A new executive order from President Donald Trump plans to place over two dozen national monuments under review, meaning that millions of acres of land protected by the federal government could be given back to states based on the administration’s decision.
The executive order, which President Trump plans to sign on Wednesday, will review national monuments that have been proclaimed by past presidents, from President Clinton’s Staircase-Escalante National Monument in 1996 to President Obama’s Bears Ears National Monument, proclaimed in 2016. Approximately 30 monuments will be reviewed.
Bears Ears in Utah is a particularly controversial monument that the Trump administration may target due to its particularly large size (1.3 million acres) and Republican criticism that naming it a monument was a misuse of the Antiquities Acts by Obama.
The area is a major Native American tribal access point for gathering plants and firewood for ceremonies, according to the US Forest Service, and the monument’s rock cliffs hold sacred value to local Native American tribes.
Yet Trump seems to be targeting that monument more than anything else. While the executive order will ask for a report by Secretary of Interior Ryan Zinke within 120 days, the order would ask for a specific report regarding Bears Ears within 45 days.
President Trump is not planning to take any official action until Secretary Zinke files a report, but Zinke warns that Trump may be able to amend a monument’s status as he so chooses. Completely nullifying a monument, meanwhile, remains unclear. This means that Trump can strip away some of Bears Ears’ acres, but it may not be possible for Trump to rescind Bears Ears’ national monument status.
“There’s no doubt the president has the authority to amend a monument,” Zinke stated during his confirmation hearing. “It will be interesting to see whether the president has the authority to nullify a monument. Legally, it’s untested. I would think that [if] the president would nullify a monument, it would be challenged and then the court would determine whether or not the legal framework allows it or not.”
Previously, OUT and NewNowNext warned that the executive order could lead to the Stonewall Inn losing its national monument status for its role in LGBTQ rights history. However, USA Today reports that the review only affects national monuments with 100,000 acres or more, meaning that Stonewall won’t be affected by the review. That said, Trump’s actions after the review could set a precedent for removal of smaller monuments, such as Stonewall.
H/T NBC News
Update 12:15pm CT, April 26: As expected, Trump signed qn executive order requesting the Secretary of the Interior to review dozens of national monuments declared federally protected lands by his predecessors.
Signing the executive order at the Department of the Interior, Trump criticized “a massive federal land grab” by previous presidents and said the executive order would terminate “another egregious abuse of federal power” that would be given “back to the states and to the people where it belongs,” according to the Chicago Tribune.