Trump to roll back parks’ protections

Bears Ears, Grand Staircase-Escalante target of changes

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump is shrinking two national monuments in Utah, accepting the recommendation of Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to reverse protections established by two Democratic presidents to more than 3.6 million acres.

Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said he was “incredibly grateful” that Trump called him on Friday to say he is approving Zinke’s proposal on Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments. He and Trump “believe in the importance of protecting these sacred antiquities,” but there is “a better way to do it” by working with local officials and tribes, Hatch said.

Hatch’s office said Trump said, “I’m approving the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase recommendation for you, Orrin.”

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders would not confirm that Trump will shrink the Utah monuments, saying she did not want to “get ahead of the president’s announcement.”

Zinke recommended that the two Utah monuments be shrunk, along with Nevada’s Gold Butte and Oregon’s Cascade-Siskiyou.

Zinke’s recommendation prompted an outcry from environmental groups who promised to take the Trump administration to court to block any attempts to rescind or reduce the monument designations.

The two Utah monuments encompass more than 3.6 million acres — an area larger than Connecticut — and were created by Democratic administrations under a century-old law that allows presidents to protect sites considered historic, geographically or culturally important.

Bears Ears, designated for federal protection by former President Barack Obama, totals 1.3 million acres in southeastern Utah on rugged land that is sacred to Native Americans and home to tens of thousands of archaeological sites, including ancient cliff dwellings and petroglyphs.

Grand Staircase-Escalante, in southern Utah, includes nearly 1.9 million acres. Republicans have howled over the monument designation since its creation in 1996 by former President Bill Clinton.

Trump ordered a review of 27 sites earlier this year following complaints by Hatch and other Republicans that the 1906 Antiquities Act had been misused to create oversized monuments that hinder energy development, logging and other uses. Trump called the monument designations a “massive land grab” that “should never have happened.”

The review included sweeping sites mostly in the West that are home to ancient cliff dwellings, towering sequoia trees, deep canyons or ocean habitats roamed by seals, whales and sea turtles.

No president has tried to eliminate a monument, but they have trimmed and redrawn boundaries 18 times, according to the National Park Service.

Rhea Suh, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council, said it was “a disgrace” that Trump was moving to undo Bears Ears, which she described as “the nation’s first national monument created to honor Native American cultural heritage.”