Trump order sets up legal clash over vast lands

He will reportedly sign an executive order requiring Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to carry out a review of every national monument created in the past 21 years-both onshore and off.

Trump said he was seeking to fight back against "an egregious abuse of power" by the Obama administration, noting that he had spoken to many state and local leaders who are "gravely concerned about this massive federal land grab".

Major sites under review include the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument and Bear Ears National Monument in Utah.The 500,000 hectare Bears Ears site is home to Native Americans, who oppose the review.

The goal is to determine whether the designation or expansion was made "in accordance with the requirements and original objectives" of the act and balances "the protection of landmarks, structures, and objects against the appropriate use of Federal lands and the effects on surrounding lands and communities".

Critics say presidents increasingly are protecting areas that are too large and do not fit the law's original objective of shielding particular historical or archaeological sites.

President Trump is expected to sign an executive order Wednesday that could end up shrinking - or even nullifying - some large federal national monuments on protected public lands, as established since the Clinton administration.

This year, Utah Republican Gov. Gary Herbert signed a resolution from state lawmakers asking Utah's congressional delegation to support shrinking the monument that is almost 1.9 million acres, about the size of Delaware. A report is expected within 45 days, focusing on the Bears Ears National Monument in Utah enacted by Obama past year, with the full report due in 120 days.

In the past, areas tagged as "national monuments" were later transformed by Congress into full-fledged National Parks - the Grand Canyon and Death Valley among them. And this executive order does not weaken any environmental protections on any public lands.

The order applies to monuments created under the Clinton, Bush and Obama administrations, but Trump singled out his most recent predecessor in a speech shortly before he signed the order. But groups that support keeping Bears Ears in federal control believe the Trump administration's decision, led by Zinke, is the first step in the process to give the land back to Utah.

FILE - In this June 22, 2016 photo, the "House on Fire" ruins is shown in Mule Canyon, near Blanding, Utah in Bears Ears National Monument.

The beginning of national monuments was in 1908 by President Theodore Roosevelt. "Unfortunately, the Utah delegation has continued to attack Tribes and this unnecessary executive order serves to undermine Tribal sovereignty. Their goal is to hand our public lands over to corporations to mine, frack, bulldoze and clear-cut till there's nothing left to dig up".

Zinke was directed to produce an interim report in 45 days and make a recommendation on Bears Ears, and then issue a final report within 120 days.

Some monuments have been reduced in size over the years, either by presidential order or by Congress, while others have been enlarged.

A national monument in Colorado is among those threatened if President Donald Trump rolls back protections for public lands, according to the Denver-based Center for Western Priorities. They argued the creation of the monument would bring economic distress to fishermen and their families.

  • Arturo Norris