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President Trump Was Right To Revise National Monument Boundaries

Yesterday, President Trump announced he was reconfiguring the boundaries of two national monuments located in the state of Utah.

Trump’s executive order would reduce and divide the territories of the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante monuments. The new borders would reduce the 1.353-million-acre Bears Ears down to about 201,400 acres and break it into two new monuments called Indian Creek and Shash Jaa. The President’s order Trump Monumentswould also divide the nearly 1.9 million-acre Grand Staircase-Escalante monument into three parts, totaling 997,490 acres: Grand Staircase, Kaiparowits and Escalante Canyons.

The reconfiguration of the Bears Ears boundaries would free up oil, natural gas and uranium deposits for possible extraction, while new boundaries for Grand Staircase-Escalante would free up areas high in mineral resources for exploration and possible extraction.

Rep. Rob Bishop of Utah, chairman of House Natural Resources Committee, says the proclamations that Trump signed Monday adjusting the boundaries of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments "are a first step toward protecting identified antiquities without disenfranchising the local people who work and manage these areas.”

In remarks made in Salt Lake City announcing the boundary changes reported by Arizona’s ABC15 TV, President Trump said he's reversing "federal overreach" and restoring local control of the land.

Trump criticized past administrations for designating large swaths of land for protection, claiming the bureaucrats in Washington “don’t care for your land like you do.”

ABC15 TV also reports the President said past administrations - particularly Obama and Clinton - thought “the natural resources of Utah should be controlled by a small handful of very distant bureaucrats located in Washington. And guess what? They are wrong.”

“The families and communities of Utah know and love this land the best and you know the best how to take care of your land. You know how to protect it. And you know best how to conserve this land for many, many generations to come,” Trump said.

Josh Dawsey and Juliet Eilperin of The Washington Post report that the two proclamations are the first in a series of changes Trump intends to make to numerous national monuments, which range from a forested patch of the Pacific Northwest to a stretch of the Atlantic Ocean off New England.

Dawsey and Eilperin report Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, who has reviewed more than two dozen sites established by Democratic and Republican presidents, said he would release his report on the study today. Zinke has recommended downsizing Oregon’s Cascade-Siskiyou and Nevada’s Gold Butte national monuments and shifting the way several others are managed, according to a copy obtained by The Washington Post in September.

The President’s actions are sure to spark litigation. Opponents of the boundary adjustments claim that through the 1976 Federal Land Policy and Management Act, “Congress made very clear, as a matter of law, that they intend to delegate only that which has been expressly delegated in terms of management of federal lands,” said Doug Wheeler, a partner at the firm Hogan Lovells who represents the Conservation Lands Foundation, Utah Diné Bikéyah and other groups — which would mean a president can establish a monument under the Antiquities Act but not “rescind or substantially reduce” a site, he added.

Todd Gaziano, executive director of Pacific Legal Foundation, argues that Trump can act unilaterally: “There are many hard or uncertain questions in the law, but this is not one of them,” Gaziano said in a statement reported by Dawsey and Eilperin.

The alarmist language of the restrictionist side in the debate tends to obscure the fact that the land in question will remain in the federal estate – President Trump’s order doesn’t mean the land will be sold to private owners.

The parts of the monuments that are no longer “protected” are still owned by the federal government, mostly the Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management and still subject to a host of environmental, cultural and archeological review requirements before any development or mineral exploration can take place.

What’s more, the President is right about past administrations’ abuse of the Antiquities Act authority to designate National Monuments. The law says that presidents should limit designations to the “the smallest area compatible” with the care of the natural features that the monument is meant to protect. However, Democratic Presidents, particularly Obama and Clinton, have used their purported authority under the Act to lock-up millions of acres of land of dubious historical or environmental value.

The restrictionist argument that a presidential proclamation binds all future presidents for all time is dubious at best and we are inclined to believe that the power to designate “implicitly also includes the power of reversal” as Todd Gaziano of the Pacific Legal Foundation and John Yoo of the University of California, Berkeley’s law school argue.

President Trump’s revision of the boundaries of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante monuments strikes the right balance between protection and development. Who is right on the legal issues remains to be seen, but one thing is clear: President Trump has picked a side in the long running battle over Western lands, and having the President on your side is a refreshing change for the families of the West’s hard-pressed ranchers, farmers, miners and oil workers.

George Rasley is Editor of Richard Viguerie’s He served as Assistant Director of the National Park Service during the George H.W. Bush administration.

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First, I do not believe in the power of any President to have the authority to use the Executive Order in the way that it has developed. No where in the Constitution does it refer to Executive Orders by the President.
It is one thing to use an Executive Order to designate a day in November for Thanksgiving, it is another matter to designate a large portion of a state as a monument.
Everyone must remember that as easily as President Trump has cast aside the overreaching Executive Orders of president obama the next progressive socialist democratic president can just as easily cast aside President Trumps Executive Orders.
This is not how our Founding Fathers envisioned our Nation being governed.
I would like to see President Trump and Congress work together to pass a law that would change the mission statements of many of these bureaucratic overreaching agencies.
It would provide agency with the authority to receive complaints and suggestions by the American citizens and organizations with concerns about various issues. It would authorize the agency to investigate and develop proposals.
The agencies would be required to present these proposals to Congress for their approval or rejection. If Congress approves and the President signs the proposals then they could be implemented. If Congress rejects them then they may not be implemented.