President Donald Trump has announced big cuts to two of Utah's sprawling wilderness national monuments in a bid to boost development, angering tribes and environmental groups that call it an attack on crucial land protections.
Trump's announcement, which amounts to the largest rollback of national monuments in US history, follows a months-long review by the Interior Department that he ordered in April to identify which of 27 monuments designated by past presidents should be rescinded or resized to provide states and local governments more control of the land.
"Some people think that the natural resources of Utah should be controlled by a small handful of very distant bureaucrats located in Washington. And guess what? They're wrong," Trump said while announcing the decision in the state capitol, alongside Utah's Republican Governor Gary Herbert and the Utah congressional delegation.
Unlike national parks that can only be created by an act of Congress, national monuments can be designated unilaterally by presidents under the century-old Antiquities Act, a law meant to protect sacred sites, artifacts and historical objects.
Trump said former presidents abused the Antiquities Act by putting unnecessarily big chunks of territory off limits to drilling, mining, grazing, road traffic and other activities - a headwind to his plan to ramp up US energy output.
Trump signed two proclamations after his speech. One would reduce the size of Bears Ears National Monument, created in 2016 by then-President Barack Obama, from 0.5 million hectares to 92,580 hectares and split it into two separate areas.
The other would cut to the state's Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument created by President Bill Clinton in 1996 nearly in half, splitting it into three areas.
Tribal leaders representing the five tribes that pushed for the creation of the monument, and who now manage it, said they will take the Trump administration to court. They include the Navajo, Hopi, Pueblo of Zuni, Ute Mountain and Ute Indians who consider Bears Ears sacred.