President Donald Trump signed an executive order that directs Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to review the lands previously designated as monuments, and suggest changes. In signing the order, Trump is looking to reverse what he called “a massive federal land grab.”
Critics suggest this will allow the Trump administration to roll back protections that prevent drilling, mining and logging on the public land while the Trump administration argues that it restores power to the states.
The Antiquities Act has been used for 20 years or more by presidents to designate certain federal lands and waters as national monuments. With that designation comes certain protections – including, in some cases, bans on logging, mining and drilling, the Independent reported.
Zinke said the president is concerned these designations “may have resulted in loss of jobs, reduced wages and reduced public access.”
“The president believes, like I do, that many of the neighbors in the western states of the federal government can be a good neighbor,” Zinke said. “We can protect areas of cultural and economic importance, and they can use the federal lands for economic development when appropriate.”
Under the executive order, Zinke will review all monuments designated after 1996. That includes monuments such as the Castle Mountains in California, Gold Butte in Nevada, and the northern rim of the Grand Canyon. The order does not automatically rescind the status of any monument – in fact, it is untested whether a president can unilaterally do so. But it does direct Mr Zinke to suggest “legislative changes or modifications” to the monuments under review.
Environmental activists, was well as some senators and representatives, were quick to express their concern with the order.
“No president has ever called into question any national monument protected by the Antiquities Act until President Trump,” Senator Catherine Cortez Masto of Nevada said in a statement. “His unprecedented executive order threatens decades' worth of conservation efforts and could potentially revoke designations to places that have significant cultural and historical value.”
Senators from and New Mexico, California, Oregon, Colorado and Washington State signed onto a letter asking Trump to leave the current protections in place.
“Today we are putting the states back in charge,” Trump said at the signing. “...It’s time we ended this abusive practice.”