Legal Insurrection readers will recall that among his many initial acts as president, Donald Trump shrank the size of Bears Ears and and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments, releasing land that former President Obama designated as national monuments just before leaving office.

Now, the Trump administration’s Bureau of Land Management and Department of the Interior have released plans that include mining and drilling in those freed-up areas.

Bureau of Land Management and Department of Interior officials made minor changes to previous proposals. Those changes include reversing a controversial plan to allow grazing along most of the banks of the Escalante River — a tributary of the Colorado River that runs through 87 miles of south-central Utah that’s also a popular corridor for backpackers and tourists.

In addition, the BLM reversed a proposal requiring the removal of all human waste from the Bears Ears National Monument, allowing it to be buried within the monument instead. The finalized plans went into effect Thursday morning and implementation planning will begin in the coming weeks.

“These decisions mark an important moment in Utah’s history by providing certainty to local communities, business owners permittees and the recreating public on what activities are appropriate for those public lands,” Casey Hammond, acting Department of the Interior assistant secretary for land and minerals management, said Thursday in a conference call with reporters.

The move is being made despite pending lawsuits by conservation, tribal, and paleontology groups challenging the constitutionality of the president’s action.

Conservation groups that have called the decision the largest elimination of protected land in American history criticized the administration on Thursday for spending time on management plans they believe will become moot. They contend Trump misused the Antiquities Act to reverse decisions by previous presidents.

A federal judge last year rejected the administration’s bid to dismiss the lawsuits. In a recent court filing, tribal groups said the Bears Ears lands are “a living and vital place where ancestors passed from one world to the next, often leaving their mark in petroglyphs or painted handprints, and where modern day tribal members can still visit them.”

Department of Interior representatives denounce the scare-mongering about the potential environmental impacts related to these plans.

…[A]n economic analysis by the federal government estimates that coal production could lead to $208 million in annual revenues and $16.6 million in royalties on lands cut from Grand Staircase. Oil and gas wells in that area could produce $4.1 million in annual revenues, the analysis says.

If market forces shift, Hammond said the lands remain under federal control and governed by “time-tested laws” and subject to environmental regulations. He rebuffed the oft-repeated claim from conservation groups that there would be a “free-for-all” for mineral development.

“Any suggestion that these lands and resources will be adversely impacted by the mere act of being excluded from the monuments is simply not true,” Hammond said.

I do see one potential adverse effect: All the flooding from copious amounts of liberal tears.

Some critics say this move is being made to punish Senator Mitt Romney for his impeachment vote.

 

 
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