President Trump is expected to shrink the bears’ ears by up to 90 percent


Americans on both sides of the aisle have waited anxiously for the decision. On Saturday, thousands of people gathered with cowboy hats and ski jackets on the steps of the Utah Capitol to protest the president's planned reduction. "Defend the sacred", read a sign. "Keep your little hands out of our public lands," said another.

Further south, on the edge of the monument, another group gathered to applaud Mr. Trump's decision, standing under a banner: "Thank you for listening to the local voices."

Who benefits?

Mr. Trump's decision to reduce Bears Ears would be seen as a victory for Republican lawmakers, fossil fuel companies and rural Westerners who argue that monument designations are appropriations of federal land that limit revenue and repress local control. And it would be considered a defeat for many environmentalists and recreation groups and for the five Indian nations that have fought for generations to protect the Bears Ears region.

The Navajo Nation has vowed to challenge the decision in court, along with other tribes and conservation groups and outdoor industry.

"We will defend and fight to the end," said Russell Begaye, president of the Navajo Nation, adding that the government of the United States had already taken "millions of acres of my people's land."

"We have suffered enough," he said.

In a statement before the announcement, Senator Hatch, an opponent of Bears Ears, said he believed President Trump's decision was a "victory for all."

The federal government controls about two-thirds of the land in Utah, and the major state politicians have long pressed for greater local control of public lands.

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Mr. Trump is scheduled to make his announcement at the state capitol, accompanied by Gov. Gary Herbert and others. "This is nothing more than a realignment, a reconfiguration of boundaries," said Herbert.

What are national monuments?

The president is also expected to announce that he will cut another national monument in Utah, Grand Staircase-Escalante, to about half its current size. And it could make changes to another 25 monuments under review, including Gold Butte in Nevada and Cascade-Siskiyou in Oregon and California.

National monuments are lands that are protected by law from some type of development. They are roughly badogous to national parks, but while national parks are created by Congress, presidents create national monuments through the Antiquities Act, a 1906 law that has been used by both Republicans and Democrats throughout the years. years to protect millions of acres of land.

Each monument has its own specific restrictions. In Bears Ears, for example, federal rules prohibit new mining and drilling activities, but allow the interior department to continue issuing livestock grazing contracts.

Supporters of the Antiquities Act say that the law is part of the foundation of American conservation. But some Republican lawmakers, especially those in Utah, argue that recent presidents have abused the act, using it to set aside much more land than their language allows. The law says that presidents should limit designations to the "smallest area compatible" with the care of the natural features that the monument should protect.

Why is the legal struggle so important?

Mr. Trump would not be the first president to reduce the size of a monument. Woodrow Wilson cut Mount Olympus in half. Franklin Roosevelt cut the monument to the Grand Canyon at the behest of the ranchers. (Both are now national parks.)

But courts have never ruled on whether a president really has the power to make these changes. The next legal battle will probably have far-reaching implications.

If Mr. Trump's legal contenders win in court, the decision could affirm presidents' future rights to use the Antiquities Act to extend protection to large areas of public lands. And it could cement the limits of Bears Ears established by Obama.

But if they lose, Trump and future presidents could drastically reduce any of the dozens of monuments created by their predecessors, opening the terrain previously protected for all kinds of development.

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One hundred twenty-one academics recently signed a letter arguing that only Congress can legally reduce a monument. Todd Gaziano of the Pacific Legal Foundation and John Yoo of the University of California, Berkeley Law School, have a contrary opinion and argue that the power to create a monument "implicitly also includes the power of reversion."

Why the president? Obama set aside the land in the first place?

President Obama created the Bears Ears National Monument in December 2016, after years of lobbying by five tribes in the region: the Navajo, the Hopi, Ute Mountain Ute, the Ute indigenous tribe of the Uintah Reserve and Ouray, and the Zuni. It is named for a pair of towering buttes – the ears of bears – that dominate much of the landscape.

Mr. Obama set the limits to include 1.3 million acres. Supporters of the monuments say it contains 100,000 sites of archaeological importance, including tombs, ceremonial grounds and ancient cliff dwellings. In the 1800s, the Navajos used the area's remote canyons to avoid being captured by the army, and several tribal leaders were born in the shadows of the Bears Ears.

The monument's founding document, written by White House staff during the Obama administration, describes its sharp pinnacles, wide tables, lone hoodoos and green hanging gardens in poetic terms.

" From land to heaven, the region is unsurpbaded in wonders," says the document. "As one of the most intact and least paved areas in the contiguous United States, Bears Ears has that rare and dazzling quality of deafening silence ."

Why is the Trump Administration considering changes?

For its followers, the designation of the Bears Ears monument came to symbolize an indigenous victory after centuries of frustration.

For his opponents, it was an abuse of power by Mr. Obama, a violation of the right of the local population to decide what happens in his backyard.

"Our country values ​​consent very much," said Phil Lyman, a county commissioner who lives on the edge of the monument. The appointment, she said, "felt very little consensus."

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In September, a version of Mr. Zinke's report recommended changing the boundaries of six of the 27 monuments under review.

But he also recommended the creation of three new monuments. One was at Camp Nelson, Ky., A post where black soldiers were formed during the Civil War. Another was the Mississippi home of civil rights hero Medgar Evers.

The third was in an area called Badger-Two Medicine, in the Montana state of Mr. Zinke.

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