President Barack Obama decreed two more national monuments from his vacation home in Hawaii on Wednesday, taking 1.65 million more acres of Western land for management by the federal government.
The new Bear Ears Buttes monument includes 1.35 million acres of Utah and the Gold Butte monument includes about 300,000 acres in Nevada.
That makes a total of 553 million acres of national lands and waters that Obama has repurposed for conservation and protection using the 1906 Antiquities act, more than any other president, according to the New York Times. More than 80 percent of Nevada and about 65 percent or Utah is owned by the federal government, according to National Public Radio.
Utah Republican leaders in Congress were furious after Obama decided to designate the controversial Bear Ears monument.
“This arrogant act by a lame duck president will not stand,” Utah Republican Sen. Mike Lee responded in a statement. “I will work tirelessly with Congress and the incoming Trump administration to honor the will of the people of Utah and undo this designation.”
A November poll of Utah residents showed that 60 percent were opposed to the idea and only 33 percent supported it.
Congressman Jason Chaffetz was also furious.
“The midnight move is a slap in the face to the people of Utah, attempting to silence the voices of those who will bear the heavy burden it imposes,” he wrote, calling Obama’s actions a “major break with protocol” because it did not have the support of Utah’s Governor, the state’s Congressional delegation, nor local elected officials or state legislators who represented the area.
Obama has used his power to create 29 separate national monuments, using the Antiquities Act, but the Washington Post reports that he is expected to create one or two more in order to match or beat Franklin D. Roosevelt’s record of 30 designations.