U.S. President Donald Trump is expected to order a review of the use of the Antiquities Act over the past 20 years, including the creation of two massive national monuments that were created in southern Utah.
The review will begin with the 1996 designation of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument by President Bill Clinton and will include the December, 2016 designation of Bears Ears National Monument by President Barack Obama.
The Bears Ears monument designated 1.35 million acres of public land in San Juan County as a new national monument. This represents more than 25 percent of the land mass of county, which is the largest county in Utah.
The review may begin the process of resizing or even rescinding the massive monument, which was created despite the united opposition of every elected official with direct responsibility over the land in question, except President Obama himself.
The Antiquities Act, created by Congress in 1906, gives the President executive authority to designate national monuments to protect federal land.
Trump’s order is expected to ask if recent use of the Antiquities Act has exceeded the scope of the legislation, which expressly states that the least amount of land should be designated.
Local residents have fought the designations, arguing that the 1.9 million acre Grand Staircase-Escalante monument and the 1.35-million acre Bears Ears monument exceed the intent of the Antiquities Act.
Local officials praised the announcement of Trump’s review, believing that it the first step in getting rid of the unpopular monument.
Monument supporters state that the order will result in a verification that the monument was created under proper use of the Antiquities Act.
On Wednesday, April 26 (after the press deadline) it is expected that Trump will sign an executive order to demand that the Interior Department secretary examine all national monument designations in the past 21 years to discern whether the size and scope are within the law’s intent.
There is no precedent to rescind a monument, but monument boundaries have been resized or scaled back in previous cases.
Utah Senator Orrin Hatch visited San Juan County in the past week and reported on his visit with an April 24 speech on the floor of the U.S. Senate. (read excerpts of the speech on page 3).
The visit included stops with elected officials, business owners, Native American groups and a visit to the actual Bears Ears.
The Bears Ears was created by President Obama after several years of discussions that included proposed legislation, the Public Lands Initiative (PLI).
The PLI Congressional action, sponsored by Representatives Jason Chaffetz and Rob Bishop, failed to pass through Congress. Te actual designation of 1.35-million acres was cut back from a prior proposal to create a 1.9-million acre national monument.
Details of the order will be released when it is formally announced.