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Trump to reduce lands in protected national monuments by 2 million acres

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Bears Ears National Monument was only designated in 2016

This afternoon in Salt Lake City, President Trump signed two proclamations modifying the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments in Utah, scaling back federal protections on over two million acres of land.

The Bears Ears National Movement would be reduced by about 85 percent, from 1.5 million acres to 220,000 acres, while the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument would be cut to about half its current size, to one million acres.

The move comes after recommendations by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to modify 10 national monuments and reduce at least four of them. It’s part of the administration’s effort to scale back federal control of public lands, which has expanded over the years with the Antiquities Act of 1906, a law that that allows the president to designate national monuments to protect cultural and natural resources.

Grand Staircase-Escalante was designated by President Bill Clinton using the Antiquities Act in 1996, and Bears Ears was designated using the same law just last year by President Barack Obama, who created or expanded a record-setting 34 national monuments during his time in office.

Just in October, national monuments created under the Antiquities Act were included in The Cultural Landscape Foundation’s 2017 list of public spaces under threat.

As Vox explains, the decision to shrink these Utah monuments is expected to be challenged in court by conservation groups and Native American tribes that consider the lands sacred. The court has never before ruled on whether a president can reduce the size of a national monument.