President Donald Trump used his authority under the Antiquities Act to shrink the size of two massive national monuments designated by former presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton. Trump returned the land back to the people of Utah.
“The families and communities of Utah know and love this land the best, and you know the best how to take care of your land,” Trump said during a visit to Utah. “You know how to protect it, and you know best how to conserve this land for many, many generations to come.”
Trump took the unusual step of shrinking the amount of land protected by the Antiquities Act, despite an outcry from leftist environmental groups.
“I’ve come to Utah to take a very historic action to reverse federal overreach and restore the rights of this land to your citizens,” Trump said during the event, which included Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke, Utah Senators Orrin Hatch and Mike Lee, as well as Governor Gary Herbert.
Obama designated 1.35 million acres of land to serve as the Bears Ears National Monument right before he left office in 2016. Clinton designated 1.9 million acres in Utah as the Grand Staircase-Escalante monument. Both monuments were reduced after Secretary Zinke conducted a study of both monuments.
The president reminded the audience that the Antiquites Act recquired a president to protect the “smallest necessary area” for conservation. He commented that previous administrations “severely abused” their powers under the Antiquities Act to lock up millions of acres of land and water under federal control.
“With the action I’m taking today, we will not only give back your voice over the use of this land, we will also restore your access and your enjoyment,” Trump said. “Public lands will once again be for public use.”