President Donald Trump signed an executive order at the Interior Department on Wednesday, ordering a review of federal monuments designated by past presidents.
“The Antiquities Act does not give the federal government unlimited power to lock up millions of acres of land and water, and it’s time we ended this abusive practice,” Trump said, citing the 1908 law granting power to the president to create monuments.
The review will examine recent monument designations of 100,000 acres or more since the Clinton administration and make recommendations as to whether they should be rescinded, resized, or modified.
Trump criticized the “federal land grab” of past administrations, specifically former President Obama’s decision to designate hundreds of millions acres of land and water as monuments — including Bears Ears, a 1.35 million area in Utah.
“I’ve heard a lot about Bears Ears,” he said, specifically citing the “never ending prodding” from Sen. Mike Lee and Sen. Orrin Hatch to revisit Obama’s decision. Both Utah senators were present for the event as well as Utah Governor Gary Herbert. Governor Paul LePage of Main was also present as well as Vice President Mike Pence.
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke spoke at the event, citing the text of the law that called for a president to designate “the smallest area compatible with proper care and management of the objects to be protected.”
He cited former President Theodore Roosevelt’s first national monument of Devils Tower, pointing out that recent presidents have designated monuments that included tens of millions of acres. Other designations, he explained, were made to make public lands off limits to responsible industry development and public use.
“Despite this directive, ‘smallest area’ has too often become the exception rather than the rule,” Zinke said, adding that “somewhere along the way, the act has become a tool of public advocacy rather than public interest.”
Trump’s executive order starts a 120 day federal review of national monuments, with an interim report on Bears Ears within 45 days.