Two national monuments in Utah see huge acreage cutback in largest-ever reversal of federal monument protections

(Bears Ears National Monument Facebook photo)

SALT LAKE CITY — President Trump signed proclamations cutting the acreage of two national monuments in southern Utah on Monday, Dec. 4, excising more than 2 million acres from them in the largest-ever reversal of federal monument protections.

Trump undid protections for 85 percent of the 1.35-million-acre Bears Ears National Monument and nearly half of the 1.9 million acres in the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.

According to details provided by the Interior Department, the proclamations will retain both monuments’ existing monikers but will divide the sites into five smaller units.

Grand Staircase-Escalante will become the Grand Staircase Unit of about 210,000 acres, the Kaiparowits Unit of 551,000 acres and the Escalante Canyons Unit of 243,000 acres.

The Bears Ears National Monument will be comprised of the Indian Creek Unit with 72,000 acres and Shash Jaa Unit with about 130,000 acres.

Opposing groups argue that while presidents have the authority under the Antiquities Act of 1906 to establish monuments to protect federal land with historic, scientific or cultural value, the law does not grant presidents the power to reduce those sites.

Although presidents have previously redrawn the boundaries of monuments — totaling about 461,000 acres, according to National Park Service data, about one-fourth of the land excised by Trump — none of those actions has ever been challenged in court.

— Greenwire

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