Some of America’s most beautiful places are under threat
On Wednesday, President Donald Trump ordered the Interior Department to review national monument designations dating back more than two decades.
The national monuments called into question by Trump account for millions of acres of land, USA Today reported. Trump’s order argues that former presidents “abused” the system by designating the land as a monument, thus protecting it from oil drilling and future development.
“Today, we are giving power back to the states and people where it belongs,” Trump said while signing the executive order at the Interior Department headquarters. “This massive federal land grab; it’s gotten worse and worse.”
The executive order was signed at the request of Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah, according to Fox News, who was angered over President Obama’s national monument declaration at Bears Ears. “When President Obama designated the Bears Ears monument in December, he did so ignoring the voices of Utah leaders who were united in opposition, and even more importantly, ignoring the voices of the local Utahns most affected by this massive land grab,” Hatch said.
The signing of the order now calls into question the power of the 1906 Antiquities Act, which gave presidents authority to protect land. Of the act, Trump said it gave “unlimited power to lock up millions of acres of land and water.”
Environmentalists are already gearing up for battle. "This review is a first step towards monument rollbacks, which we will fight all the way," Rhea Suh, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council, told USA Today. "These public lands belong to all of us." While the Sierra Club said in a statement, “America’s parks and public lands are not in need of corporate restructuring. We should not be asking which parts of our history and heritage we can eliminate, but instead how we can make our outdoors reflect the full American story.”
To be clear, the executive order does not strip the areas of their protected status just yet. "Here’s what the executive order does not do: The executive order does not strip any monument of a designation. The executive order does not loosen any environmental or conservation regulation on any land or marine areas," Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said in a statement. "It is a review of the last 20 years." His report is expected in the next 120 days.
To help understand what’s at stake, check out a few of the truly stunning national monuments Trump would like to open for oil, gas, and coal mining instead of protect for future generations of Americans below: