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Trump Orders Review on National Monuments
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Summary: President Trump has asked for a review to be held on the national monuments created in the last two decades to see if any should be changed.

President Donald Trump may be opening a can of worms in his order to review the national monuments established by prior presidents. A legal showdown will now begin to determine if one chief executive has the power to undo a previous president’s decisions. It is common for presidents to set aside lands to be saved for their beauty and historical significance.


This is not specifically a case of Trump wanting to dismantle Obama’s last moves as president. The 24 national monuments Trump is reviewing were established over the past twenty years by three former presidents. Most national monuments have been established with support, although a few have been contested, such as the Grand Teton National Park by Roosevelt, lands in Alaska by Jimmy Carter and the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument in Hawaii by George W. Bush.

The beginning of national monuments was in 1908 by President Theodore Roosevelt. The Antiquities Act gave the power to presidents to establish any landmarks, structures and other “objects of historic or scientific interest” as land owned and controlled by the federal government. Roosevelt declared 18 monuments, including the Grand Canyon and Devil’s Tower in Wyoming. Most presidents have added to this list; Congress has added a few of their own.

Trump decided to start reviewing monuments created on or after January 1, 1996, specifically one designated by Bill Clinton in Utah called the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument that year. Critics of this monument and several others argue that presidents are protecting areas too large in size and that do not fit with the original purpose of protecting historical or archaeological sites. They view many of the monuments as being opportunities for the government to snatch up land, despite the feelings of local residents. Many of the recent monuments were already land owned by the government but were changed to monuments, affecting how the land can be used for things like livestock grazing.

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Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke states that the government control has gone too far in moving public lands away from a “multiple-use” concept introduced by Gifford Pinchot, the first Forest Service chief and an early leader in the conservation movement.

There are a few monuments that have been reduced in size over the years either by a president or congress but other monuments have been enlarged. No president has ever tried to eliminate a monument. Some experts believe that only Congress has the authority to get rid of a monument. However other experts suggest that since the Antiquities Act specifies “the smallest area compatible with the proper care and management of the objects to be protected,” that a vast monument can be corrected by a president since the predecessor exceeded what intentions of the law.

Trump’s order directs Zinke to review monuments of over 100,000 acres or more. A report is expected within 45 days, focusing on the Bears Ears National Monument in Utah enacted by Obama last year, with the full report due in 120 days. The report will determine if any monuments would benefit from being dismantled or resized. He has vowed to remain open-minded, opposing the sale of federal land or transfer to state or local control.

Do you think there is an excess amount of monuments or are some that should be resized? Tell us in the comments below.

To learn more about Trump’s orders, read these articles:




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