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Congressman plan legislation on Utah monuments
08 December 2017, 12:53 | Terri Saunders
Congressman plan legislation on Utah monuments
Native American leaders say President Donald Trump's move to drastically shrink a Utah national monument is the president's second insult to native people in a week and an offense that tribes will unite to fight.
Environmental and tribal groups say the designations are needed to protect important archaeological and cultural resources, especially the more than 1.3 million-acre (2,030-square-mile) Bears Ears site featuring thousands of Native American artifacts. The court cases are likely to drag on for years.
Three lawsuits already had been filed involving Utah's monuments. But it also gave presidents the authority to create national monuments on their own, without Congress.
As expected, environmental and Native American groups were outraged.
The tribes point to a federal lands law from the 1970s that says only Congress can actually reduce or nullify a national monument.
"Some people think that the natural resources of Utah should be controlled by a small handful of very distant bureaucrats located in Washington", President Trump said.
Outside Trump's announcement Monday, roughly 3,000 protesters lined up near the State Capitol.
Patagonia President and CEO Rose Marcario said the outdoor-apparel company will join an expected court fight against the monument reduction, which she described as the "largest elimination of protected land in American history".
Trump traveled to Salt Lake City for the announcement, and also met with leaders of the Mormon Church.
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Bears Ears, created almost a year ago, will be reduced to 201,876 acres (315 square miles). About 1.7 million acres of land was declared protected under Proclamation 6920 by former President Bill Clinton on September 18, 1996, (Congress added more later) and Trump's Monday order reduces that to just over 1 million acres.
Trump acted on a recommendation by Zinke, who also has urged that two other large national monuments in the West be reduced in size, potentially opening up thousands of acres of land revered for natural beauty and historical significance to mining, logging and other development.
Democrats and environmentalists have opposed the changes, accusing President Trump and Zinke of engaging in a secretive process aimed at helping industry groups that have donated to Republican political campaigns.
Zinke accompanied Trump aboard Air Force One, as did Utah's Republican U.S. Sens. Orrin G. Hatch and Gov. Gary R. Herbert. "They're wrong. 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 he was reversing federal overreach by scaling back the sprawling monuments designated by Democratic presidents. He said the decision would "give back your voice".
Patagonia's statements follow more than a year of the company's activism on the issue, which is not the only time the retailer has stepped in a debate over Utah's public lands.
"No president has ever removed - eliminated - protection from public lands in the way that Trump proposes to do it", says Chairman of the Conservation Lands Foundation Ed Norton.
Interior Department spokeswoman Heather Swift said Wednesday that Patagonia's claims are inaccurate because Zinke never took any private planes paid for by special interests. However, under the law, presidents have the power to modify national monuments - both to shrink and expand them. "And the Antiquities Act was never meant to prevent, it was meant to protect". He declined to specify how many acres he wants to remove from monument status, stressing that the administration is working with Nevada's governor and congressional delegation to find a solution.
Zinke also has recommended allowing logging at a newly designated monument in ME and urges more grazing, hunting and fishing at two sites in New Mexico.
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