On Monday December 4th, President Donald Trump declared that he was going to shrink thousands of acres of national monument land and make it public again. “Some people think that the natural resources of Utah should be controlled by a small handful of very distant bureaucrats located in Washington,” Trump said at the Utah Capitol building. “And guess what? They’re wrong.” This decision has stirred up a lot of praise, and criticism, for Trump as he changes the way the Antiquities Act is currently viewed and used. Trump will be decreasing the size of the Bears Ears monument down by 85% and the Grand Staircase-Escalante by 50% of their current sizes.
The Antiquities Act, signed into law by Theodore Roosevelt in 1906, allows any president to designate land into national monuments, making them untouchable by the public. Bears Ears was one such monument and was designated as a national monument in 2016 by Barrack Obama. Utah Republicans were opposed to this decision by Obama, and have been lobbying towards reverting the change and have finally, through Trump, been able to restore the lands to the public. This decision opens the land to be used for such activities as oil drilling, and cattle grazing.
Many people were outraged at this decision by Trump, claiming that it will ruin thousands of miles of indigenous grounds. Bears Ears Monument is widely known for its archaeological importance, with over 100,000 historical sites located in the national monument. Environmentalists and Native American tribes in the area, who have been trying to defend this area for years, are doing everything they can to revert this decision. “We will stand and fight all the way,” said Russell Begaye, president of the Navajo Nation