By Maharsh Barot, National News Writer
During a visit to Utah on Monday, December 4, President Donald Trump officially announced his intentions of drastically reducing the sizes of Bears Ears National Monument and Grand Staircase-Escalante Monument by a total of 2 million acres. According to National Public Radio, Inc., this is the largest federal rollback of protected national land in United States history.
This presidential decision allows for the previously protected 3.25 million acres in southern Utah to shrink down to 1.23 million acres. NBC News reports that five smaller monuments will be created from this land, which are to be named Grand Staircase, Shash Jaa, Indian Creek, Escalante Canyons, and Kaiparowits, respectively. President Trump has said that this move would replace the “massive overreach” by the previous Democratic administrations and reopen land for private use.
The Bears Ears National Monument was initially created by President Obama before leaving office in 2016, while the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument was erected by President Clinton in 1996. Both monuments are guaranteed protection by the 1906 Antiquities Act, which allows Presidents to protect landmarks and objects/sites of historical or scientific interest by declaring them National Monuments, according to the National Park Service.
President Trump was very critical of these decisions when he addressed Utah during his visit. “These abuses of the Antiquities Act give enormous power to faraway bureaucrats at the expense of the people who actually live here, work here and make this place their home,” Trump said on Monday. His administration has stated that many more protections are still in place to prevent the last remnants of the West’s great open spaces from being misused, according to NBC News.
This news has sparked a variety of reactions and responses from different groups. Senators Orrin Hatch and Mike Lee, both Republican, have been critics of the previous Presidents’ decisions to erect these two National Monuments, calling them overreaches that have deprived Utahans use of their land. This sentiment has been echoed by the state of Utah’s Republican congressional delegation. National Public Radio, Inc. reported that the President spoke with the two Senators, as well as Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, before making up his mind on the matter.
Just as there are proponents for the president’s move, several groups have voiced opposition to the decision. The President received support from some tribes, but four Native American tribes, the Navajo, Zuni, Hopi, and Ute, have sued in opposition of reducing the Bear Ears Monument. They were integral to its creation, and cited its cultural importance to their people. NBC News has said that in addition to Native American groups, environmental conservation organizations, such as the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, also oppose the reduction, and many have filed lawsuits against the administration.
One notable group that has filed a lawsuit does not quite fit into either of these groups. The Guardian newsletter reported that Patagonia, a sustainable outdoor clothing and apparel company, filed a complaint on Wednesday, December 6, accusing Donald Trump of exceeding his office’s powers. The corporation made a statement on their website, reading, “The President stole your land.” Robert Tadlock, Patagonia’s lawyer on the issue, recently announced: “This is certainly a step we’ve never taken before in this context. But the president’s decision is unprecedented. And so it calls for a different kind of response.”
A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, December 12th print edition.
Contact Maharsh at