One of the big political stories that the outdoor industry has been watching closely is how the current presidential administration will handle several national monuments. Shortly after taking office earlier this year, President Trump issued an executive order to have Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke review a number of monuments designated by his predecessors. Today, the results of those reviews will be officially announced, although we already know whats coming.
Trump is headed to Utah today where he will announce that he is cutting the size of the Bears Ears National Monument by 85% and Grand Staircase-Escalante in half. Both monuments sit on land that is ripe for development with a number of commercial interests ready to move into those areas. Trump supporters say that this would allow much-needed economic development for those parts of the U.S.
Today’s announcement is likely to trigger legal action by local Native American tribes and environmentalists. There has been an outpouring of support from a number of different groups calling for the U.S. government to leave these monuments alone. Those pleas have been largely ignored as the Trump Administration moved ahead with undoing much of the work done by President Obama over the previous eight years. Obama designated the Bears Ears as a national monument using an executive order as the end of his term grew near, which was also controversial at the time.
At the moment, just Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante seem to be on the chopping block, but Secretary Zinke reviewed as many 27 monuments as per the President’s orders. Those monuments stretch as far back as the Clinton Administration, with more potential cuts to their size coming. For now, we’ll just have to wait to see if some of those other areas will get reduced in size too.
The controversy behind Bears Ears and other monuments isn’t an easy one to sort out. While nationwide there is plenty of support for keeping these areas untouched, within the state of Utah plenty of people are in favor of doing away with the national monuments and having the state manage those lands instead. The feeling is that they can do a better job locally than the federal government has done thus far. Of course, there are also plenty of locals who favor commercialization and development of these areas too.
President Trump will be in Utah later today to officially make the announcement on the changes that he recommends. Those changes will have to first clear congress before they become official, but it seems as if there will be little opposition in the Republican controlled House and Senate. The legal battles are just about to start however.
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