SALT LAKE CITY (NBC) – President Donald Trump signed proclamations on Monday reducing a sprawling pair of national monuments in Utah by over 2 million acres.
Trump made the announcement to cheers at Utah’s state capitol on Monday afternoon.
The move was hailed by the state’s Republican-dominated political establishment but blasted by tribes, outdoor recreation and environmental groups.
The Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante monuments cover over 3 million acres and were designated by previous Democrat presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.
Trump will shrink Bears Ears by about 85 percent and Grand Staircase-Escalante by about half.
The change is part of the Trump administration’s move to put fewer restrictions on public lands and allow for more economic development. The president said Washington bureaucrats are exerting too much control over lands that Utah citizens understand best.
“Because some people think that the natural resources of Utah should be controlled by a small handful of very distant bureaucrats located in Washington. And guess what? They’re wrong,” Trump said. “I’ve come to Utah to take a very historic action to reverse federal overreach and restore the rights of this land to your citizens,” Trumps said.
Environmental groups are pledging to battle the move in federal courts.
“No one values the splendor of Utah more than the people of Utah – and no one knows better how to use it. Families will hike and hunt on land they have known for generations, and they will preserve it for generations to come,” said Trump in a statement Monday. “The Antiquities Act does not give the Federal Government unlimited power to lock up millions of acres of land and water, and it’s time we ended this abusive practice. Public lands will once again be for public use.”
Earlier this year Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke visited several national monuments to review and give recommended changes to President Trump. Zinke recommended shrinking six national monuments.
“The people of Utah overwhelmingly voiced to us that public land should be protected not for the special interests, but for the citizens of our great country who use them, and this is what President Trump is doing today,” said Zinke statement.
Along with Bears Ears and Grand Staircase Escalante, Nevada’s Gold Butte and Oregon’s Cascade-Siskiyou were recommended to be reduced. Two marine monuments in the Pacific Ocean also would be reduced under Zinke’s memo, which has not been officially released.
The Missouri River Breaks monument in Montana was on Trump’s list to reevaluate; Zinke made no recommendations for change.
Trump ordered the review earlier this year after complaining about improper “land grabs” by former presidents, including Barack Obama.
Read the proclamation from the president here.