A Win for Liberty: Two National Monuments in Utah Will Shrink

You can support both public lands access and the shrinking of illegally-designated national monuments.

Today, President Donald Trump announced his administration will dramatically scale back two controversial national monuments illegally designated by former President Obama last December and former President Clinton in 1996—Bears Ears and Grand Staircase -Escalante in Utah—respectively.

Trump was surrounded by much of the Utah delegation —Senators Orrin Hatch and Mike Lee, Governor Gary Herbert, and countless constituents.

“Some people think that the natural resources should be controlled by a small handful of very distant bureaucrats located in Washington,” President Trump said. “And guess what, they’re wrong.”

Trump added, “I’ve come to Utah to reverse federal overreach and restore the rights to this land to your citizens.”

“You know how best to take care of your land,” the president told an audience at Utah’s state Capitol in Salt Lake City. “You know best how to conserve this land for generations.”

These two proclamations entail the following : the 1.9 million-acre Grand Staircase-Escalante monument will be scaled back to 906,000 acres and Bears Ears will shrink to 228,800 acres—down from 1.35 million acres.

Publications like the New York Times are calling this move “unprecedented ” because Trump’s Interior Department will scale back roughly 2 million acres and establish five smaller units.

Now, this has angered some of my friends in the sporting community and I understand their frustrations. Many in environmentalist and so-called conservationist groups are suggesting these parcels of land will be sold off to the oil and gas lobby. Despite this grotesque and false description, these national monuments will still exist—just not at their bloated, grand scale. This is a decent compromise in spite of the government’s land grab of millions of acres from under Utahans’ noses over the last 20 years. Prior to his review of this law, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said many out West, particularly in Utah, were upset with those who designated these monuments without public input. The media should be telling both sides of the story—not simply malign the state of Utah, its voters, and sportsmen.

Most of the public sadly fails to understand the Antiquities Act, which is in itself a very antiquated law, goes both ways: presidents can either designate or scale back monuments to their liking. Here’s more on the Antiquities Act of 1906 :

Sec. 2. That the President of the United States is hereby authorized, in his discretion, to declare by public proclamation historic landmarks, historic and prehistoric structures, and other objects of historic or scientific interest that are situated upon the lands owned or controlled by the Government of the United States to be national monuments, and may reserve as a part thereof parcels of land, the limits of which in all cases shall be confined to the smallest area compatible with proper care and management of the objects to be protected: Provided, That when such objects are situated upon a tract covered by a bona fide unperfected claim or held in private ownership, the tract, or so much thereof as may be necessary for the proper care and management of the object, may be relinquished to the Government, and the Secretary of the Interior is hereby authorized to accept the relinquishment of such tracts in behalf of the Government of the United States.

Sec. 3. That permits for the examination of ruins, the excavation of archaeological sites, and the gathering of objects of antiquity upon the lands under their respective jurisdictions may be granted by the Secretaries of the Interior, Agriculture, and War to institutions which the may deem properly qualified to conduct such examination, excavation, or gathering, subject to such rules and regulation as they may prescribe: Provided, That the examinations, excavations, and gatherings are undertaken for the benefit of reputable museums, universities, colleges, or other recognized scientific or educational institutions, with a view to increasing the knowledge of such objects, and that the gatherings shall be made for permanent preservation in public museums.

To those of you angered by this move, especially those of you outside of Utah, put aside your preservationist mindsets and think about the people this affects. Most of the people upset by this scaling back don’t even live in Utah or have a stake there. The compromise reached to maintain the parcels, despite major reductions, should be celebrated. Can’t both parties on this issue be happy?

We will continue to monitor similar updates here at The Resurgent.

About the author

Gabriella Hoffman

Gabriella Hoffman is a media strategist based in the Washington, D.C. Metro Area. She has written for The Resurgent since March 2016 and serves as their D.C. Correspondent.

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