Just short of a year after President Obama created Bears Ears National Monument, President Donald Trump will travel to Utah to shrink it and Grand Staircase-Escalante, prompting legal threats from a coalition of five Native American tribes that supported the preserve’s creation.
According to the Salt Lake Tribune, Trump is set to announce the decision on Monday in Salt Lake City, and does not plan to visit the affected monuments.
The decision follows recommendations by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to shrink both monuments. While the Department of the Interior has not divulged specifics of its plans for the parcels, documents obtained by the Washington Post indicate that the administration plans to cut Bears Ears by 85 percent, to 201,397 acres, and shrink Grand Staircase-Escalante by half, to 997,490 acres.
Legal scholars are split on whether the Antiquities Act of 1906, which governs the creation of national monuments, gives Trump the authority to shrink a monument without congressional approval. While a number of presidents, including Woodrow Wilson and Dwight Eisenhower, have shrunk national monuments by proclamation, none of those actions ever faced a challenge in court.
The reaction from conservationists and the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition, which brings together representatives from the Hopi, Navajo Nation, Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, Pueblo of Zuni, and Ute Indian Tribe, has been swift. In a statement posted on the Coalition’s Facebook page, Navajo Nation council delegate Davis Filfred pledged to fight Trump’s attempt to shrink the monument.
“More than 150 years ago, the federal government removed our ancestors from Bears Ears at gunpoint and sent them on The Long Walk, but we came back,” he said. “The President’s proposal is an attack on Tribes and will be remembered as equally disgraceful—but once again we will be back. We know how to persist; we know how to fight; and we will fight to defend Bears Ears.”
Randi Spivak, the public lands program director for the Center for Biological Diversity, said in an emailed statement that her organization “[does] intend to file suit, as soon as we see the specifics.”
“Trump has no clue how much people love these sacred and irreplaceable landscapes, but he’s about to find out,” she wrote.