The Trump administration has been hinting for months that they were considering shrinking the Grand Staircase-Escalante and Bear’s Ears National Monuments. President Trump made good on his word to do so on Monday during a visit to Salt Lake City.
During a ceremony held in Utah’s Capitol Rotunda Trump signed a proclamation that will shrink
the newly-created Bear’s Ears National Monument from 1.35 million acres to 201,000 acres. The proclamation also splits the monument into two separate sections. The two separate sections are now called Shah Jaa and Indian Creek National Monuments.
Trump then signed a second proclamation which reduces the size of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument from 1.9 million acres to one million acres. It will be split into three monuments known as Grand Staircase, Kaiparowits and Escalante Canyons National Monuments.
Bears Ears was designated a national monument a year ago by Barack Obama and the Grand Staircase-Esclante was designated a national monument by Bill Clintion in 1996.
“Past administrations have severely abused the purpose, spirit and intent of the century-old law known as the Antiquities Act,” said Trump. “Some people think that the natural resources of Utah should be controlled by a small handful of very distant bureaucrats located in Washington. And guess what? They’re wrong.”
A coalition of eight conservation organizations filed a lawsuit the same day which claims that the reductions are illegal and denounced Trump as opening up pristine lands for coal, gas and oil development.
“President Trump has perpetrated a terrible violation of America’s public lands and heritage by going after this dinosaur treasure trove,” said Heidi McIntosh, Managing Attorney for Earthjustice, the organization that is representing the eight organizations’ lawsuit. “While past presidents have used the Antiquities Act to protect unique lands and cultural site in America, Trump is instead mangling the law, opening this national monument to coal mining instead of protecting its scientific, historic and wild heritage. We will not let this stand. We will use the power of the law to stop Trump’s illegal actions.”
The Grand Staircase-Escalante contains dinosaur fossils that are found nowhere else in the world. Twenty-one new dinosaur species have been discovered by scientists in the monument.
The Grand Staircase has been a leading tourism engine for towns bordering it. A 2015 report conducted by the Utah Office of Tourism showed that population in the two counties bordering the Grand Staircase have grown 13 percent, jobs have increased by 24 percent and real personal income has grown 32 percent between 2001 and 2015.
The same report shows that the Grand Staircase National Monument has created 1,630 tourism and travel related jobs and brings an estimated $12 billion to Utah economy annually.