UPDATE: President Trump signs Executive Order to review possible abuses of Antiquities Act
Possible abuses of the Antiquities Act will be reviewed in the next 45 days after an Executive Order was signed by President Donald Trump on April 26.
Trump signed the executive order in a ceremony at the headquarters of the Department of the Interior. The event was attended by Vice President Mike Pence, Utah Senators Orrin Hatch and Mike Lee, Utah Governor Gary Herbert, Interior Department officials and a host of elected officials from other states.
Before signing the order, Trump focused on the most recent use of the Antiquities Act in December, 2016, when President Barack Obama created the 1.35-million acre Bears Ears National Monument in San Juan County.
"I've heard a lot about Bears Ears and I hear it is beautiful," he said.
Later, Trump stated, "Tremendously positive things are going to happen on that incredible land, the likes of which there is nothing more beautiful anywhere in the world."
While discussing the Antiquities Act, Trump said, "The previous administration bypassed the states and placed 265 million acres under federal control… This is larger than the entire state of Texas.
"The Antiquities Act does not give the fed government unlimited power to lock up millions of acres of land and water. It is time we ended this abusive practice.
"It was a massive federal land grab. It has gotten worse and worse and worse and now we are going to free it up. It should have never happened. It is time we end these abuses and return control to the people, to put the American people back in charge of their government and their lives."
To open the meeting, Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zenke welcomed the group and said, "The Antiquities Act has been effective tool to preserve some of our greatest treasure."
Zenke said that the Act, which was passed by Congress in 1906, states that any designations should be the smallest area compatible with proper care and management of the resource.
Zenke said, "However, 'smallest area' has too often become the exception rather than the rule."
Zenke said the first monument created using the Antiquities Act was Devils Tower, a 1,200-acre monument, but in recent years, single monuments span tens of millions of acres.
"The Antiquities Act has become a tool of political advocacy rather than public interest," said Zenke, who added, "This executive order does not remove any monuments or weaken any environmental protections on any public lands."
While introducing the Trump, Vice President Mike Pence said that the order "will begin to undo one of the great federal overreaches of recent decades: the abuse of the Antiquities Act by politicians in Washington DC to grab land and power at the people's expense."
As should be expected, there have been a host of comments about the Executive Order, including praise from elected officials in the impacted area.
The Conservation Lands Foundation stated that the review "is a waste of time and money" and added, "The Executive Order is a distraction promoted by insincere politicians who would undermine the efforts of local communities coming together to protect the best of America's outdoor heritage."
David Filfred, a Navajo Nation Council Delegate from San Juan County, said, “The designation of Bears Ears National Monument has been a celebratory moment in our history, where our voice was finally heard and our cultural and spiritual heritage was respected. Unfortunately, the Utah delegation has continued to attack Tribes and this unnecessary executive order serves to undermine Tribal sovereignty.”
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