President Trump announced Monday he was significantly reducing the size of two national monuments in Utah, infuriating environmentalists and leaving his supporters wanting the president to do the same in many other parts of the country.
Speaking in Utah, Trump announced he was reducing the monument designation at Bears Ears National Monument from 1.3 million acres to 220,000. He also reduced the monument footprint at the Grand Staircase-Escalante from 1.9 million acres to roughly one million.
The National Center for Public Policy Research is pushing for a very aggressive approach to rolling back national monument designations. Senior Fellow Bonner Cohen is gratified Trump went further than Interior Secrertary Ryan Zinke originally recommended.
“He has shoved that aside and has reduced the size of the two monuments in Utah far beyond that which Zinke originally proposed. I think that’s an important first step,” said Cohen.
“This is just a first step. There are other national monuments that were created in recent years, mostly by Presidents Clinton, Bush, and particularly Obama, that are gigantic national monuments,” said Cohen.
Clinton designated the Grand Staircase-Escalante monument in 1996 and Obama signed off on Bears Ears shortly before leaving office.
Cohen says the federal government grabs land with little to no regard to the impact on the local community.
“They were created with precious little, if any, input from local effected communities and were created for the sole purpose of putting these lands completely off limits to any economic use whatsoever, to the detriment of the local communities,” said Cohen.
Democrats and environmental activists are outraged by Trump’s decision, a develop Cohen says was entirely predictable and proves Trump is making the right choice. Cohen says the aggressive liberal use of the monument designation has little to do with the stated purpose of protecting sacred American Indian lands.
He says the real goal is to squelch American energy production.
“Many of these lands do in fact contain very valuable natural resources, which is precisely why the Clinton administration and the Obama administration created them in the first place. The goal was to create an artificial shortage of natural resources and to limit Americans’ access to their own very abundant natural resources,” said Cohen.
Not only that, Cohen says the use of national monument designations is illegal. He says the 1906 Antiquities Act, which gives the president designation powers, specifically instructs that the smallest parcel of land be cordoned off to protect Indian sites.
In addition, he says a 1963 law specifically gives Congress the power to add federal wilderness lands, but Democrats and environmentalists are using the Antiquities Act as a run-around.
“The environmentalists, working hand-in-glove with the Clinton administration and the Obama administration, found a way of using the Antiquities Act and turning it on its head,” said Cohen.
“It is a de facto wilderness designation, circumventing Congress in the process, and also circumventing the will of local communities, who are rarely consulted about any of this,” said Cohen.
Trump’s critics also claim his actions are unprecedented, that no president has ever rolled back the monument designations of a predecessor. Cohen says that’s simply wrong.
‘There’s nothing unprecedented about a president shrinking national monuments. It has happened 18 times before,” said Cohen, who says the federal government already owns 30-35 percent of all land in the U.S., including 83 percent of Nevada and 63 percent in both Idaho and Utah.
Cohen says he expects more announcements like this from Trump in the days to come.
“I sincerely hope, and I have reason to believe, that other actions will be taken in the not-too-distant future, meaning in the next few weeks,” said Cohen. “I believe what we saw today will be the first of several steps the Trump administration will do in ending the abuse of the Antiquities Act,” said Cohen.