Trump’s Decision on Utah

Callie Musgrave, Writer

Hang on for a minute...we're trying to find some more stories you might like.

Email This Story

On December 4, 2017, President Donald Trump flew to Utah to announce the down-size of two national monuments, Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante within Utah state borders. The change has proven to be the largest demotion in National Monument Protection history within the United States, and conservationists are already rallying against the decision.

According to Interior Secretary, Ryan Zinke, after the reduction, the Bears Ears monument will decrease by 85%, going from 1.3 million acres down to 228,000 acres. In addition, the Grand Staircase-Escalante monument will lose about half its acreage, decreasing from 1.9 million acres to 1 million.

During his speech on Monday, December 4th, Trump addressed the crowd saying, “No one values the splendor of Utah more than you do and no one knows how to use it better.” He also mentioned of how he previously spoke with Ryan Zinke and two of the state’s senators – Orrin Hatch and Mike Lee – and their thoughts on the decision. The two senators are known for their negative thoughts on the monuments and their protection under the 1906 Antiquities Act. With this act, the government of Utah is able to take away land from the inhabitants without repercussions. With that in mind, Trump made it a point in his speech to voice those criticisms over the act.

“These abuses of the Antiquities Act,” Trump continued, “give enormous power to faraway bureaucrats at the expense of the people who actually live here, work here and make this place their home.”

Trump’s decision was not hasty or spontaneous however; it was made after months of observations over the 100,000 acres of protected land the monuments were occupying. Zinke, in charge of the review, had originally looked at over two dozen other monuments that were placed aside by the presidential decree of the 1990s.

Bears Ears was relatively new to the Utah monuments list, being created by President Barack Obama before he left office. Staircase-Escalante, on the other hand, had been created during Bill Clinton’s presidency. Utah has always been caught in the middle of debates which led to the review for the monuments and their reductions.

Conservational groups, Utah’s Republican congressional delegations, and county commissions all encouraged and even urged the Clinton administration to give the federal lands back to the people.

Matt Anderson from Sutherland Institute of Utah said, “President Trump’s decision to reduce these monuments will allow us to to still protect those areas that need protection, while at the same time keeping the area open and accessible to locals who depend on this land for their daily lives.”

According to Anderson, rural areas and counties are harmed by national monuments and public lands. “These areas already have large amounts of federal public land where cattle grazing, mining, and other types of private enterprise are heavily regulated,” Anderson said.

During Trump’s speech, he spoke of how the national monument decision was also to “prevent Native Americans from having their rightful voice over the sacred land where they practice their most important ancestral and religious traditions.”

Native Americans, for months, have been protesting against the monumental designations and have now promised to sue the government/Trump.

“The Navajo Nation has made repeated requests to meet with President Trump on this issue. The Bears Ears Monument is of critical importance, not only to the Navajo Nation but to many tribes in the region,” said Russell Begaye, Navajo Nation President.

“The decision to reduce the size of the monument is being made with no tribal consultation,” he continued on to say, in a written response, “The Navajo Nation will defend Bears Ears. The reduction of the monument gives us no choice but to litigate this decision.”

Trump’s decision ultimately enraged millions of people but also pleased many politicians and landowners in the proximity of the monuments.