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07 December 2017, 08:04 | Glen Norman
Trump's cuts to Utah monument spur lawsuit
A flurry of lawsuits challenging President Trump's decision to chop up two large national monuments in Utah could finally bring an answer to the much-debated question of whether presidents have the legal authority to undo or change monuments created by past presidents.
Trump said Monday that former Presidents Obama and Clinton had "severely abused the goal, spirit and intent" of the 1906 Antiquities Act in creating the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante monuments, respectively. Many Utah Republicans and some residents say it closed off too many areas to development - including one of the country's largest known coal reserves - that could have helped pay for schools.
After giving a speech at Utah's capitol building, Trump signed two proclamations that removed federal protections from 85 percent of land that was once Bears Ears National Monument and roughly half of what was Grand Staircase-Escalante, opening the region to potential drilling and exploration for other natural resources.
The retailer sent out the anti-Trump message as a response to the announcement that two national monuments will be drastically reduced in size.
Both were among a group of 27 monuments that President Trump ordered Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to review this year.
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Patagonia's message included illustrations showing what part of the two monuments will no longer be protected and facts about protected lands, noting that "90 percent of US public lands are open to oil and gas leasing and development; only 10 percent are protected for recreation, conservation and wildlife". The White House didn't respond Monday to a CNN request for comment about legal action against Trump's decision.
Zinke argued that Bears Ears is still larger than Zion and Bryce Canyon national parks combined even after being downsized to about 315 square miles (816 square kilometers) while Grand Staircase-Escalante retains about 1,500 square miles (3,885 square kilometers).
Democrats and environmentalists accuse Trump and Zinke of engaging in a secretive process aimed at helping industry groups that have donated to Republican political campaigns.
Patagonia posted on its website on Monday: "The President Stole Your Land." .
Sen. Orrin Hatch and other Utah officials have praised the president's decision, while Sen.
Trump framed the decision as returning power to the state, saying, "You know and love this land the best and you know the best how to take care of your land".
Trump says Utah's lands should not be managed by "distant bureaucrats in Washington" and said he was reversing federal overreach.
Patagonia has "always viewed public lands as our special interest, " said company spokeswoman Corley Kenna.
"There's enough resources for them now, but you start reducing that by any bit and these species are inevitably going to suffer", says Joshua Lenart, who is the chair of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers Utah. For example, if a future president expanded a national monument's borders, the next president may reduce them. "There is nothing in the Antiquities Act that authorizes the president to modify a national monument once its designated", explained Ethel Branch, attorney general for the Navajo Nation.
Zinke has also recommended to Trump that Nevada's Gold Butte and Oregon's Cascade-Siskiyou monuments be reduced in size, though details remain unclear. The law gives presidents broad authority to declare federal lands as monuments and restrict their use.
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Zinke, a former Republican congressman from Montana, spoke on a call with reporters on Tuesday.
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