In yet another rebuff to the threat of global warming, President Trump is expected to sign an executive order by Wednesday requiring the Interior Department to review the designation of national monuments in Utah made by President Obama and President Clinton using a 101-year-old law that allows the president to set aside federal lands without the approval of Congress.
The law passed in 1906 is called the Antiquities Act, and since it was passed, no president has ever completely rescinded a designation by a prior president. After a review, Trump could also shrink the size of the designated area instead of eliminating it completely.
The main target of Trump’s order is the 1.35 million acres of the Bears Ears National Monument, which was created in December shortly before President Obama left office. While that designation has been applauded by environmentalists and Native Americans, it has come under attack from the mostly Republican Utah Congressional delegation.
The designation of Bears Eyes has been opposed by mining companies and developers who want to be free to do business in the areas now protected.
Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT), who thanks to seniority is one of the most powerful politicians in Washington, D.C. including chairing the Senate Finance Committee, visited the area near Bears Ears last week and restated his opposition, according to the Salt lake City Tribune, which first reported the story of Trump’s plans.
“For years,” Hatch said in a statement released last night, “I have fought every step of the way to ensure that our lands are managed by Utahns [who] know them best and cherish them deeply. That’s why I’m committed to rolling back the egregious abuse of the Antiquities Act to serve far-left special interests.”
Hatch said he has been lobbying Trump about his concerns during “private meetings in the Oval Office” for the past 100 days “to ensure that this issue is a priority on the president’s agenda.”
Obama acted with strong support from those concerned about climate change, which is something Trump has said he doesn’t believe is really a significant danger.
“Utah’s national monuments are our first line of defense against the very real specter of climate change,” Jen Ujifusa of the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance told the Salt Lake Tribune,” providing resiliency to not only the species within them but also to nearby communities.
The other big target is expected to be the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, which was designated by Clinton in 1996 using the same authority.
The review of Bears Eyes and Grand Staircase-Escalante is expected to be one of several Executive Orders that Trump will sign this week to reverse Obama’s efforts to address climate change by placing restrictions on energy and environmental exploitation.
Ewing suggested Trump and the Utah Republican Congress delegation should “focus their energies on solving America’s challenges, rather than unraveling the solutions that are already working,”
Like so much of what Trump has done in his first three months as President, this is a sop to business interests who have short term goals to make more money, without any concern about the long-term consequences of their actions.
President Obama and others before him have provided an important counter-balance to the profits at any price crowd, but Trump is one of them and is working to undo decades of progress to preserve the environment in the U.S. and around the world for future generations.
The thousands of scientists and others who marched over the weekend to mark Earth Day, and object to this unraveling of America’s environmental legacy, will have more reason this week to feel that we are all under siege from those who don’t believe in science but do want to make the rich even richer.