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Trump Scales Back Antiquities Act, Which Helped to Create National Parks

In June 1906, the Antiquities Act was signed into law, granting Presidents the authority to reserve land and declare national monuments. President Theodore Roosevelt used the act to designate some of the first National monuments and parks, including Arizona’s Grand Canyon National Park, Chaco Cultural National Historic in New Mexico, and Pinnacles National Park in California. It’s been used ever since as a tool for presidents to conserve land, expand the National Park Service, and protect America’s ecological and historic treasures.

On April 26, Trump signed an Executive Order that stipulates Secretary of the Interior, Ryan Zinke, must review about 30 national monuments that have been created since 1996 to determine if they should be rescinded, resized, or changed in anyway. In the history of the Antiquities Act, no national monument has ever been revoked, as the entire act and National Park Service was created to protect any designations of parks, historical sites, or monuments, in perpetuity. Reuters reported the executive order is part of a push to open these areas up to drilling, mining, and other development, all at the expense of lands already under protection, all under the false pretenses these protected lands were reserved in a dubious “federal land grab,” The same argument and criticism from developers and special interests have been used to obstruct the initial creation of the National Parks and subsequent additions to the park system.

One monument in particular will be heavily scrutinized, Bear Ears Monument in Utah. Republicans aggressively opposed it though native tribes in the region welcomed its protection as its considered sacred land. “The member tribes of the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition hold the Bears Ears immediate landscape, as well as the lands fanning out from its twin plateaus, as traditional sacred lands,” cites the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition’s website, who pushed for the designation of the monument. The Hopi, Navajo, Ute Mountain Ute, Pueblo of Zuni, and Ute tribes make up the coalition of Native American tribes who pushed Obama to create the monument.  “This land is a place where tribal traditional leaders and medicine people go to conduct ceremonies, collect herbs for medicinal purposes, and practice healing rituals stemming from time immemorial, as demonstrated through tribal creation stories.”

The Guardian reported Trump is expected to follow up this executive order with another order that will change Obama’s ban on offshore drilling. These orders are part of a broader movement within the Trump Administration and Republican Party to rescind and scale back many of the decisions made by Obama during his administration. In early January 2017, the Regulations From the Executive in Need of Scrutiny Act of 2017 (H.R. 26) and the Midnight Rules Relief Act of 2017 (H.R. 21) were passed in the House along party lines.  The Midnight Rules Relief Act would give congress the authority to rescind multiple regulations enacted by Obama in his last six months in office with a single vote. The Regulations From the Executive In Need of Scrutiny Act targets any future Democrat Presidents, requiring any regulation with an estimated economic impact of over $100 million to be approved by congress. Some of the most progressive and beneficial actions made by Obama during his president were the ones that protected the environment, yet these same actions are the ones Republicans are easily finding common ground with one another in stripping away.

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Michael Sainato’s writing has appeared in the Guardian, Miami Herald, Baltimore Sun, Denver Post, Buffalo News, the Hill, Alternet, and several other publications . Follow him on twitter: @MSainat1

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