President Trump formally reconfigured two big national monuments in southern Utah on Monday, shrinking them by more than 2 million acres and establishing five smaller units — a public lands declaration unlike any ever made by a U.S. chief executive.
“You know how best to take care of your land,” the president said to a large audience at the state Capitol. “You know best how to conserve this land for generations.”
Calling the designation of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments an abuse of federal authority and the work of “distant bureaucrats,” the president added: “I’ve come to Utah to reverse federal overreach and restore the rights to this land to your citizens.”
The proclamations Trump signed reduce the 1.9 million-acre Grand Staircase-Escalante monument to 1,006,341 acres, while Bears Ears, which was 1.35 million acres, will shrink to 228,784 acres.
The decision is expected to draw immediate legal challenges; protests already were underway in Utah.
But there was applause among supporters as Trump made his announcement, which he emphasized was intended to return control of public lands to those who know and use them most closely.
With his redesignation, he said, “Public lands will once again be for public use.”