AP fact check: Trump’s curious case for shrinking monuments

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump made a curious case for stripping federal protections from vast stretches of two of America’s national monument lands.

For one, he said his decision will give Native Americans back their “rightful voice over the sacred land.” But they already have specified rights on the land, thanks to the national monument designation under the Antiquities Act, and fear losing those rights under his decision. That’s why they’re fighting his action in court.

Trump also said that because of his decision, “families will hike and hunt on land they have known for generations, and they will preserve it for generations to come. Cattle will graze along the open range. Sweeping landscapes will inspire young Americans to dream beyond the horizon.”

But hiking, hunting and cattle-grazing are already allowed on the lands that make up the two national monuments he is targeting in Utah: Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante. If the loss of protection spurs energy development, people may see mines on a sweeping landscape where they are now forbidden.

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A look at his statement in Salt Lake City on Monday about his plan to reduce Bears Ears by 85 percent and Grand Staircase-Escalante by nearly half:

TRUMP: “As many of you know, past administrations have severely abused the purpose, spirit and intent of a century-old law known as the Antiquities Act. This law requires that only the smallest necessary area be set aside for special protection as national monuments.”

THE FACTS: That’s not exactly what Teddy Roosevelt’s 1906 preservation law says. It states, in essence, that the federal government should not bite off more than it can chew when a president designates an area for protection. It doesn’t demand that such land be kept to a minimum. Such protected land “shall be confined to the smallest area compatible with proper care and management of the objects to be protected,” it says.

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TRUMP:

—”We have seen how this tragic federal overreach prevents many Native Americans from having their rightful voice over the sacred land where they practice their most important ancestral and religious traditions.”

—”Here, and in other affected sites, we have seen harmful and unnecessary restrictions on hunting, ranching and responsible economic development. We have seen grazing restrictions prevent ranching families from…

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