Legal Insurrection readers may recall thatin October, President Trump indicated he would shrink the size of Bears Ears National Monument, a 1.35 million-acre piece of land former President Obama designated as a national monument just before leaving office.

While he was on a visit to Utah, he officially announced that the federal government would be returning the land back to Utah.

Capping months of speculation, President Trump on Monday signed a pair of executive orders to significantly shrink two of Utah’s national monuments – Bears Ears and the Grand Staircase-Escalante – that were created by his Democratic predecessors.

The controversial move was pitched by Trump as a win for states’ rights and follows an April review conducted by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke on the boundaries of large national monuments. The review initially looked at more than two dozen sites designated by presidential decree since the 1990s.

“I know you love this land the best and you know how to protect it and you know how to conserve this land for many, many generations to come,” Trump told a group of people at Utah’s Capitol in Salt Lake City. “They don’t know your land. They don’t care for your land like you do.”

Trump’s presidential proclamations cut Bears Ears by 85 percent and Grand Staircase-Escalante in half.

Many Utah residents were thrilled!

Predictably, environmental activists were…not quite as happy.

And as Trump came and went, taking monument status on more than 2 million acres with him, hundreds walked the snow-laden streets to kneel on State Street and shut down traffic on one of Salt Lake City’s main downtown arteries.

A standoff ensued with a few dozen Salt Lake City police officers equipped with shields, helmets and body armor.

Monday was the second protest in three days for some who gathered in the fresh snow at the Capitol on Monday morning, singing, chanting and holding signs in support of monuments or against Trump.

“My granddaughter wanted to be here to throw a rotten tomato” at Trump, said Gina Zhdilkov, 56, of Bountiful.

Tomatoes aren’t the only thing being lobbed at President Trump. A group of environmental and conservation groups are challenging President Donald Trump and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke in federal court, alleging that Trump did not have the authority to dramatically shrink Utah’s Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.

The lawsuit, which comprises The Wilderness Society, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Sierra Club and seven other groups as plaintiffs, argues that Trump’s decision to reduce the size of Grand Staircase-Escalante was “unlawful” and “exceeds his authority under the US Constitution and the Antiquities Act.”

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Heather Swift, a spokeswoman for the Interior Department, said: “We are well within our authority,” and referred further questions to the Department of Justice.

Additionally, the tribal government of the Navajo Nation is preparing to sue President Trump over his decision to shrink Utah’s Bears Ears National Monument.

The Navajos, who consider much of the original 1.4 million-acre monument area to be sacred and culturally significant, plan to file a federal lawsuit with four other nearby tribes who had been pushing for the land protections for decades before then-President Barack Obama created it last year.

“The Navajo Nation has made repeated requests to meet with President Trump on this issue. The Bears Ears Monument is of critical importance, not only to the Navajo Nation but to many tribes in the region,” Navajo President Russell Begaye said in a Monday statement shortly after Trump signed proclamations reducing Bears Ears and the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, also in southern Utah.

I will simply point out that Trump is shrinking the monuments, which were expanded in Obama’s massive land-grab. There will be plenty of area left for wildlife, recreational use, and tribal rites.

The final outcome of these lawsuits will inform Americans across the nation about the relative power of eco-activsts and those charged with protecting the property rights of their fellow citizens. Fortunately for states-rights enthusiasts, Trump has been busy appointing quality judges.


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