President Trump has reduced the size of two national monuments in Utah in an act to create job opportunities and economic growth for the region by removing restrictions and encouraging development on public land.
In the largest cutback of federal land protection in America’s history, Trump has reduced Bears Ears National Monument by 85% and cut Grand Staircase-Escalante by half to make room for coal mining and other fossil fuel projects.
Speaking at the Utah state capital, Trump said: “Together, we will usher in a bright new future of wonder and wealth.”
A number of Trump’s predecessors have enforced protections in the area, including President Barrack Obama in 2016, when he classified Bear Ears a monument and President Bill Clinton in 1996, who catergorised Grand Staircase-Escalante – both using the Antiques Act that allows presidents to protect landmarks and “other objects of historic or scientific interest.”
Under the act, presidents must limit designations to the, “smallest area compatible with proper care and management.” In both examples of Trump’s predecessors, Utah politicians have said these were illegal and an abuse of the law by exceeding the limits.
The move is considered a win for Republican lawmakers, fossil fuel companies and others who have argued that the designations enforced by previous presidents have prevented communities from generating revenue and growing their local economies.
When Clinton founded the Grand Staircase, it brought an end to plans for a coal mining project that would have created jobs to a county that desperately needed them.
Senator Mike Lee of Utah said, with regards to Trump: “He’s been sympathetic to the fact that we’ve been mistreated, and I’m grateful that he is willing to correct it.”
The decision comes as oil companies come closer to achieving their goal of drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska for the first time through a Republican tax reform, which could generate $2.2 billion in bid revenue alone.