Trump scales back two huge national monuments in Utah, drawing praise and protests

President Trump announced that he is drastically scaling back two national monuments established in Utah by his Democratic predecessors, the largest reduction of public lands protection in U.S. history.

Trump’s move to shrink the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments by more than 1.1 million acres and more than 800,000 acres, respectively, immediately sparked an outpouring of praise from conservative lawmakers, and protests from activists outside the White House and in Utah. It also plunges the Trump administration into uncharted legal territory since no president has sought to modify monuments established under the 1906 Antiquities Act in more than half a century.

His decision removes more than 2 million acres from the two sites, which potentially could now be leased for energy exploration, ranching, or opened for specific activities such as motorized vehicle use.

A series of rallies that opponents began over the weekend continued as Trump came to the Utah Capitol, where demonstrators were gathered before Trump arrived. Against the backdrop of the dome and snowy grounds, they chanted “LOCK HIM UP!” and lofted signs reading “Fake President” and “Pussy Grabber.” Roughly 5,000 people have protested there since the weekend.

Conservation advocates and tribal representatives have for months been preparing legal briefs that aim to block the monument changes in federal court.

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