Protection for 27 US national monuments may be curtailed

2017-05-07 08:08
The Katahdin Woods and Waters area is a new national park in northern Maine. (iStock)

The Katahdin Woods and Waters area is a new national park in northern Maine. (iStock)

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Washington - The US Interior Department says 27 national monuments, mostly in the West, face the curtailing or elimination of protections put in place over the past two decades by presidents from both parties.

President Donald Trump ordered the review last month, saying protections imposed by his three immediate predecessors amounted to "a massive federal land grab" that "should never have happened."

A list includes 22 monuments on federal land in 11, mostly Western states, including Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante in Utah, Nevada's Basin and Range and Katahdin Woods and Waters in Maine.

Federal control

The review also targets five marine monuments in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, including a huge reserve in Hawaii established in 2006 by President George W Bush and expanded last year by President Barack Obama.

Bush, Obama and Bill Clinton were among a host of presidents who protected hundreds of millions of acres under a 1906 law that authorises the president to declare federal lands and waters as monuments and restrict their use.

Trump said the protections imposed by his predecessors "unilaterally put millions of hectares of land and water under strict federal control, eliminating the ability of the people who actually live in those states to decide how best to use that land".

The land-controls have "gotten worse and worse and worse, and now we're going to free it up, which is what should have happened in the first place," Trump said at a signing ceremony marking the executive order.

Trump accused Obama in particular of exploiting the 1906 Antiquities Act in an "egregious abuse of federal power," adding that he was giving power "back to the states and to the people, where it belongs".

Energy development

In December, shortly before leaving office, Obama infuriated Utah Republicans by creating the Bears Ears National Monument on more than 1 million hectares of land that's sacred to Native Americans and home to tens of thousands of archaeological sites, including ancient cliff dwellings.

Republicans in the state asked Trump to take the unusual step of reversing Obama's decision. They said the monument designation will stymie growth by closing the area to new commercial and energy development. The Antiquities Act does not give the president explicit power to undo a designation and no president has ever taken such a step.

Trump's order also targets the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in Utah, created by Clinton in 1996, and Katahdin Woods and Waters in Maine, created last year by Obama. 


Read more on:    donald trump  |  barack obama  |  us  |  conservation  |  environment

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