According to the Salt Lake Tribune, President Trump told Utah Senator Orrin Hatch that he will change the boundaries of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments in December. The President plans to travel to Utah to make a formal announcement about — and presumably to sign an executive order that would instigate — the boundary changes. Any attempt to shrink the monuments will immediately be challenged in court.
In August, after an unprecedented review of national monuments, Interior Secretary submitted a report to Trump recommending unspecified boundary changes to six National Monuments and management changes to another four. The President has yet to take action on Zinke’s recommendations, but his call to Senator Hatch indicates that he is ready to take that next step.
This slow train wreck started in April, when Trump issued the order launching the monument review, and it looks like the cars will collide in December. The Conservation Alliance and our member companies have worked vigorously to demonstrate support for National Monuments, and to oppose any changes to their boundaries. Nearly three million Americans commented during the review period, 99 percent of which urged Trump to leave these special protected areas alone.
Native Americans, conservation and recreation groups, and outdoor businesses are prepared to sue Trump if he attempts to shrink the monuments, and The Conservation Alliance will make grants from our Public Lands Defense Fund to support this litigation. Ultimately, the courts will decide if the President has the authority to change monument boundaries, and 121 law professors clearly believe he does not.
But, Trump seems intent on ignoring overwhelming public sentiment and legal opinion to serve Utah’s political leadership, and specifically Senator Hatch, chair of the powerful Senate Finance Committee. Trump’s top priority is to sign legislation that would issue $1.5 trillion in tax cuts, mostly to wealthy Americans and corporations. That legislation will need to pass through Senator Hatch’s committee. A cynic might conclude that Trump’s monument efforts are merely transactional; aimed at ensuring Senator Hatch is on his side with tax reform.
We will continue to keep you all posted as this issue evolves. Know that we stand by our National Monuments, and will do all we can to ensure our members’ voices are heard.