President Trump is shrinking two national monuments in Utah, accepting the recommendation of Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to reverse protections established by two Democratic presidents, Orrin Hatch said Friday. The Republican senator said he was "incredibly grateful" that Trump called him on Friday to say he is approving Zinke's proposal on Bears Ears and Grand Staircase Escalante national monuments. He and Trump "believe in the importance of protecting these sacred antiquities," but said there is "a better way to do it" by working with local officials and tribes, Hatch said. Per the AP, Hatch's office said Trump called the senator and said, "I'm approving the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase recommendation for you, Orrin." Zinke recommended in September that the two Utah monuments be shrunk.
The two Utah monuments encompass more than 3.6 million acres—an area larger than Connecticut—and were created by Democratic administrations under a century-old law that allows presidents to protect sites considered historically, geographically, or culturally important. Republicans have howled over the monument designation since its creation in 1996 by President Clinton, while conservation groups and Native American tribes have vowed to file lawsuits if Trump attempts to rescind or reduce the monument designations. Trump asked for the review this spring following complaints by Hatch and other Republicans that the 1906 Antiquities Act had been misused to create oversized monuments that hinder energy development, logging and other uses.