President Trump flew to Utah Monday to announce that he is cutting some two million acres from two national monuments in the state to make way for oil drilling, mining, and other development.
Trump signed two presidential proclamations during his appearance, one removing protection from about 85 percent Bears Ears National Monument, which covers 1.3 million acres and was created by Barack Obama in late 2016. Grand Staircase Escalante, which covers 1.9 million acres and was created by President Bill Clinton in 1996, will be cut by roughly half.
“With the action I’m taking today, we will not only give back your voice over the use of this land; we will also restore your access and your enjoyment,” Trump said during a speech in Salt Lake City. “Public lands will once again be for public use. Because we know that people who are free to use their land and enjoy their land are the people most determined to conserve their land.”
In a moment reminiscent of Trump’s campaign rallies, the Rolling Stones’s “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” blasted through the sound system after he signed the proclamations.
The Republican president touted the decision as a victory for state’s rights and economic development. He has accused his predecessors of undermining the oil and gas industries by blocking off unnecessarily large swathes of land. But critics say the move shows a lack of concern for combating climate change, protecting the environment and preserving America’s natural beauty for future generations. Indian tribes say the Bears Ears land includes sites of religious and archaeological importance.
Trump argued that residents of Utah know how to take care of their land far better than bureaucrats in Washington, D.C. He said Americans should put their national treasures to “great and wonderful use.”
“Your timeless bond with the outdoors should not be replaced with the whims of regulators thousands and thousands of miles away,” he said. “They don’t know your land and truly they don’t care for your land like you do.”
Introducing Trump, Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said that he had been blindsided by Obama’s national monument designation of Bears Ears: “So I asked for [Trump’s] help in fixing this disaster. Without…