On Friday afternoon, the Salt Lake Tribune broke the news that President Trump will approve the Department of the Interior’s recommendation to reduce the size of the 1.9 million-acre Bears Ears National Monument, in Utah.
The Tribune reports that President Trump told Utah Senator Orrin Hatch in a phone call today, “I’m approving the Bears Ears recommendation for you, Orrin.” Hatch responded that he was “incredibly grateful” for the president’s decision.
“We believe in the importance of protecting these sacred antiquities,” Hatch said in a statement to the Tribune, “but Secretary Zinke and the Trump administration rolled up their sleeves to dig in, talk to locals, talk to local tribes and find a better way to do it.”
The DOI and Trump Administration’s review of 27 national monuments has been fiercely contested since it was announced this spring. Many outdoors and sportsmen’s groups have criticized the review and a potential size reduction of these public lands, for fear they would lead to a rollback in protections and an increase in energy exploration on these properties, limiting public access and potentially warming wildlife habitat. Bears Ears has been the most contested monument under review, given the political-fraught circumstances surrounding its designation by President Barack Obama, in 2016.
Scholars have questioned whether the Trump Administration has the authority under the Antiquities Act to act upon a recommendation to reduce the size of a national monument. The administration is sure to face a legal battle should it go through with shrinking Bears Ears.
The Tribune will updated its story on Trump’s decision as more details become available.