Last week Trump compelled the Department of Interior, led by Secretary Ryan Zinke, to review the designations of dozens of national monuments under the Antiquities Act. The order is supposed to be carried out in three months, culminating with a full report from Zinke. No one knows quite what to expect — which exact monuments they’re “reviewing,” whether the administration will attempt to rescind these designations (a legally dubious proposition), or whether they’ll try to downsize them. The latter isn’t unheard of, but it is uncommon. We talked to Aaron Weiss of the Center for Western Priorities and Kate Kelly of the Center for American Progress about which national monuments could be on the chopping block — from the obvious to the relatively unknown — and why the administration might have their sights on them.
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Grand Staircase–Escalante (Utah)
Trump’s monuments review starts over 20 years ago in 1996 — the same year the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument was established. That’s no accident, according to Weiss. “[Republicans] have hated it since President Clinton established it,” he says. “Coal companies would love to get in there, even though there's not much of a market for coal anymore. They would love to drill and mine more in the West because it's cheaper for them to do that: Your labor costs in Utah and Wyoming are so much lower than your labor costs in the traditional coal country of Kentucky and Pennsylvania.”
Like Bears Ears, the Grand Staircase-Escalante is both highly symbolic and of high interest to fossil fuel companies. Both efforts to revoke or downsize them are led by a Utah delegation of Bishop and Congressman Jason Chaffetz. Zinke has said the two monuments “bookend” the administration’s review of national monuments.
Credit: Getty Images
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Katahdin Woods and Waters (Maine)
Set at the foot of Mount Katahdin in Maine, this National Monument has a lot of history behind it. The co-founder of Burt's Bees purchased the land in the early 2000s before donating it to the federal government, specifically to make it a national monument. In 2016, then-President Obama made that happen.
But opposition to the designation has been fierce — particularly from Maine's governor, Paul LePage. He has called the designation a "unilateral action against the will of the people, this time the citizens of rural Maine." When President Trump signed his executive order for the review, LePage was at his side.
"Governor LePage made it clear at today's hearing that he thinks it should be logged for paper products," says Weiss. "It's land that has been logged — at least parts of it were logged — in the past. The governor thinks it's a useless landscape right now, and he just wants to see it as a producing forest being used for logging rather than being protected and being used for recreation and for forest growth."