On December 4th Trump signed proclamations to shrink two U.S. national monuments in Utah. Bears Ears National Monument is to be squeezed from 1.5m to 228,784 acres, and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument from 2m to 1,006,341 acres. Unremarkably, this decision has sparked a backlash from various groups. It is a textbook debate on who possesses the rights to the land, and is one of many such disputes in which the environment itself is all too often overlooked.
National monuments in the U.S. are granted their status by the President under the 1906 Antiquities Act, drafted to protect sites of natural, cultural or scientific interest. In his statement, Trump argued that previous administrations have used this law to “lock up hundreds of millions of acres of land and water under strict government control” and that “public lands will once again be for public use”.