Fact-checking Trump’s Antiquities Act order

“San Juan County is now the epicenter of a brutal battle over public lands,” Orrin Hatch, the senior senator from Utah, said as he stood before the Senate on April 24, 2017 and railed against former President Barack Obama’s end-of-term designation of the Bears Ears National Monument.

Hatch spoke in anticipation of President Donald Trump’s order to “review” all national monuments designated since 1996, announced on April 26, starting with Bears Ears, located in rural San Juan County, Utah. The review will also include dozens of other monuments established over the last 21 years. As he signed the executive order, Trump praised the Utah senator and parroted some of Hatch’s points.

Hatch’s own speech was peppered with the type of Sagebrush Rebellion rhetoric that Utah politicians have spouted since Cal Black, the late San Juan County commissioner, threatened three decades ago to blow up ruins, bridges and trucks to retaliate against purported overreach by federal land managers. But in making his argument for abolishing the new monument, Hatch and Trump also relied on outright falsehoods or, in the nomenclature of the current administration, “alternative facts.”

For example, Trump said, “The previous administration bypassed the states to place over 265 million acres of land and water under federal control through the abuse of the monuments designation.”

Fact check: Nope. All of the land was already managed by federal land agencies. No private, state or other land was “seized” or “grabbed” in Bears Ears or other monuments. Nor did the locals lose any control over the land in question. In fact, in the case of Bears Ears, local tribes (meaning those with deep ancestral ties to the land in question) gained more control as high-level advisors to the monument manager. While this was a lesser role than the co-management one the tribes hoped for, they do have a louder voice now than they had without a monument.

Here is fact-checking of the main arguments made by opponents of the monuments, including Trump and Hatch…

 

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