AP Explains: National monuments and why they’re divisive

President Donald Trump signed proclamations Monday to significantly shrink two large national monuments in Utah after his administration reviewed sites nationwide.

U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke made recommendations earlier this year about 27 monuments, including some boundary and rule revisions but no eliminations. Trump has yet to announce decisions on the other protected lands besides the two monuments in Utah: Grand Staircase-Escalante and Bears Ears.

The reduction in Utah is expected to trigger a legal battle.

A closer look at the issues that led to the review:

WHAT IS A NATIONAL MONUMENT?

The 1906 Antiquities Act, enacted under President Theodore Roosevelt, empowers the president to declare as national monuments any landmarks, structures and other “objects of historic or scientific interest” on land owned or controlled by the federal government.

Roosevelt established 18 monuments, including the Grand Canyon in Arizona and Devil’s Tower in Wyoming. Most presidents since then have designated additional monuments. Congress has created others.

Most monuments are overseen by the National Park Service, although rules for their protection are less strict than for national parks.

Some are cared for by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, the Fish and Wildlife Service or the Forest Service. Each agency has policies for safeguarding the land while also allowing some public use. For instance, policies can include limits on mining, timber cutting and recreational activities such as riding off-road vehicles.

A CONTENTIOUS HISTORY

Many national monument proclamations have enjoyed broad support. Others have been fiercely contested in Congress and the courts, including designations by Franklin D. Roosevelt (Jackson Hole National Monument, now Grand Teton National Park); Jimmy Carter (vast lands in Alaska); and George W. Bush (Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument northwest of Hawaii).

Trump’s choice of Jan. 1, 1996, as the starting date for his review was prompted by lingering resentment among Utah conservatives of Bill Clinton’s designation of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument that year.

Critics say presidents increasingly are protecting areas that are too large and do not fit the law’s original purpose of shielding particular historical or archaeological sites. Designating millions of acres for scientific observation or sheltering rare species, they contend, is a “federal land grab” that ignores the wishes of local…

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