Advocates brace for onslaught on national monuments
President Donald J. Trump’s review of national monument designations since 1996 amounts to an attack on monuments in general, say conservation groups.
The executive order affecting monuments of 100,000 acres or more was to be issued today and in Colorado could affect the Canyons of the Ancients in southwest Colorado.
Two other recent designations, Chimney Rock near Pagosa Springs, and Browns Canyon, near Salida and Buena Vista, are smaller than 100,000 acres, so they are not included in Trump’s order.
“This executive order is the beginning of an all-out assault on America’s public lands,” said Jennifer Rokala, executive director of the Denver-based Center for Western Priorities, who called the outcome “preordained.”
As many as 20 monuments in the West could be affected by the executive order, the center said.
Republicans in Congress said they were waiting to see the order and a spokesperson for U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Colo., noted that he carried legislation through the House calling for the Chimney Rock designation.
The Salt Lake Tribune on Monday broke the story that Trump was planning to look more closely at two national monuments in Utah, the most recent of which — the 1.3 million-acre Bears Ears — was designated in the final months of President Barack Obama’s term.
The other, Grand Staircase-Escalante, about 1.8 million acres, was designated by President Bill Clinton in 1996 during his re-election bid.
Canyons of the Ancients, a 164,000-acre national monument, was designated in 2000, near the end of Clinton’s term, soon after Sen. Ben Campbell, R-Colo., offered legislation to establish a national conservation area, but dropped it when Clinton moved ahead with the designation.
U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., said he would oppose any effort to dismantle the 1906 Antiquities Act, under which monuments are designated, calling it “yet another example of Washington thinking it knows what’s best for Western communities. In Colorado, we made the case for national monument designations with thorough consultation and strong, bipartisan local support.”
“(Colorado) Senator (Cory) Gardner has a proven record of protecting and promoting our public lands. He will be reviewing the language of the executive order as soon as it is public,” a spokesman for the senator said Tuesday.
U.S. Rep. Jason Chaffetz, whose district includes Bears Ears, Rep. Rob Bishop and Sen. Orrin Hatch, all Utah Republicans, had asked in December that Obama not designate Bears Ears, and said the Trump administration would reverse any action.