Just this week, President Trump announced a plan to shrink the size of two national monuments in Utah. The formal recognition of the motion came on Monday at the Utah state Capitol, where the President spoke about how the decision will return the land to those who know how best to use it – the people of the state.
That was a lie.
The action had all the dressings of a move to reduce the feds sticking their fingers into everyone’s pie, but the reality is that it marked a historic move in the largest reduction of protected land ever enacted by a sitting president. If that frightens you, it should.
Through the act, Trump demonstrated that his administration is not above passing actions that may not even be on solid legal footing. The vehicle through which Trump executed his move was the 1906 Antiquities act – which grants the sitting president the power to designate new National Parks and extend the borders of pre-established ones, but not to diminish them.
The administration’s logic seems to operate on the premise that because the Antiquities Act doesn’t explicitly forbid the downsizing of the parks that it’s all a-okay – then again, we could argue that the act was written in the hopes of being enacted in benefit of all and not the few.
Protest surrounded Trump’s announcement on Monday, and the decision has met even more resistance since then. Patagonia, one of the largest outdoor retailers, changed their landing page to a white on black text statement with the text “The President just stole your land.”, urging customers to get in touch with their representatives and urge a reversal of the decision.
But the company is doing much more than soliciting phone calls. They’re joining forces with Friends of Cedar Mesa, Archaeology Southwest, alongside the Native American group Inter Tribal Coalition to file suit against the administration. As with all litigation, a lengthy battle is to be expected, and both sides will undoubtedly fight to the last.
The most fascinating aspect of the entire debacle is that Utah residents have remained evenly split on whether to shrink or maintain the boundary’s of Bear’s Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante – but the brutish grab from the presidency has sparked a fervor against the very same federal meddling it was supposedly avoiding.
There’s no telling how what follows will come next. If Trump’s actions pass unchallenged, we may be entering a grim period of land-grabbing presidential administrations. If it is struck down, perhaps American’s Natural Parks will still be around for several more generations to marvel in. Until then, all that’s left to do is fight.