heritage by going after this dinosaur treasure trove".
Zinke told reporters Tuesday he is "fairly confident" Trump will accept his recommendations.
Zinke said his review looked at 150 monuments, with 27 getting the most scrutiny. Officials believe some of the protected land should be legally set aside for logging rather than monuments, Zinke said, and they're considering what to do about private land within the monument borders. But it also gave presidents the authority to create national monuments on their own without Congress. "And the Antiquities Act was never meant to prevent, it was meant to protect".
"More than 150 years ago, the federal government removed our ancestors from Bears Ears at gunpoint and sent them on the Long Walk", Navajo Nation Council Delegate Davis Filfred said in statement.
People held signs as cheers and boos ran throughout the park.
Earlier, Trump met with Mormon leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, and toured Welfare Square, the Mormon social services complex during his first trip to Utah as president.